Essay on Social Position Reflected in Roxana and Emma
1197 Words5 Pages
Social Position Reflected in Roxana and Emma
There were severe conflicts between the City party and the Country party in 18th century Britain. The Country party, mainly composed of gentry, was based on landed interest and the City party made money through trade and was based on moneyed interest. The Country party passed the Landed Property Qualification Act to maintain their power. However, this act merely encouraged more men of wealth to buy country estate, in many cases displacing old landed families who truly represented the ¡°landed interest.¡± We can see this changing of power through these two works, Roxana and Emma. Daniel Defoe was born in London, so he naturally engaged in City party. Roxana¡¯s background is mainly city while that of Emma is the little country society called Highbury. As we can see the difference of the background of two works, we can also find some different attitude toward City and Country in these two works. I will write about these differences in point of the conception of gentleman, rank and different attitude to City lives.
Defoe indicates that younger sons who have careers in law and trade are the backbone of the English Nation. The uneducated eldest son is an insult to the word gentleman: he is a man of no use to himself or to others. He thinks that trade is more important than land. We can find this attitude in Roxana. Roxana says, ¡°a true bred Merchant is the best Gentleman in the Nation; that in Knowledge, in Manners, in Judgement of things, the Merchant out-did many of the Nobility¡± (Roxana 170, The page numbers of further references from Roxana will be put in parentheses in the text). She also says ¡°That an Estate is a Pond; but that a Trade was a Spring¡±(170). The Dutch merchant also says that ¡°the Tradesmen in London, speaking of the better sort of Trades, cou¡¯d spend more Money in their Families, and yet give better Fortunes to their Children, than, generally speaking, the Gentry of England from a 1000 l¡±(170). We can know that Roxana has a very positive view to a merchant from this. She thinks that a merchant is better than gentry.
However, it is viewed differently, as shown in Emma. When Emma talks about the father of Mrs. Elton, she says like this : ¡° a Bristol ? merchant, of course, he must be called; but, as the whole of the profits of his mercantile life appeared so very moderate, it was not unfair to guess the dignity of his live of trade had been very moderate also¡±(Emma, 164).