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Evelina is the title of one of Frances Burney’s well-known novels. It describes how a young woman travels to London from her home in France to mix into modern society. Having been isolated, Evelina Anville was not aware of many social norms. As she attended balls and became acquainted with various men, she became bolder. She was transformed from a young lady into a woman through her exposure to city life, society, and individuals, such as Mr. Macartney, Lord Orville, and Sir Clement Willoughby.
To begin, Evelina Anville became kinder and more compassionate throughout the novel as she helped and defended others. One of the characters that Evelina had a large impact on was Mr. Macartney. He was considered poor in the Branghton household and paid for rent there. He had little to his name besides his Scottish origin. Evelina showed kindness to him in many ways. For example, she saved his life. He was going to attempt suicide, but she rescued him.
“I plainly perceived the end of a pistol, which started from his pocket by hitting against the stairs” (166). After this, she described feeling fear and uncertainty. While Evelina could have chosen to ignore this situation or walk away, she instead had the bravery to help him. Considering the patriarchy that was still in society during this time, this was a large leap because it contrasted others’ weak and fragile image of a female. She continued to develop a friendship with Mr. Macartney, gave him money, and spoke up for him.
On a further note, Evelina was strengthened as a woman by her travels to London. Although she was young and an orphan, Evelina became courageous and bold. Her reason for changing so was because of several other men that she met, such as Lord Orville and Sir Clement Willoughby. Both differently challenged her position as a female in the eighteenth century. While Lord Orville treated her with kindness, Sir Clement was often rude and inconsiderate. This required her to be her own protector. One event that caused Evelina the most distress was when she got a letter that was addressed from Lord Orville. It was very rude and offensive. However, Sir Clement later claimed the letter as his own. He said, “I wrote you an answer, which I hoped would prevent your wishing any other” (370). Sir Clement also had feelings for her and felt jealous of Evelina’s letters to Lord Orville. Before she knew this, Evelina felt pained by what the letter said. She was hurt and had a hard time coping with her feelings. It challenged her ability to use self-control and to defend herself by distancing herself from Lord Orville.
Lastly, Evelina found comfort and a new beginning. She did so by meeting her future husband Lord Orville and discovering that Mr. Macartney was her brother. Mr. Macartney and Evelina made the connection that Sir John Belmont was the father of both of them (303). This helped wrap up the loose ends of her past and history since she was an orphan. It gave her an additional connection and relationship. Lord Orville also caused Evelina to feel more loved because of his desire to be with her and their engagement near the end of the book. “My love, my sweet Miss Anville, deny me no longer to the sharer of your griefs” (349). Lord Orville wanted to help Evelina shoulder her feelings and history.
On an ending note, Evelina Anville changed greatly throughout the novel because of her exposure to different people and events. She was challenged by her new environment in London, along with relationships and friendships.
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