Sensibility and the sentimental heroine

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Sensibility and the sentimental heroine Empty Sensibility and the sentimental heroine

Post by wangrong on Sun Nov 21, 2010 1:37 am

Renowned Wollstonecraft scholar Claudia Johnson argues that Mary is "a bold and dangerous novel", because it presents a new kind of heroine, a "woman who has thinking powers" (in Wollstonecraft's words) who is also capable of having intimate relationships with both men and women.[17] Wollstonecraft attempts to show how a gifted woman can learn to think for herself: through solitary nature walks; by reading philosophical and medical texts; by travelling; and through close friendships.[17] Juxtaposing her new heroine with the traditional sentimental heroine, Wollstonecraft criticizes the "fatuous" and "insipid" romantic heroine.[18] Eliza, Mary's mother, with her fondness for vacuous novels and lapdogs, embodies this type. Wollstonecraft even pokes fun at readers who expect the book to conform to their romantic expectations and desires:
If my readers would excuse the sportiveness of fancy, and give me credit for genius, I would go on and tell them such tales as would force sweet tears of sensibility to flow in copious showers down beautiful cheeks, to the discomposure of rouge, &c. &c. Nay, I would make it so interesting, that the fair peruser should beg the hair-dresser to settle the curls himself, and not interrupt her.[19]
Mary, however, is depicted as authentic rather than artificial, detesting fashionable life rather than yearning after it. Mary's charitable works, for example, are not a passing fad: they are a heartfelt reaction to social injustice. Even though she is older and intellectual instead of young and pretty, Mary asserts her right to sexual desire rather than sublimating it.[20]

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