Who is Fantomina?

Fantomia, a young lady in Fantomia who exemplified the stereotypical female in the 18th century, switches into various disguises and roles and has many interactions with Beauplaisir. Considerate of her character she was a “stranger to the world” and “was a virgin” (2567, 2569). She was unfamiliar with the manly world and thus it is possible she mostly remained in the house and doing this meant having a good character. Further, having good character was important in maintaining a good reputation for her family name and men in her life. Therefore after she was raped, she was still concerned that Beauplaisir not “touch her character” and so she revealed her name to be Fantomina (2570). In this way, he could not associate this immoral act with her real name. Then the more she considered the “merits of Beauplairis, the more she excused herself” and justified his actions in the possibility it will uplift her reputation (2571). Although she does possess stereotypical characteristics, she more greatly challenges these stereotypical characteristics.

Unlike the typical woman, she was curious and witty enough to be manipulative. Seeing the prostitutes drawing in men “excited a curiosity in her” that woman were not supposed to have (2567). Curiosity meant having an interest such as a career beyond the home. Furthermore, this curiosity led “a little whim which came immediately into her head” and she was able to formulate a plan to quell this curiosity. Eventually, she formulates a manipulative plan that in Beauplaisir “desires she had inspired” and in her second disguise, she “enflamed the amorous heart of him” (2568, 2573). As a woman, she should be more submissive and not controlling. Her as a manipulator challenges this stereotype as someone capable of controlling.

Ultimately Fantomia challenging the stereotype of women in that century is driven by physical passion which in itself is contradictory to the stereotype of women. Women are seen as passive and incapable of sexual desires and passion, but she proves this as fictitious. Her curiosity arises because she desires to be “receiving [men]” which comes from her physical passion. Her passion further causes her to manipulate Beauplaisir to gain his attention and then her passion drives her to disguise herself multiple times to seduce him. Her desire for physical passion is more prominent than her maintaining her character. With various qualities, she challenges the time’s stereotypes and directs society to a more progressive time.

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