The Role of Class in Evelina

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The Role of Class in Evelina What is the definition of "class"? Burney expresses how class is viewed in the eighteenth century society through the novel Evelina. In the novel, Burney exposes to the reader different classes of characters from the aristocrats to the merchants to the commoners and to the prostitutes. Burney also reveals how different character defines the word "class." Madame Duval thinks money and material are sufficient qualifications to belong to the high society. Mrs. Beaumont believes that a person's class is set by birth; the social class one is born into defines one's social status. However, Burney seems to disagree with both of the characters. Through the character of the heroine Evelina, Burney defines what she perceives as the true definition class and the role it plays in society. Burney points out in the novel that the British in the Eighteenth century is well aware of the importance of class, or the position in social hierarchy. To abase a person's social status is an insult and the action is frequently used in this novel as a weapon for attack, argument and revenge. Madame Duval and Captain Mirvan incessantly attack each other's social status. Madame Duval insults the Captain, calling him a dirty low life and only fit as a steward of Lady Howard. The Captain, with his injured pride, insults Madame Duval as a wash lady of Lady Howard. The dislike is mutual and the tactic used to infuriate one another is by making derogatory comments on each other's status. In another example, Evelina refuses to dance with the "foppish " Lovell but agreed to dance with Lord Orville, the gentleman who has an air of "mixed and politeness and gallantry." (Pg. 29) Lovell is extremely offended ... ... middle of paper ... ...eenth century English society. Through this novel, Burney gives the reader a view of the upper, middle and lower class people in eighteenth century England. She presents to the reader that a person's social status is a sensitive subject at that period of time and it has been the center of many attacks. Burney breaks the stereotype that certain class behaves a certain way. She reveals that the definition of "class" should not be judged solely on a person's wealth or social standing. Burney sneers at those who flaunts their status and behave odiously. She admires those who show humanity and conveys to the reader that it is through the ethical choice that a person makes, and through his or her conduct and manners that make a person noble. One who is educated and proves oneself to be a man of quality is what Burney believes as truly the person with "class."

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