Evelina or The History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World
Evelina or The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Evelina Anville: She is the main character of this story. She is also the person writing letters to the Reverend Arthur Villars which we are so gracious to be able to read. She comes off as very naive and wonder struck with the lifestyle which she has been thrown into. She has shown herself to be polite even when she messes up in social situations. She has also shown admiration towards Lord Orville and she tries to keep in his favor.
Reverend Arthur Villars: He is the person whom the story is being written to. He is Evelina's guardian and has taken care of her throughout her life. He is a very special person to Evelina and is trusted with the intricacies of her life. He seems to care for what is best for Evelina in a father like manner.
Miss Maria Mirvan: Evelina's childhood friend and a leading reason for Evelina attendance at so many social events. She is also the reason for Evelina to go to London.
Lord Orville: A gentleman who has gained Evelina's admiration just by behaving in a gentlemanly manner. His rank and general knowledge of social standards allow him to save Evelina on multiple occasions normally caused by Evelina herself. He has shown liking for Evelina on many occasions. Him trying to talk to her after their dance caused Evelina's affection. He seems smart, kind, and some well versed in the world.
Madame Duval: Evelina's French grandmother. She wants Evelina to go back to Paris with her together with her. She is seen as somewhat stubborn and even greedy. Reverend Arthur doesn't trust her.
Lady Howard: Captian Mirvan's mother in law. She was the original destination for Evelina's vacation. She is shown being wise, compassionate, and compromising.
Mrs. Mirvan: Maria's Mother. She takes care of Evelina while she is in London. Her kindness towards Evelina show that she cares greatly for her.
Captian Mirvan: Mrs. Mirvan's Husband and Maria's father. He has shown a general dislike for foreigners as he annoys Madame Duval constantly.
Sir Clement Willoughby: A man who is infatuated with Evelina. His outward flirtations, and constant pestering makes him disliked by Evelina.
The Branghtons: Evelina's cousins. They have rude jokes, general mean behavior, and just overall poor manners. They are seen as low class. Evelina doesn't enjoy their company and seems embarrassed by them.
Sir John Belmont: Evelina's father. He doesn't acknowledge that Evelina is his daughter.
It begins with a letter from one Lady Howard addressing one Reverend Arthur Villars warning about a Madame Duval, who is visiting England to meet her grand-daughter, the titular Evelina. Reverend Villars, who has been Evelina’s guardian, is afraid of Madame Duval, who broke off her relationship with her daughter (Evelina’s mother) and thus driving her to an early death. So in response to this news, Reverend Villars sends Evelina on a holiday to visit Lady Howard.
However, once at Lady Howard’s, Evelina learns of Lady Howard’s son-in-law, Captain Mirvan, returning to London. Evelina, who has been childhood friends with the Captain’s daughter, Maria, pleads Reverend Villars to let her go and stay with them in London. Arthur Villars reluctantly lets her.
Once in London, the Mirvans thrust Evelina into the social high-life even though she has been raised in the country. They go to a dances and operas where Evelina commits one faux pas after another. At her first dance she makes the mistake of refusing a gentleman a dance. However, she agrees to dance with a Lord Orville, who she proceeds to become enamored with. Once the previous gentleman points out her mistake, she becomes terrified and vows never to make another embarrassment of herself again. But when she goes to another dance, a man by the name of Sir Clement Willoughby asks her to dance, which she refuses, claiming she is already engaged, which is of course a lie. Instead of deterring Sir Willoughby though, it instead causes him to pester her about her partner and why he isn’t around. He continues this constant questioning until Evelina finally breaks down into tears and goes home.
As if this wasn’t enough trouble, Evelina and the Mirvans accidentally run into Evelina’s grandmother, Madame Duval. Madame Duval expresses her wish to bring Evelina back to Paris with her, and in the process annoys Captain Mirvan, who despises foreigners. Madame Duval brings Evelina to meet her poorly educated cousins, the Branghtons, who Evelina immediately despises for their poor manners. All the while Sir Willoughby attaches himself to Captain Mirvan and continues to pester Evelina whenever they meet.
As tensions rise between Captain Mirvan and Madame Duval, the captain and Sir Willoughby decide to play a sadistic trick on her. While she and Evelina and riding in a carriage, they fake a robbery. After such a stunt, Madame Duval becomes set into going back to Paris with Evelina so she can acquire an inheritance from Evelina’s mother. However, Evelina refuses to go.
Francis Burney's writing style is that of an epistolary novel. An epistolary novel is written in the form of letters or documents between two or several characters. The reader gets a better perspective as to what is really happening in the novel due to this writing style. There is also more of a reliable source as to where the information is coming from because of the first-hand accounts the characters provide through their own personal letters. Throughout most of the first 180 pages of Evelina, most of the letters are written by Evelina herself. The reader gets a sense of what is externally and internally happening to evelina because of this writing style.
It is important for the reader to understand what is happenning internally with the characters to understand the situations they are in, which the reader gets because of the epistolary novel format. Whereas a reader might not understand the character's internal feelings if there was just a general omniscient narrator overseeing only what was happenning on the surface. The epistolary format helps the reader understand the deeper meaning of a situation and helps the reader dig deeper into the characters.
THEMES and CONFLICTS
Evelina takes on the world with rose colored glasses of her country innocence. Entirely untrained in detecting artifice, our young heroine must make her way in the strange and foreign world of London Society. Her summation of people and their value is unapologetically black and white. She is overwhelmed by the grandeur and scope of London society. Though however delicate her innocence may seem, it remains impregnable. Though she is innocent enough to put herself under the power of Sir Clement Willoughby by accepting his carriage ride home, she is undaunted by his advances, however ill prepared she was for them (letter XXI). Her virtue and morality are forged steel at her core and will not bend to the inducements of the big city.
It is Evelina's fate is to confront the embarrassing and secret circumstances of her birth. In doing so she can find herself and accept her identity. It is also her destiny to leave her small town country life where she was brought up with humility and piety. Wholly unprepared for the diversions of a metropolis she must learn to embrace and absorb the bustling vapid elements of the big city and society available in London. Upon entering London society, Evelina finds she is naïve in her expectations and assumptions of proper behavior. She does not know the intricate rules of London society, she is frequently unsure of herself and makes many social blunders and faux pas. She is armed only with her virtue and country bred sense of propriety, which is a surprisingly effective armor against those who would intentionally or just by pure inclination wish her ill in London Society.
Evelina exhibits an extreme sensitivity to her surrounding envirorment as concerns the behavior and actions of Madame Duval and the Branghtons. Evelina's delicate sensibilities are constantly bombarded with the blundering of all her relations. She is struggling to outgrow the low-bred hijinks of her relations. However her very embarrassment of them lumps her in with their impropriety sometimes.Evelina and Lord Orville are romantically interested in one another, however the mysterious circumstance of Evelina's birth and the social standing of her known relations make her a questionable match for Lord Orville.
Madame Duval and Captain Mirvan are in a perpetual state of constant and sustained bickering throughout the novel. Captain Mirvan's unsheathed hatred of all things and people French, alongside his determination to voice it loudly create an atmosphere of conflict that Evelina must continually confront. She is mortified at her grandmother's gauche antics, but is equally horrified by Captain Mirvan's lack of chivalry and politeness. Madame Duval is like a younger sibling who can't help rising to the bait of a much older and craftier brother. Her response to Captain Duval's shenanigans often makes up for what she lacks in wit and intelligence with base anger and loud exclamations of irritaton. For his part Captain Mirvan always finds a way to snub and belittle Madame Duval and her French compatriots in a definitive jovial British style. His conversational sneering and jeering are as British as steak and kidney pie. With racism between Europeans somehow lacking all connotations of malice, this makes the battle of the Frog and the Limey the most humorous aspect of the novel.
PREDICTIONS & ENDORSEMENT of NOVEL
Throughout the course of the novel, the theme of social stature is omnipresent. Whether it be Evelina trying to impress Lord Orville every time she encounters him, to Madame Duvall’s pretentious attitude and lack of social graces.
Despite Lord Orville calling Evelina “a poor weak girl,” that doesn’t stop her from being intrigued by him. The feeling might be mutual as well. When referred to as being ill bred by a man she refused, Lord Orville went so far as to not only defend Evelina, but also to say “that elegant face can never be so vile a mask!” However, Lord Orville is the least of Evelina’s worries, if you could call them that. Her elegant beauty receives much attention from many different men, all of whom Evelina does not know how to rid of. Her innocence and naivety cause her to become overwhelmed by the male attention and of her grandmother, Madame Duvall.
The only male attention Evelina seems to be missing is that of her father. Despite efforts by Lady Howard and Madame Duvall, Evelina’s father refuses to support her let alone acknowledge her as his daughter. Although desperate to gain wealth, Madame Duvall constantly embarrasses Evelina in the presence of refined people. Upon realizing Evelina’s relationship (at this point platonic) with Lord Orville, Madame Duvall seeks every opportunity to take advantage of Evelina and the situation.
Will Lord Orville and Evelina get together? Will Madame Duvall use Evelina to manipulate money from Lord Orville? Will Evelia ever meet her father? The foreshadowing in the story points to yes as an answer for all three questions above. How long it will take for the outcomes to be positive is left to the reader to figure out.
For those who appreciate the literature of the more accredited Charlotte Bronte or even Jane Austen, Fanny Burney’s Evelina shares similar qualities with novels such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. Although written nearly a century before the two later authors, Evelina was a model for Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. The emphasis on social status and Women’s roles in society runs rampant in all three novels. Evelina began slowly and considering it is in the form of exchanged letters, characters and plot were difficult to keep track of.