The novel "Evelina" by Burney gives a detailed explanation and imagery of how the class was viewed by the society in the 18th century. Burney also goes ahead to demonstrate the different perspectives of classes through various characters. For example, Madam Duval believes that the class is best captured or demonstrated by money and other material possessions. In other words, she is of the opinion that money and other material possessions elevate one of the highest classes in the society. On the other hand, Mrs. Beaumont believes that an individual's class is determined by birth. Burney illustrates that an individual's class is determined by the social class in which he or she is born. However, Burney uses the character of Evelina to disagree with the two characters on the meaning of class.
The novel also illustrates to the readers the significance of class in the British society during the 18th century. For instance, in many arguments or quarrels in the 18th century, a person's class was often used to ridicule him or her or as a means of lowering their esteem. A case in point is the constant attacks between Madame Duval and Captain Mirvan on their social classes. Madame Duval goes ahead to call Captain Marvin a dirty low life who is only fit to serve as Lady Howard's steward. In turn, the Captain insults Madame Duval that she is only suited to be Lady Howard's wash lady. Therefore, the dislike between these two characters is mutual, and the primary weapon used by them during the insults is class differences. Similarly, the exchange between the two characters throughout the novel is an illustration of the importance of class in the novel "Evelina" by Burney.
Another instance where the importance of class appears in the novel, is when the main character, Evelina makes her choice of a dancing partner. She refuses to dance with Lovell, who is described as "foppish" and instead chooses to dance with Lord Orville (Burney 29). The reason behind her choice is that Lord Orville is more gentlemanly and is of a higher social echelon compared to Lovell. Lovell senses this and is infuriated because he believes that Evelina refused to dance with him merely because he lacked the title of a "Lord". Therefore, this is another instance in the book where the class is hugely important. In this case, an analysis reveals that the author demonstrates the importance of class, even in social relationships in Britain during the 18th century. Notably, Lovell feels less dignified and takes revenge on Evelina by accusing her and bashing her publicly (Cope 60).
Additionally, Burney exposes the huge gap caused by the social stratification of the society in 18th century England. The author gives the readers a chance to view the societies in 18th century from a different lens as he asserts that class need not behave in a particular manner or predictable way. The author's main argument throughout the novel is that people ought not to be judged solely based on their social standing or wealth. Nonetheless, the author dislikes people who boast freely or their social status. Therefore, from the novel, it can be deduced that the Burney has an entirely different definition of class from what existed in Britain during the18th century.
In the novel, the author reveals that the planned marriage between Evelin and Lord Orville is another proof of the significance of social class in the 18th Century British society. Upon the confirmation of Evalina's parentage, the marriage to Lord Orville becomes a subject of formality and becomes another instance where social class is affirmed (Cope 55). However, it is important to note that hypocritical behavior exposes class arguing that Evelina as a character is "an artless young creature with too much beauty to escape notice, has too much sense to be indifferent to it; but she has little wealth to be sought with proprietary of men of the fashionable world" (Burney 8). Burney shows a little contrast to the reader through Evelina where upon entering London she is unaware of the lass conscious society of London thus has a had problem adjusting. She states, "I am too inexperienced to conduct myself to conduct myself with dignity in this town" (Burney 8). Equally, Evelina is a country girl sheltered from the society, but as the story goes, she begins to meet some individuals who introduce her to the rules of the society and what she ought to be doing.
Similarly, Evelina's character develops throughout the story, she encounters people of various classes in the society. She also gets to meet the wealthiest, the most cunning and the most powerful. This is another instance where the author attempts to point the readers towards the importance of class in the novel "Evelina" (DeGabriele 29). Thus, the social realm that Evelina finds in London is on the face of instability that she finds it so hard to fit. Once she gets to London, it also dawns to Evelina how much little a woman means in such a society. Even in the midst of all these challenges, Evelina tries to find her footing in a society that is divided along social lines, and that is majorly subjugating women. That again shows the importance of class in the novel. Through Evelina's character and her arrival in London the readers can identify the disproportionality in what people profess and what they do or practice.
In his novel, Burney depicts Evelina as a heroine who tries her best to overcome the social constructions in the 18th-century society in London. The other importance of social class in Burney's novel is portrayed through the characters of Mrs. Selwyn and Captain Marvin, whose status as citizens from the higher echelon of the society is compromised by the fact that they deviate from the expected social status and behavior (DeGabriele 35). This also gives the readers another illustration and how crucial social class is to the author. The importance of social class in this novel also makes the reader see that Lovell's public shame is also a result of the societal significance of social class. Burney exposes the readiness of the 18th century England to appreciate superficiality as opposed to the dimensions that ought to define one's class.
In conclusion, the author reveals the misinformed importance of class by the society's emphasis on outward appearances thus misjudging individuals and according to misled significance to specific individuals. The author also considers it unjust that the society is highly appreciated class in the form of superficiality which might always be misleading.
Burney, Frances. Evelina or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World. CreateSpace. Published September 16, 2008.
DeGabriele, Peter. "The Legal Fiction and Epistolary Form: Frances Burney's Evelina." Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 14.2 (2014): 22-40.
Cope, Virginia H. "Evelina's Peculiar Circumstances and Tender Relations." Eighteenth-Century Fiction 16.1 (2003): 59-78.
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