Why lose her identity?

In Haywood’s novel, Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze, she constructs “the lady”, her main character, as “a young lady of distinguished birth, beauty, wit and spirit” (pg. 2566).  In the 18th century women did not have a sense of power and therefore, taking control over a man was not common. The novel does a great job showing the contrasts in power by stating, “He was bold; he was resolute. She fearful — confused, altogether unprepared to resist in such encounters” (pg. 2569).  They couldn’t really stand up for themselves and voice their opinions. Woman were seen as more obedient and saying “no” to men was not an ordinary option. Social class and identity were also big issues seen during that time period. Prostitutes were obviously part of the lower class, a class she was not, so the role of a prostitute was not fitting with her true identity. Men were able to notice that, especially one in particular, “her quality and reputed virtue kept him from using her with that freedom she now expected he would do” (pg. 2567).  Engaging in sexual activities while unmarried were not popular actions performed during the 18th century. Haywood constructs “the lady” as a virgin to follow with these social standards during that century.

Haywood though, is able to challenge this stereotype of a woman. She challenges the stereotype of a woman by creating different gender roles of that time to represent society. The lady reveals her characters by acting as varying prostitutes that are of lower class to her true identity. Becoming prostitutes was not a usual act her class participated in, “she was young, a stranger to the world, and consequently to the danger of it” (pg. 2567) but she gained “a curiosity in her to know in what manner these creatures were addressed” (pg. 2567). As she witnessed from afar how much power these prostitutes had, it made her want to experience this persona. Through her different personalities, she eventually loses her virginity in which her true identity would not have acted upon. Haywood also challenges the stereotype of the woman by the wardrobe she wears to receive the attention of men, such as “a night-gown laced and adorned” (pg. 2571). She is now seen as a desperate woman trying to get the attention of men losing her “beauty, wit, and spirit.”

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