Evelina In Pride And Prejudice Analysis

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The Process of Independence in Evelina and Pride and Prejudice

Thirty-five years separates the publication of Frances Burney’s debut novel, Evelina or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778), and Jane Austen’s most popular work, Pride and Prejudice (1813). Though they belonged to two different English social spheres, Burney and Austen shared an interest in topics such as class, sensibility, and marriage. Specifically, the two novelists explore the theme of ‘first impressions’ in both Evelina and Pride and Prejudice. As the original title of Austen’s novel, Tony Tanner writes in a 1972 introduction to Pride and Prejudice that ‘first impressions’ are particularly important because “although they may well need subsequent
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Darcy is of a proud and disagreeable man, and she continues to associate these negative qualities with his character until he proposes. She does not allow Mr. Darcy to intimidate her and instead challenges him by calling attention to his surliness. Evelina, who is less confident, must learn to challenge the men who frequently accost her, which goes against Rev. Villars’s advice. At first, the reverend does not warn Evelina of the duplicity of men, but rather instructs her to expect that they are simply not interested, as he says, “A youthful mind is seldom totally free from ambition; to curb that, is the first step to contentment, since to diminish expectation, is to increase enjoyment” (Burney, 20). Rev. Villars, however, does Evelina a disservice since the men who pursue Evelina have the power to ruin her reputation. Recognizing the differences between a man’s appearance (his carefully constructed public mask and performance) and his true character was crucial for women whose procuring of happiness or misery depended on knowing the distinctions between a gentleman and a libertine. Evelina constantly confronts this problem with the men she encounters at the assemblies, opera house, and

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