An Antithesis and It’s Letdown

Wise and honest, Mary Reilly proves a very relatable character. She expresses sentiments and perceptions, both painful and hopeful, that many readers have personally felt but perhaps have not vocalized or identified. Throughout the first half of this novel, the most relatable quality may be the way Mary deals with the pain of the past. Rather than deal with the pain by contemplating it face-on, she suppresses it and finds solace and salvation in soothing else or someone else. Mary earnestly hopes in Dr. Jekyll for the redemption of the mark her father left on her.

Writing her story out for “Master”, Mary paints a haunting image of her father, with his “low, sick laugh” and merciless outlashes. Though Mary notes that she has “seldom thought on the past and [has] tried to put it behind [her]” (37), the scars of her fathers abuse prove deep and dark, despite her suppression of them. Page 35 provides perhaps the most telling remark of her sentiments. As she toils in her garden, Mary reflects, “I believe to hate my father would be to give in and make small my real feeling, which is strong but not like hate, as that seems simple, pure and clean” (35). Here, Mary indicates her feelings towards her father are deeper and and fouler than hatred, and, in comparison, hatred seems “pure and clean”. Significantly, Mary’s view of her father as not a monster, but as “an ordinary man” prone to drinking, supplements the view that her childhood tainted her view of men, or of humanity in general. She believes most men are prone to ill, as her father was. Discussing the closing of Dr. Jekyll’s school and the philosophy of moral forces, Mary states her belief that good doesn’t seem to come naturally to humans. Unable to forgive her father (as stated on page 36), Mary instead finds healing in the virtue of her Master. His goodness grants her hope in mankind.

For Mary, Dr. Jekyll stands as the antithesis of her father, as the redemption of man in her eyes. Though she seems to have mild romantic feelings towards her Master, perhaps he also symbolizes the ideal father for her after her experience of a father so cruel and savage. Jekyll’s patience, kindness, and interest in Mary quickly becomes her source of life and self-worth. More than this, I would submit that the reason Mary has such a difficult time accepting Dr. Jekyll’s moral failings might lies in the fact that she has elevated him above reproach in order to cope with her past.

During her visits to Mrs. Farraday’s, Mary processes the innuendos of her Master’s misconduct by telling herself, “that doubtless this was some good thing Master had contrived, to lighten the suffering around [her]” (66). When she sees the bloody bedroom at Mrs. Farraday’s and the monogrammed handkerchief condemning her beloved Master, her confidence in his goodness wavers. Yet still, she clings to his innocence, doing “whatever [she] can to stay calm, so that, when this is all made clear to me, [she] may find the best way to serve him” (110). She refuse to let herself think, lest she see the truth.

An orphan seeking love

Great Expectations begins with a somber scene of our orphan Pip reading the inscriptions on his parent’s tombstones. Pip tells the reader that, “The shape of the letters on my father’s grave, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair” (3). Dickensl has managed to lace the child’s words with an odd undercurrent of humor. It also is indicative of Pip’s familiarity with death. As an orphan in the mid 18th century Pip has certainly been exposed to many harsh realities in his struggles to survive. He has also witnessed the passing of all five of his younger siblings as they struggled to survive on the streets without parents. In the same paragraph Pip reveals, “five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat little row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine- who gave up trying to get a living exceedingly early in that universal struggle” (3). This is the beginning of a narrative of isolation that will follow Pip throughout the novel. He is an orphan in the truest sense of the word with not even a sibling to keep him company. Pip once again inserts a thread of humor into his commentary when he expounds that his brothers, “had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence” (3). This is Pip’s way of calling them lazy. This seems a little harsh until you take into account how Pip must have fought to remain afloat on the streets. Pip’s understanding of what it is like to be hungry, alone, and afraid is what drives him to help the convict. He makes it clear that he is terrified of the man yet he returns not once but twice to feed him. As calloused as Pip seems in his reflections about his family he still risks his own hide to save a complete stranger, and he still takes the time to go a sit beside his family and imagine what his parents looked like. His words hold a kind of depersonalization, which is at odds with his actions and most likely a coping system to keep him from following the same path as his little brothers. However, Pip reveals his true nature in the way he overcomes his fear to help a man in need. He might seem callous and uncaring but underneath that he is nothing but a lonely orphan seeking acceptance and love.

The Problem of Problemlessness in Sterne’s “Sentimental Journey”

Sterne’s brief novel, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, comes pretty much precisely as advertised. The narrator, Yorick, journeys through France and Italy and shares a variety of sentimental experiences with the reader. Especially to the modern reader, however, this formula might seem to present a problem, and that problem is basically the fact that, colloquially speaking, nothing happens. D.A. Miller explains in “Problems of Closure in the Novel” that plot depends upon difficulty and trial, and as such there might appear to be a problematic lack of problems in Sterne’s account. To be sure, the plot does become problematized from time to time, such as when Yorick fears the Bastille due to his passport-less condition, but, as John Mullan explains, the primary interest for Sterne’s readers would simply have been participating in Yorick’s many sentimental encounters. Nonetheless, such attractions offer little to contemporary readers so how does the novel still “work” today? I think that a partial answer might be found in an incident which at first appears to be a problem in itself.

This incident is Yorick’s quite obviously unkind and entirely unsentimental first engagement with the poor monk in Calais. This meeting happens very early in the book before Yorick writes his “Preface in the Desobligeant” where he establishes himself as a sentimental traveler, inviting the reader to join him in a journey not so much of development but of sequential incidents of sentimental sympathy. The sentimental reader is little more nor less than a guided sentimental traveler, one whose experience of the sentimental is filtered through one more additional teller. Thus, as John Mullan makes clear in “Sentimental Novels,” the reader’s primary source of enjoyment comes both from appreciating the sentimental disposition of the narrator/protagonist and from partaking themselves in that disposition by sympathizing with the narrator and the other characters of the book.

However, another important shift also occurs in the desobligeant. It is only at this point that Yorick begins his narrative in earnest. This beginning indicates that the account which we were reading before the desobligeant was conceived differently and, perhaps, intended for a different purpose or even a different audience. Our narrator is the same but his narrative purpose may have shifted. In fact, in the first entry, prior to the “Preface in the Desobligeant,” Yorick makes a direct address to his Eliza which might indicate that he is addressing her in that narrative, perhaps in a letter or at least in a journal intended for her eye. However, the account which Yorick begins to keep in and after the desobligeant is intended, not only by the author Sterne but by the narrator Yorick, for us, for the readers.

The incident of the monk and this shift in narratorial audience work jointly to complicate the relationship between the reader and the narrator. The reliability of the narrator is subtly but continually called into question, such that the reader’s surface level enjoyment of sentimental experience is accompanied by an underlying tension arising from the narrator’s questionable motivations. Thus, Sterne’s story attains greater staying power than later more simply sentimental novels, as Mullan observes, because Sterne compensates for the lack of any consistently problematized plot by problematizing the narrator himself. Just as Yorick is fascinated by the mystery of the man who implores charity from women only, so the reader is fascinated by the mystery of Yorick, as they watch him dance an often very fine line between noble sentiment and not-so-noble sensuality.

The way that the incident of the monk accentuates this ambiguity of motivation can be seen clearly by examining Yorick’s second encounter with the monk. This second encounter where Yorick apologizes for his previously unkind behavior occurs in conjunction with Yorick’s meeting with the Calais lady and the first of his several extended hand-holding sessions. On the surface level, Yorick’s second encounter is a perfect example of an incident attuned to cultivate sentimental enjoyment. As Yorick holds the lady’s hand, the monk approaches them and offers Yorick a pinch of snuff to which Yorick responds by offering the monk his own silver snuff box in its entirety, declaring, “when you take a pinch out of it, sometimes recollect it was the peace-offering of a man who once used you unkindly, but not from his heart” (99). With these words, Yorick suggests that his prior harshness does not detract from his supreme sentimentality on display throughout the story because it was not a natural outpouring of his heart. This account seems to be validated by the earlier incident in which Yorick describes how he formed a premeditated conviction to not be moved by the monk’s story, and the story waxes more sentimental yet as the monk and Yorick exchange snuff boxes and Yorick recalls how sweetly he wept at the monk’s grave some year afterward with his snuffbox in hand.

However, this sentimental sweetness cannot be accepted without reservation. At the very end of the entry prior to the one in which the snuffbox exchange occurs, Yorick is concerned about whether the monk might have told the lady about his cruel conduct, and he declares, “I set myself to consider how I should undo the ill impressions which the poor monk’s story, in case he had told it her, must have planted in her breast against me” (98). This confession casts an undeniable shadow over the snuffbox exchange. Yorick contrasts that action with his prior behavior by implying that his kindness comes from the heart while his avarice did not, but his earlier remark indicates that his kindness, at least in this incident, might be every bit as premeditated as his unkindness was before. Indeed, since he has a particular object in mind for his kindness (the good favor of the lady), it might seem to be more calculated than his unkindness which, to all appearances, actually did arise from an immediate impression.

Furthermore, that aforementioned object of Yorick’s perhaps premeditated generosity, casts even more doubtfulness on the purity of his sentiment. It is only after the shift in narratorial audience which occurs in the desobligeant that Yorick begins recounting the many sentimental incidents which put him in emotionally, if not physically, compromising positions with various ladies. Somehow Yorick’s sentiment always seems to culminate in him holding the hands of attractive women, and it seems unlikely that these incidents would be mentioned so freely were Eliza still the narratee.

Thus, this exchange with the monk aptly captures the tension in Sterne’s novel which solves the problem of problemlessness. The reader, prompted to suspicion by this early incident, is left wondering throughout the account whether Yorick’s sentiment might be more strategic than he claims or if even the natural outpourings of Yorick’s heart might not be accompanied by equally natural outpourings of desire from other less pure quarters.

“Let’s Just be Friends”: Camilla and the Circumscribed Desire for Male-Female Friendship

Throughout Fanny Burney’s novel Camilla, the societal constraints on male-female friendship quickly become clear. Once Camilla reaches marriageable age, the possibility for friendship with Edgar is completely erased– the persecutions of Mrs. Margland and Indiana ascribe romantic meaning even to something as small as a geranium. There is no longer room for kindness untainted by suppositions about one’s romantic affections.

Does Camilla understand that male-female friendship is impossible in her society? On one level, it appears that she does– she recognizes, for example, that there may be something improper, or at least unusual, about Mrs. Burlinton’s intimate correspondence with her mysterious friend (who, spoiler alert, turns out to be the infamous Bellamy). Yet she defends her friend’s practice despite Edgar’s condemnation:

"Yet, in the conversations she held with him [Edgar]
from time to time, she frankly related the extraordinary attachment of
her new friend to some unknown correspondent, and confessed her own
surprise when it first came to her knowledge.

Edgar listened to the account with the most unaffected dismay, and
represented the probable danger, and actual impropriety of such an
intercourse, in the strongest and most eloquent terms; but he could
neither appal her confidence, nor subdue her esteem. The openness with
which all had originally and voluntarily been avowed, convinced her of
the innocence with which it was felt, and all that his exhortations
could obtain, was a remonstrance on her own part to Mrs. Berlinton.

She found that lady, however, persuaded she indulged but an innocent
friendship, which she assured her was bestowed upon a person of as much
honour as merit, and which only with life she should relinquish, since
it was the sole consolation of her fettered existence" (Book 6, Ch. 12).

 

From her defense of this uncommon practice, what are we as readers supposed to gain? On one hand, this sets up Camilla’s fateful naivete. No matter where she looks for friendship– Sir Sedley, Hal Westwyn, and even crusty old Lord Valhurst– she is not safe from romantic proclamations, and it is naive for her to even think so. Her kind, but merely friendly, actions cause others, including Edgar, to label her a “coquette.” There’s no such thing as the “friend zone” for Camilla, and she’s always the last to realize that she is sending the wrong social messages.

On the other hand, could Burney be setting up a social critique of the societal constraints set up to prevent and circumscribe male-female friendships? Every time Edgar and Camilla have a chance to talk to each other, they are interrupted and prevented from communicating fully. Even Edgar has this desire to remain Camilla’s friend, to give her counsel (of course, though, this is tainted by romantic interest). When he warns her against Mrs. Arlbery and Mrs. Burlinton, he consistently appeals to her on the basis of friendship:

"Tell me, candidly, sincerely tell me, can you
condescend to suffer an old friend, though in the person of but a young
man, to offer you, from time to time, a hint, a little counsel, a few
brief words of occasional advice? and even, perhaps, now and then, to
torment you into a little serious reflection?" (Book 4, ch. 1).

It seems that both Edgar and Camilla are longing for a different kind of relationship, or at least a venue for more open communication between the sexes. If so, would this perhaps change our reading of the novel from a critique of Camilla’s and Edgar’s respective misreading/naivete to a critique of their society’s constraints upon friendship?

Distance and Sympathy in “Camilla”

Frances Burney’s Camilla is, almost from beginning to end, a long (very long) series of misunderstandings. While personal defects and even deviousness do play a part in the novel, the vast majority of the plentiful conflict arises from well-meant but poorly executed interpretation. Camilla misreads Edgar’s intentions, Edgar misreads Camilla’s every action, Eugenia misreads Bellamy’s professions, and Dr. Marchmont misreads the entire female sex. This basic formula of increasingly disastrous misunderstanding is a common one, especially in comic drama such as Shakespeare’s where it always culminates in a rapid resolution of the near-catastrophe when the disguises are removed and everyone resumes their original genders.

However, while Camilla does at long last resolve in a similar way, the progression toward that point is not experienced in nearly so lighthearted a manner as is typical of a comedy. Unlike the “comic equivalent of fear” which R.S. Crane describes as the result of similar misunderstandings in Tom Jones, the reader of Camilla is likely to feel genuine concern, perhaps disappointment, and almost certainly frustration. I believe that an important reason for this less comical readerly experience can be found by considering the various distances at work in the novel.

In Wayne Booth’s seminal Rhetoric of Fiction, he describes a number of kinds of distance in the novel which shape the reader’s experience. These distances include the distance between the reader and the narrator, between the implied author and the narrator, and between the narrator and the characters. Booth explains how different combinations of these kinds of distances mold almost every aspect of a novel, and one critical aspect of the novel experience determined by these distances is sympathy (particularly sympathy between the reader and the characters). Booth notes that, in Tom Jones, it is the closeness of the narrator and the reader which makes possible the “comic analogue of fear” described by Crane, and he considers how Austen must maintain a closeness between Emma and her readers without letting them ever get too close, in order to maintain Emma’s appeal.

Booth’s observations provide insight into why we experience the complex web of errors in Camilla so differently than similar plots of error in other works. Unlike Tom Jones, the author and the narrator of Camilla both remain fairly undeveloped and unobtrusive. Burney implicitly acknowledges her creative role in the first paragraph of the book, but beyond that point she assumes the voice of her narrator who, while not dispassionate, could hardly be identified as a “character.” Thus, although the reader is close to the narrator insofar as they trust her and hold knowledge in common with her, they are not close to her in a way which shapes their expectations for the characters. The frequent intrusions of Fielding’s narrator in Tom Jones assure the reader that Tom will be just fine, but Burney’s narrator becomes little more than an accurate lens through which to view the characters and their world.

And through that lens we view a large array of characters and the activities of their respective hearts and minds. Indeed, one of the more striking aspects of Burney’s novel is the number of characters who are granted at least some interior exposition in the course of the story. Burney allows us more access to Camilla’s hopes and fears than to the others’, but, within the novel’s commodious narrative, there is still plenty of time spent in Edgar’s suspicious heart, Eugenia’s naively intelligent mind, and the feelings of many other secondary characters as well. Burney uses almost every instance of interior exposition to create sympathy for the character being exposited. In fact, almost the only character of import who is granted no interior exposition is Bellamy, such that all our knowledge of internal motivations is consonant with the overall impression of disastrously entangled good intentions.

This widespread interiority brings the reader fairly close to many characters but not very close to any one. We, along with the narrator, know a little bit about what everyone is thinking, and thus we are always kept somewhat distant from what any one character is thinking since we possess knowledge which allows us to see their frustrating folly or reasonable error. This distance might render the reader’s sympathy for the characters somewhat fragile so Burney’s challenge is to paint every character in as positive a light as possible despite the fact that they all succeed at damaging one another quite prodigiously. For example, if Camilla were to cause trouble with vanity like Emma’s, we would dislike her for it, since Burney does not bring us as close to Camilla as Austen brings us to Emma.

It is this almost overwhelming number of fairly sympathetic characters in Camilla which causes us to experience the plot of errors in a not entirely lighthearted way. The frustration we feel is not so much Camilla’s or Edgar’s, but rather it is our own, the frustration not of one character’s perspective of the overall mess but of our own perspective which puts us in contact with such a vast cacophony of voices, all of which we wish well, that, without direct assurances to the contrary by the narrator, we begin almost to fear that the disaster has gone too far and not even our unobtrusive author can entirely set things to rights.

Reading Pamela’s Private/Public Literacy

Gerard Terborch, “Woman Writing a Letter,” 1655

Pamela’s first letter to her parents sets up many of the themes for the remainder of the novel: Pamela’s duty to her parents, her love for writing, her thankfulness to God, and her distinction from other servants– along with potentially untoward advances by Mr. B (“and he took me by the Hand; yes, he took me by the Hand before them all” (11)). In the postscript to her first letter, she tells her parents that Mr. B has frightened her by entering her dressing room and desiring to inspect her writing. Confused, she fears that he will be angry, but he states, “I am not angry with you for writing such innocent matters as these: though you ought to be wary what tales you send out of a family…. Why, Pamela, you write a very pretty hand, and spell tolerably too. I see my good mother’s care in your learning has not been thrown away upon you” (12).

This intrusion in the first chapter sets up an interesting problem: Pamela’s developing literacy cannot stay private. But, as her father questions, why should Pamela’s literacy be a matter of public discussion at all? “Why should he take such a poor girl as you by the hand, as your letter says he has done twice? Why should he stoop to read your letter to us; and commend your writing and spelling? And why should he give you leave to read his mother’s books?” This is indeed the question in the reader’s mind as s/he delves through these volumes of Pamela’s letters. Why is such a private activity such as literacy– reading or writing to oneself– suddenly of interest, not only to Mr. B, but to Pamela’s fellow servants, Mrs. Jervis, Mrs. Jewkes, Lady Davers, and then finally society at large?

I don’t have a particularly settled answer to this question, but I do have a potential method to discover the answer. Perhaps we can turn to rhetorical criticism and read Richardson’s Pamela as a literacy narrative, using the framework established by Janet Carey Eldred and Peter Mortensen. Eldred and Mortensen define this process as follows: “When we read for literacy narratives, we study how the text constructs a characters’ ongoing, social progress of language acquisition” (512). This inherent assumption– that language acquisition, in Pamela’s case and in all cases, is social– seems counterintuitive because Pamela’s writing (especially when she switches from letters to journal entries) is meant to be private. However, it seems that Pamela’s literacy from the beginning is much more public than she intends it to be.

We could also explore Pamela’s experience within the framework of the literacy myth: the assumption that literacy necessarily equals a direct path to social progress. In one way, Richardson’s text affirms the literacy myth– it is her letters that cause Mr. B. to fall for her, and which lead to her eventual social rise. Yet in another way, literacy dislodges her from her social place, just as Eldred and Mortensen discuss with relation to Eliza in Shaw’s Pygmalion. Pamela’s story could also be read as a narrative of socialization: “stories that chronicle a character’s attempt to enter a new social (and discursive) arena” (Eldred and Mortensen 513).

We might also explore Pamela’s relationship to generational literacy. If female literacy is so transgressive, what is the significance that ostensibly both her father and mother can read and write, since she addresses some letters only to her mother? Is there an added significance to the fact that she did not learn literacy from them, but from her mistress? Does this change the kind of literacy that Pamela possesses?

We also might use Deborah Brandt’s idea of literacy sponsors to recognize and explore the communal nature of Pamela’s literacy — for example, some of Pamela’s sponsors are her mistress, Mr. Longman (the kindly gentleman that gives her writing paper), her father and mother who encourage the letters, and even Mr. B by the end of the book. This might allow us to better understand why Pamela’s writing is necessarily social. It also might alert us to recognize ways in which language in the eighteenth century serves as a mark/divider of social class. Based on our understanding of literacy, we also might read Pamela more as an emerging self rather than an exploited/victimized young girl. Is it her literacy that leads us to this conclusion, as we watch her make sense of her feelings and thoughts on paper?

Conversations about gender, power, and exploitation in Pamela are valuable, but perhaps they are leading us too far away from the central issue. Maybe, however, Pamela’s literacy is at the forefront because the novel’s main theme is language itself: how it is acquired, shaped, and constructed, and how characters use it to shape their own identities.

Works Cited

Eldred, Janet Carey, and Peter Mortensen. “Reading Literacy Narratives.” College English, vol. 54, no. 5, 1992, pp. 512–539. www.jstor.org/stable/378153.

Storms, Emotions, and Personal Responsibility

Dear fellow readers,

I must admit that Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded took me longer to read because of the outraged marginalia that seemed to rise unbidden from my pen. My cultural conditioning seemed to prevent me from fully appreciating the valiant Pamela, lauding Mr. B. for his change of heart, and celebrating their nuptials.

One of the more troubling scenes is when Mr. B. goes alone to the garden because of his anger at Lady Davers. Pamela and Lady Davers, reconciled, follow him, and he tears into them, saying to both, “I desire to see neither of you on this occasion,” and to Pamela, “how dare you approach me, without leave, when you see me thus disturbed! Never, for the future, come near me, when I am in tumults, unless I send for you” (454). After he “tossed” Pamela’s hand, he tells his sister Pamela “must take the consequence of a passion, which, when raised, is as uncontroulable as your own” (455). He barely manages to control himself at the end of the scene, and Pamela describes it as a “storm” which has “happily” passed (456).

Even more troubling, after his temper has cooled, he repeats his commands for her to avoid him in such moods.

My question is: Why is it all right for him to put the onus on Pamela to avoid him, rather than on himself? Why are his passions and emotions treated as storms and natural disasters that are just part of life, and why must Pamela adjust her course in light of them, tacking and jibing like a sailboat in a storm? Why do Mr. B. and Lady Davers get to have such uncontrollable passions (and remain admired by society), and Pamela does not?

Partly, this is just part of Mr. B’s modus operandi: throughout the text, Mr. B. seems to externalize responsibility for his emotions and his actions. He keeps repeating “in the mind I am” to protect himself if he changes his mind (275). So this is partly just a continuation of that—lust and love alike are out of his hands. (Pamela too claims that her love for him is not of her choosing, so there is at least some parity there, but she must still act controlled in a way he does not [284].)Mr. B. and Pamela, in contrast, trace it back to how well-off children are spoiled, which in turn connects to the very structure of society that drives much of the plot and machinations behind the scenes. Society is fundamentally unequal; wealth and status grant freedoms that create uncontrollable storms of emotions that others must weather.

Mr. B. and Pamela, in contrast, trace it back to how well-off children are spoiled, which in turn connects to the very structure of society that drives much of the plot and machinations behind the scenes. Society is fundamentally unequal; wealth and status grant freedoms that create uncontrollable storms of emotions that others must weather.

Oddly, this focus on spoiled children gives me a glimmer of hope, for Pamela asserts that she will not spoil her own children “if any part of children’s education falls to” her (467-468). Is that an implied criticism, however slight? Does she see some of the problems with this situation?

I hope so, for despite Mr. B.’s many compliments and his exhortation for Pamela to consider herself his equal, this passage demonstrates his deficient sense of responsibility for his more destructive emotions.

You, astute reader, might notice that I opened this post with disclaimers about my own responsibility for my response to Pamela. So let me correct it: I wrote the angry and aghast marginalia, I did not completely appreciate the rewards we were supposed to revel in, and I lost control over my emotions. I take complete responsibility . . . and wish Mr. B. would too, spoiled childhood and gentleman-status notwithstanding. Tell me honestly—do I ask too much?

Sincerely,

A Troubled Reader

Pamela’s Extended Happy Ending

Having concluded Pamela’s correspondence and himself recounted the generally happy fortunes of most the characters in his novel, Richardson declares that he has “brought this little History to a happy Period” (500). Richardson’s approach to ending the novel here would seem to be in line with D.A. Miller’s observation that comic novels are necessarily ended when the troubles are resolved and a happy ending is achieved.

However, many readers may find that Richardson has actually transgressed Miller’s formula quite egregiously. Miller argues that, after a happy ending has been attained, the novelist must stop writing since the happy ending itself is non-narratable. Narrative requires difficulty or conflict, but happiness makes for a stultifying story. To the modern reader of Pamela it might appear that the novel bears out Miller’s thesis quite painfully (for the reader) by negative example. The first three fifths or so of the story are driven by Pamela’s battle of wit and will to preserve her virtue from the lustful Squire B, but after the first three fifths of the novel this issue has been rapidly and implausibly resolved and Pamela has been joined in holy and happy matrimony with the now (allegedly) praiseworthy squire.

However, Richardson does not seem to regard this event as adequately constituting a “happy period” and thus sets about a project for nearly two hundred fifty pages which looks an awful lot like narrating a happy ending and which, in this reader’s humble opinion, attains nearly to the levels of boredom predicted by Miller. Nonetheless, if we clear from our vision the obscuring mists of irritation, it may be possible to determine why Richardson chose to include in the narrative several weeks after the joyous (insert sarcasm) wedding of Pamela and Squire B.

I believe the answer is that Richardson understands himself to be following Miller’s formula, but he considers the essential movement of the novel to be not merely Pamela’s preservation of her virtue or her attainment of love in wedlock. Rather, as Nancy Miller recognizes in “How Novels Think,” the essential movement in Pamela is Pamela’s progress from a lower social position to a higher one. To be sure, this movement is one and the same with the testing and rewarding of Pamela’s virtue (it’s in the title after all), but for Pamela’s virtue to be fully rewarded, as Richardson for reasons probably more religious than aesthetic desired it should be, it is necessary to establish Pamela in her duly earned social promotion.

We can see that this is what Richardson is up to in the latter part of the novel through the several minor sources of tension which occasionally raise the narrative from mind-numbingly dull to marginally interesting. These tensions all involve threats to Pamela’s happiness and especially to her acceptance in her newly elevated social status. Much of the narrative is dedicated to revealing whether Pamela was accepted by her Lincolnshire neighbors (no real tension there), by Lady Davers (a refreshing amount of tension!), and finally her Bedfordshire neighbors (little more than a smidgeon). Most of these obstacles are overcome quite simply through the sheer magnitude of Pamela’s virtue, and any confrontation ultimately resolves in an exchange of rather extreme compliments, although Lady Davers’s resistance (by far the most exciting post-wedding event) requires a one-two punch from both Pamela’s virtue and one of Squire B’s stately temper tantrums.

Richardson probably considered each of these events necessary to narrate because, in that period, it would have been very uncertain whether a woman who advanced socially as Pamela does would be accepted in that position by her new peers. In fact, it would probably be rather unlikely for her to be accepted. Thus, the sources of conflict which seem inadequate to some modern readers (like myself) might have been sources of more immediate worry to Richardson’s immediate readership. In attending to their concerns for Pamela then, Richardson is able to not only address these threats which precluded a happy ending but to address them in a way which makes it clear that Pamela’s social advancement is validated only because it is the result of her truly vast reserves of virtue.

If Richardson’s readers were left wondering whether Pamela had only earned a lifetime of social ostracization, Richardson would not have fully achieved either his artistic or his moral purpose. If the novel were merely Pamela perhaps it might resolve earlier, but the subtitle at least requires a more extended exposition.

Smith on Education

Though a critique of marriage is clearly at the forefront of Smith’s concerns in Emmeline, on this first reading, I found myself drawn to her depiction of education—specifically how different characters received their educations and the consequences thereof. Whenever Smith introduces a major character of the novel, a key element of her introduction is how the character receives his or her education and who imparts it. We see this in particular with the contrast she sets up between Emmeline and Mrs. Stafford and Delamere and his sister Augusta.

Despite her near isolation in the Mowbray castle, Emmeline manages to cobble together an admirable education. In a library in complete disrepair full of moldy books, birds nests, and illegible typefaces, with “infinite pains” she finds Spencer, Milton, Shakespeare, and Pope (47).  Smith seems to advocate for a very particular type of education by emphasizing that Emmeline reads books where “instruction and amusement were happily blended.” In doing so, she “acquire[s] a taste for poetry” (47), but also “the grounds of that elegant and useful knowledge, which…enable[s] her to support…those undeserved evils with which many of her years were embittered” (48).  Smith credits this education of Emmeline’s  to her natural inclinations and motivation to learn—describing her “intuitive knowledge,” “quickness and attention,” and “uncommon understanding, and unwearied application” (46), but also to the influences of those around her—Mrs. Carey and Mr. Williamson (the old steward) “were anxious to give their little charge all they could,” even if it wasn’t much.

We see this emphasis on the need for proper instructors continue when Emmeline meets Mrs. Stafford and one of the emphases of their budding relationship is the older woman’s instruction of Emmeline in all the areas where she is lacking. When Lord Montreville sends her books and drawing materials, Emmeline recognizes “the defects in her education” and continues to apply “incessantly to her books,” but again Smith emphasizes that she is “without any instruction” (79) and can only build off of her innate aptitude. In Mrs. Stafford, she finds “one who could supply to her all the deficiencies of her former instructors.” Interestingly, like Emmeline, Mrs. Stafford already possesses a “very superior understanding,” but it is improved by “the advantages of a polished education” (81). “[H]er mind, originally elegant and refined, was highly cultivated and embellished with all the knowledge that could be acquired from the best authors in the modern languages.” Mrs. Stafford is the perfect instructor for Emmeline as an older double, and thus a role model.

Even as she lauds Emmeline’s education and Mrs. Stafford’s role in it, in contrast, Smith strongly critiques the education received by Delamere and his sister Augusta. Lord and Lady Montreville spoil their son, such that “accustomed from his infancy to the most boundless indulgences, he never formed a wish, the gratification of which he expected to be denied” (68). Though he “possessed many other good qualities,” Smith emphasizes that the “defects of his education had obscured them.” Rather than receiving his education at a boarding school, Delamere is tutored at home and then accompanied on his Grand Tour by his parents, rather than a tutor.  Though on the surface Delamere appears to have received a proper education, it is clear through his inappropriate interactions with Emmeline that his lack of proper instructors has had negative consequences.

With Augusta, we see a different critique of education. As the younger daughter, Augusta is neglected by her mother in favor of her brother and eldest sister and thus is spared the woman’s distasteful traits (perhaps unlike Delamere). However, the little her mother does teach her is “to consider herself inferior in every thing to her elder sister,” and thus “she never fancied she was superior to others; nor, though highly accomplished, and particularly skilled in music, did she ever obtrude her acquisitions on her friends” (103).  While Emmeline found a caring mother figure in Mrs. Carey and in some ways in Mrs. Stafford, Augusta is bereft and thus her education suffers. A consequence seems to be her deep reading of novels. It is from these novels that Augusta is said to have “acquired many of her ideas,” including the fanciful imagining “that Delamere and Emmeline were born for each other.” Here Smith gives a critique of the type of education young women ought to receive, as following this revelation of Augusta’s novel reading, Smith/the narrator comments parenthetically that reading novels is “almost the only reading that young women of fashion are taught to engage in” (103).  Smith doesn’t seem to fault Augusta but rather her lack of a proper education.

The message that Smith imparts with these various depictions of educations is complex and multi-faceted. On one hand we have the lauding of proper instructors, even if it is simply the loving guidance of a well-meaning housekeeper, versus the stifling of education by indulgent parents. Another element is the education of women, with Smith presenting a combination of a traditionally male education with and “useful and ornamental feminine employment” (79) as ideal. And finally, Smith is also concerned with what types of books ought to be read, offering a complicated view of novel reading, given the form in which she is writing. With each of these Smith raises questions about education in the eighteenth century that are worth considering.

How Novel

Many of the novels we’ve read until now have trained their readers to expect that the first eligible man our heroine meets will either be her eventual husband or her undoing—Fantomina and her gentleman, Sophia and Tom, Arabella and Glanville. In Emmeline, however, Charlotte Smith breaks what has been a previously expected contract with her reader. Delamere, as the first truly eligible man Emmeline meets, threatens to be both her husband and her undoing at various points in the text, and we see her soften and even become somewhat engaged to him. However, midway through the novel, Smith introduces Godolphin, and we see Emmeline begin to fall in love with a truly admirable man.

As readers, however, we are not disappointed, even though Smith breaks an established expectation. One potential reason for this is in the complexity of Delamere. Smith’s plot causes us to view him at various times as both potential husband and potential ravisher. He is rich and of good family, and he wants to marry Emmeline. For the first two volumes of the novel, he is also by far the most eligible bachelor she encounters.  Mr. Maloney, Mr. Fitz-Edward, Mr. Rochely, Mr. Elkerton, and the Mr. Crofts prove laughable at best and dangerous at worse in their posturing, assumptions, and methods of interacting with women. Moreover, Delamere opposes those who view Emmeline in a negative light, such as his mother and oldest sister, which helps us view him as her champion. In view of this, Delamere seems husband material.

At the same time, the reader, like Emmeline herself, cannot help but see Delamere’s faults and follies. He is selfish, impetuous, and spoiled, and his cocky assumption that he would be a welcome suitor to Emmeline causes the audience to regard him with suspicion only confirmed by his subsequent behavior in chasing Emmeline through the castle, following her to Swansea, discovering her at Mrs. Ashwood’s home, and then kidnapping her. In all of these, he demonstrates no regard for Emmeline, her situation, or her reputation, focusing solely on his own desires. Repeatedly, Emmeline acknowledges that “a man who would hazard anything for his own gratification now” would hardly make a good husband in the future (loc. 2449), a theme we see repeated in other relationships in the novel. Because of this, the reader’s willingness to accept Godolphin as a better alternative despite his late arrival in the novel seems reasonable.

However, another potential reason that we are not disappointed with Emmeline’s attraction to Godolphin may be Smith’s treatment of novels themselves. Miss Augusta’s familiarity with novels leads her to assume, wrongly, that Emmeline and Delamere “were born for each other” (loc. 1219), Lady Montreville assumes, also wrongly, that Emmeline has manipulated Delamere with skills “learned from novels” (loc. 2203), and Miss Ashwood appears silly because of her affectation of the language of sentimental novels (loc. 3728). It appears that even as early novels attempted to set themselves apart from romances, Smith here seems to set herself apart, even if slightly, from sentimental novels. The one time we see Emmeline attempt to read “the fictitious and improbable calamities of the heroine of a novel,” she is unsuccessful because of concern regarding Lord Montreville’s coldness to her and Delamere’s interruption (loc. 445); otherwise, she might have known she was supposed to fall madly in love with Delamere.

Instead, Smith lauds a less-sentimental education for women, as pictured in Emmeline and Mrs. Stafford. Because of these comments and the slight distance from sentimental novels Smith invokes, then, the audience is prepared when our heroine breaks the expectation that she should marry the first eligible bachelor she meets. As a result, Emmeline’s future appears much rosier than it would were she condemned to a life with the ardent and impulsive Delamere, and we are happy for her.

Smith, Charlotte. Emmeline: The Orphan of the Castle. A Public Domain Book, 2012. Kindle.

To Tell a History…

A clear focus of Lennox’s novel is the idea of a romance. Arabella endeavors to see each event of her life through the lens of her many treasured books—each man she encounters is either a hero out to woo her or a villain out to ravish her, and each woman has enough “Adventures” to warrant a “History” of her own. But what I found most interesting is how these stories are told (or almost told), specifically the Histories of women in the novel thus far: namely Miss Groves’ and Arabella’s.

First, the importance of each of the stories is emphasized. From Arabella’s perspective at least, these Histories are necessary before further events may proceed. While Mrs. Morris tells Miss Groves’ story in hope of a reward, Arabella wants to hear the story in order to better understand the woman. When she wishes Sir George to referee her disagreement with Mr. Glanville, she believes, “’tis necessary you should know my whole story” (120), before making a decision. She elaborates further on her understanding of the purpose of a History during her discussion with Lucy, asking her to recount their conversations on love and gallantry that her audience may know her “Humour” and thus “know exactly, before they are told, how [she] shall behave” in all circumstances (123).  A person’s story, according to Arabella, is immensely revelatory. She is greatly concerned with determining how people will act (and concerned that others know the same about her), which isn’t surprising given her desire to fit these actions into a romance. However, it is an interesting perspective to consider as throughout The Female Quixote Lennox is clearly exploring the function of stories.

A second significant characteristic to note about these stories is that they are each told (or almost told as is the case with Arabella) through a mediating voice. Miss Groves’ story is told by Mrs. Morris, who in fact heard it from Miss Groves’ previous maid. Rather than seeking to hear the story from Miss Groves’ own mouth, Arabella purposely asks her Woman (maid), a choice that is emphasized by the irregular and improper nature of the request. When Arabella wants her own story told, she tells Sir George, “For certain Reasons, I can neither give you my History myself, nor be present at the Relation of it: One of my Women, who is most in my Confidence, shall acquaint you with all the Particulars of my Life” (120). She chooses Lucy to tell her story rather than telling it herself, even though Lucy is anything but confident in her ability to complete this task and Arabella finds it necessary to impart specific guidance. Arabella never directly reveals these reasons to which she alludes, effectively emphasizing this peculiar portrayal of storytelling. Though I am hesitant at this point in the novel to pin down Lennox’s intentions or the exact ramifications of Arabella’s insistence at mediating voices, I think we ought to consider what this may say about storytelling and narrative—particularly the telling of women’s stories.

A final aspect of these scenes that I would like to briefly discuss is their content, or at least intended content. In these stories, as elsewhere throughout the novel, Lennox explores the relationship in narrative between imagination and meaning-making versus imparting specific, empirical details about a life. As with her fellow 18th century novelist pioneers, she is wrestling with the idea of truth in narrative. And true to her form throughout the novel, she approaches this through satire in these two scenes. Lennox critiques potential exactitude of realism when Arabella expects Lucy to remember all of her gestures over the past ten years, including the motions of her eyes. However, she also mocks the omniscience of the narrator who presumes to understand the inner thoughts of her characters. In both occasions Arabella expects the storytellers to know “all the Thoughts of [the characters’] Soul[s]” (70), even identifying Lucy as the one “best acquainted with her Thoughts” (121). However, Lucy—rightly so—protests when Arabella asks her to “decipher all his Thoughts, as plainly as he himself could do,” (123) lest her story be imperfect; Lucy responds “I can’t pretend to tell his Thoughts: For how should I know what they were? None but himself can tell that.” Even as Lennox critiques these aspects of storytelling, as the author she participates as well—lending another layer to her exploration of what it is and what it means to story tell.

Progressive Digressions?

As in Tom Jones, with Tristram Shandy I found myself again drawn to the relationship between the narrator and his readers. And as I was puzzling it out, it became clear that wrapped up in Tristram (the narrator)’s shaping of this relationship was Sterne’s treatment of time and space.

One of the marks of TJ’s narrator is his deliberate and direct engagement with and instruction of the reader. Fielding creates what Chambers calls an “implicit contract” between the narrator and the reader (qtd in Sherman 236). The narrator of TS also directly interacts with readers, but the contract he negotiates relies less on holding back the secrets of the plot and more on how he holds back. Indeed, Sterne would seem to maintain his contract by mocking its very creation.

Sterne very deliberately and transparently delays what appears to be the main action of the narrative—at this point in the novel the birth of Tristram. He even takes the entirety of chapter 22 in volume I to justify his digressions by discussing how his work is still “progressive” (64). At first, this delay would seem to seek out and accomplish what Fielding attempts in TJ: compelling the reader to keep reading through a plot revealed little by little. But as volumes pass in TS  and Tristram is still yet to be born, the delay becomes ridiculous. While TJ is fairly successful at obtaining and maintaining my attention through this secrecy (and was certainly successful for 17th century readers, according to Sherman), I am frustrated at the lack of progression (despite Sterne’s protestations) in Tristram Shandy. However, it seems that it is this frustration that Sterne relies on for his contract with the reader. He mocks this convention of secrecy that Fielding embraces by taking it to an extreme, such an extreme that it becomes clear that it is the delay and thus the passage of time that takes center stage rather than the action itself.

By drawing readers’ attention to this delay, Sterne focuses attention on the passage of time within the novel. He negotiates a complex narrative in which time passes (or pauses) at different rates within the main narrative, within Tristram’s digressions, within the world in which Tristram writes, and within the space created between the reader and the narrator. Passage of time is one of Watt’s key characteristics of the novel (22), but just as Sterne employs satire to mock nearly everything else in the novel, in TS he seems to not merely explore this convention, but push it to an extreme to poke fun.

He repeatedly mentions the ‘main’ story line that he has left behind, but only to continue with his digressions. However during these digressions, time passes not only in the world of the ‘main’ narrative but also for Tristram as he writes and also as he imparts the story to his readers. He states, “I declare I have been at it these six weeks, making all the speed I possibly could,—and  am not yet born,” at once revealing the passage of time within his writing world and mocking the slow progression in the world of the narrative (35). In Tristram’s direct addresses to the reader, we also see time passing within the theater space Sterne has created for his audience to enjoy his novel. (I don’t have the space or time here to discuss this theater space, but consider the interaction Sterne depicts between Tristram and “Madam” in chapter 20, where he seemingly pulls one member out of the audience to converse with—who leaves and returns, as well as Sterne’s use of scene and stage throughout the novel.) Tristram reckons that “about an hour and a half’s tolerable good reading” has passed (referring to the time within the realm of the reader) and then discusses how the time within the narrative has only been “two minutes, thirteen seconds, and three-fifths,” as would be measured by a pendulum (92). He plays with this notion of time passing, suggesting that the reader may think it hasn’t been long enough for the action to have been probable, but then in true Sterne fashion, turns the discussion into a mockery by revealing that indeed it has been enough time, as Toby ran into Dr. Slop in the yard.

So what is Sterne’s purpose in manipulating and mocking this convention of the passage of time? Perhaps it will become clearer as the novel progresses, but at this point it would seem that Sterne creates his contract with the reader by mocking the conventions of the novel. He draws the reader on not through anticipation of the plot but by a conscious delay of the plot and mocking readers’ willingness to keep reading regardless.

The Many Faces of the Narrator

In their attempts to define the amorphous genre of the novel, several of the critics we’ve read thus far have considered the attempts made by the “first novelists” themselves—Fielding included—to define their works. Bakhtin finds these “formative definitions” of “more interest and consequence” than the “generic characteristics” replete with  “reservations” that had characterized the scholars’ attempts up to the writing of his article (8). As tackling the whole of Fielding’s definition of the novel would be too broad for the scope of this post, I’ve elected to look more specifically at the various roles Fielding ascribes to the narrator of Tom Jones as he works out what a novel ought to look like, particularly in its conveyance of knowledge.

Some of the most notable places we see the narrator at work in the novel are the introductory chapters to each book.  In the chapter beginning Book V, the narrator addresses the value he sees in these introductory materials, taking his commentary to a meta-level. Though elsewhere he calls them “digressive essays,” here the narrator identifies these “initial essays” as “essentially necessary,” composed by the author with “greatest pains” (181).  Fielding wants readers to pay particular attention to these opening chapters in which the narratorial voice is highly self-conscious and fulfills several roles.

In Book II, for example, the narrator devotes several paragraphs to the passage of time in the novel. In these paragraphs, the narrator both justifies Fielding’s authorial choices and informs the audience as to how they ought to consume this new genre of writing. He will include sufficient detail about occurrences of interest as to avoid falling into the category of newspaper histories, but he also views his readers as subjects “bound to believe in and obey” the laws he creates as “the founder of a new province of writing” (68).

This same rather heavy-handed direction crops up in the narrative as well. In the end of chapter five of Book III, the narrator interjects, concerned that the reader may mistakenly believe that “Thwackum appeared to Mr. Allworthy in the same light as he doth to him [the reader] in this history,” an understanding enabled by the information bestowed to the reader by the narrator. He even goes as far to say that thinking poorly of Mr. Allworthy would be a “very bad and ungrateful use of that knowledge which we [the narrator] have communicated to them [the readers]” (117).  Again we have the narrator taking a very bold, directive role in the reading experience.

A few pages later, we have another interjection by the narrator, and I found this appearance most interesting. The narrator devotes a paragraph to address young readers specifically about the importance of virtue and prudence. Following this lesson, the narrator switches from first-person plural to first-person singular to “ask pardon for this short appearance, by way of chorus, on the stage” (122). The shift from plural to singular is in itself interesting, perhaps indicating that this particular voice is Fielding’s.  However, this selection is also intriguing in its depiction of Fielding’s experimentation with the role of the narrator. We’ve had the narrator as both reading and morality instructor as well as the medium for authorial justification, and now he characterizes himself as the chorus. He states, “I could not prevail on any of my actors to speak, [so] I myself was obliged to declare” (123).  This metaphor introduces noteworthy ideas to consider as far as the narrator’s role in the novel. On one hand, these lines illustrate the narrator self-consciously separating himself from the narrative (the use of I, naming the characters “my actors”), but in claiming the role of the chorus—well-established by literary precedent as integral to the progression of the narrative, he indicates that the reader should take his words as part of the “history.”

Bakhtin asserts that “when the novel becomes the dominant genre, epistemology becomes the most dominant discipline” (15). Fielding’s experimentation with the roles of the narrator demonstrate that very emphasis—how ought the reader to know? What is truth within the narrative as well as without, and how is it conveyed to the reader?  By giving the narrator these many roles, Fielding explores this formation and transmission of knowledge.

Containing a question, and a brief appreciation of the Author’s Wit

Operating under the assumption that it is “much easier to make good men wise, than to make bad men good,” Fielding establishes from the onset that his chief purpose is to instruct through displays of wit, and his emphasis therefore is on observations of folly rather than of vice. Or, to word it more precisely, Fielding’s aim throughout his narrative is to show the folly of vice, because he does display vices—hypocrisy, gossip, and violence—in an extremely entertaining way. Fielding is a master of his novel’s tone and structure and surely exemplifies Joseph Addison’s description of true wit: “For Wit lying most in the Assemblage of Ideas, and putting those together with Quickness and Variety, wherein can be found any Resemblance or Congruity thereby to make up pleasant Pictures and agreeable Visions in the Fancy” (The Spectator 62, 1711).

In the dedication, Fielding writes that the novel is “sincerely designed to promote the cause of virtue” (5, emphasis added), and he certainly does so masterfully and humorously. He lampoons the judgmental impulses of women like Miss Bridget Allworthy and Mrs . Deborah Wilkins, the violence and duplicity of Molly and her enemies in the hilarious church-war scene, the inconsistency of the mob-like townspeople, and the Tartuffian hypocrisy of MasterBlifil. He supplies the reader with a rich, many-layered satire on society, but with each portrait of a fool, he also makes sure to provide some insight into the person’s character and failing. For instance, Thwackum, who prides himself on his Christian faith, criticizes Tom for “disputing with Master Blifil that there was no merit in faith without works,” and he accuses Square, who also blindly opposes the doctrine, of teaching him such an erroneous precept” (141). This is one of many ironic situations in which Fielding promotes a virtue by having ridiculous or corrupt characters attack it.

But even though the novel so far promotes a comic approach to instruction, in which even Allworthy and Tom aren’t exceptions to Fielding’s scrutiny, the question, What is honor? still seems to be somewhat unanswered in the first six books of the novel, even though the theme comes up at several points of the narrative. To some extent, Tom displays a sense of honor in being flayed by Thwackum rather than betraying his friend, the gamekeeper. His sense of honor is so strong, that he would rather transgress other Christian morals (lie) and be tortured than see a family reduced to extreme poverty. However, his strong sense of honor does not seem to extend to Molly quite as perfectly. I don’t yet understand why he takes advantage of a girl with no immediate intention of marrying her, and this problem seems to highlight the incompleteness of the novel’s understanding of honor.

I certainly cannot depend on Mr. Thwackum and Mr. Square for a definition of honor. In their philosophical discourse, Thwackum defines it as “that mode of divine grace which is not only consistent with, but dependent upon the…Church of England” (109). Square unhelpfully replies that honor is the natural beauty of virtue, which seems only to describe the effect of honor, and not its motivation or cause. They are both meaningless definitions. This dialogue, which Fielding apparently thinks more significant than over a decade of the protagonist’s formative years, may be his way of marking the shifting attitudes of his time regarding moral conduct and manners that his audience would unquestioningly tie up with their definition of honor.

Perhaps the ambiguity surrounding Tom’s sexual exploits with Molly, and his pursuit of Sophia is what elicits a strong reaction against the novel by his readers (though it’s possible I might come across more shocking things in the 600 pages remaining). As the back of the book informs us, the novel was attacked as a “motley history of bastardism, fornication, and adultery.” I take it that Fielding is far more concerned with the disturbing prevalence of dead Christian faith than with Tom’s sexual purity. The “treacherous friend[s]” to Christianity are everywhere in the novel, hurting the religion more with their hypocrisy and polite civility, absent of charity. (111). But it’s hard for me to tell, still, if his comparative lack of judgment of Tom’s actions is intentional or not. If Fielding’s purpose really is to show “nothing prejudicial to the cause of religion and virtue, nothing inconsistent with the strictest rules of decency, nor which can offend even the chastest eye in the perusal” (5), then why does Tom Jones sleep with Molly and come out relatively unscathed?

D-I-Y Vacation

Of particular interest to me in Robinson Crusoe is the subject of Crusoe’s separation from his family, and what this separation has to do with his personality as well as his circumstances. We see at the beginning of the novel that Crusoe’s emotions are not deeply invested in his family; he has a stubborn hankering for adventures at sea, and is only temporarily dissuaded by his father from pursuing a life outside the “middle station” and “middle fortune” (5,6). Within a few days all intentions of fulfilling his father’s wishes wear off, and he decides to “run quite away from him”. At the time he breaks free, a year later, he consults neither of his parents; what is more noteworthy is that he does not even send them word that he has left. Only when the storm arises does he think of his father, and going back to him; as soon as the storm is over, “I entirely forgot the vows and promises I had made in my distress” (11).  The absoluteness of Crusoe’s expressions struck me as I was reading the novel. Had Crusoe later missed his father, I would have taken his initial declarations to be the sign of immature and unthinking zeal. However, Crusoe remains unmoved by thoughts of his parents later in life; even as he recalls the memories of basket-weaving, he mentions his father very perfunctorily. Any semblance of guilt that Crusoe exhibits about his past life (“Now I looked back upon my past life with such horror, and my sins appeared so dreadful, that my soul sought nothing of God but deliverance from the load of guilt that bore down all my comfort”) is tightly interwoven with his desire to be forgiven by God — the guilt is never a natural by-product of his desertion of his parents. He says, “As for my solitary life, it was nothing; I did not so much as pray to be delivered from it” (96). He is constantly grateful for God’s providence, and it seems that this very providence prevents him from ruing the day he abandoned his father and the comforts of the middle station. Added to Crusoe’s resourcefulness and independence is the fact that his circumstances are just favorable enough (and by that, I mean often enough) that he can hack it alone, and therefore he has no qualms about having left the love and caring of his family behind. At the end of the novel, Crusoe very blandly states that in his absence, all of his family save for two sisters and two nephews had expired. He lightly mentions the fact that he had married, and that his wife had died. His children are not spoken of with much warmth either. This absence of feeling towards family members was most intriguing to me, given that Crusoe shows much more emotion towards Friday. I have deliberately left Friday out of much of this conversation, as my purpose had been to focus on biological family and family through marriage, not the kind of “family” that may emerge as a result of common goals and circumstances. I find that Crusoe’s apathy towards his family makes me appreciate the length of time he spent on the island far less.