Feminism

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In Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze, more than one element in the novella is being satirized.  Women and Men and their expectations in society, the contemporary view of sex are both examples but they are part of a smaller picture.  She is in fact writing about society in general and its expectations.  In the novella the main character, “A young lady of distinguished birth, beauty, wit and spirit…,” sees a man while she is at the theater, and falls in love with him.  She ends up going to great lengths to see him while trying to prevent being discovered.  The standards that are force upon the woman are one of the elements that is being satirized.  Because she is wealthy, she is not allowed to go to the lower part of the theater to see the man, so she decided to disguise herself as a prostitute.

Time and time again, the main character is almost discovered, yet she continues to see the man and deceive him.  “She hurried home to indulge contemplation on the frolic she had taken, designing nothing less on her first reflections than to keep the promise she had made him, and hugging herself with joy, that she had the good luck to come off undiscovered.”  The novella goes through different stages from start to finish.  In the first three-quarters, it seems as though the main focus of the story is feminism, and it would make sense in this era.  In the novella the man is tricked again and again and only finds out that he is being tricked because it is blatantly obvious.  Also the main character is forced to disguise herself just to see a man.  However, she ends up getting pregnant and is shamed, so it is hard to say exactly what the main idea of this work is.

Even though there are parts of the novella that are not congruent with the feminists theme it is still the main focus.  Haywood shows how women are subject to different standards than men in the opening paragraphs, and then continues to make this woman seem bullet proof at times.  But she does have to make the story believable, and that is why she ends the novella in that specific way.  The main theme is feminism, but she does not want to make it too over whelming during the entire novella. the main character has to fall at some time.  It would be possible to think that the fall of the main character is not at all feminists, but, as in all parts of this story, there are feminists ideas.  In this way, the fault of the pregnancy is not the woman’s, but in fact it is the man’s, he is the one who did this to her.

From start to finish there are feminist elements, although some are more pronounced than others.  Everything that the main character does is because she is forced to by the male dominated society, and that is what is being satirized throughout the novella.

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One Response to “Feminism”

  1. Evan Says:

    I think this post was very interesting. I liked how you said the protagonist (the woman), while being of high class, is socially restricted because she is a woman. To get around this she disguises herself as a prostitute (Fantomina). I also liked your point that Haywood did not just focus on a feminist theme, but instead brings in elements of feminist ideology. Well done.

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