Presenter Information

Gary J. Ellison, SUNY OswegoFollow

Academic Field

English - Literature

Faculty Mentor Name

Professor Cooper

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Abstract

Through my research of Aphra Behn’s The Lucky Mistake (1689) and Daniel Defoe’s Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress (1724), I found an interesting pattern in the way each novel includes a minor male character, both of them misunderstood outcasts, who use underhanded measures and tactics to achieve the authority and power that eighteenth-century European society has denied them, based on their physical appearance and problematic masculinity, and in the case of one of the men, based on religion. Their methods involve black mail, threats, and even violence, but I believe these characters are in fact victims of an unfair society that has denied them opportunity of social advancement from the very beginning of their lives, so they feel the need to lash out to achieve the power they want. Vernole, from Aphra Behn’s The Lucky Mistake, is the mentor of the heroine Atlante, and he eventually tries to become her lover. Atlante is disgusted by him, and instead desires a younger and more handsome suitor, Rinaldo. Vernole blackmails Atlante, saying she has slept with a man before marriage, which would ruin her reputation, and he hires thugs to scare off Rinaldo. The character referred to simply as the Jew, from Daniel Defoe’s Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress, is a jeweler who Roxana hires to inspect her jewelry. The Jew’s expertise and opinion is cast aside during this interaction when he accuses Roxana of stealing the jewels she came to get appraised. Because he is Jewish, his opinion about Roxana's character is discarded. In the society of Vernole and the Jew, they are considered to be without authority, and throughout the stories they attempt to gain power through intimidation and underhanded methods, but the outcome is not the one they desired. When they find out they cannot obtain what they want, they settle for what society has given them. Vernole does not get Atlante, the famously beautiful daughter, so he settles for Charlot, the younger more rebellious daughter. The Jew threatened Roxana, but because of his accusations against her, he got his ears cut off for speaking poorly of a Christian woman of the upper class. In addition to readings of Behn's and Defoe's language, my paper incorporates critical theories of the early English novel in finding that these characters, although represented as antagonists to the heroines, are also men who have been overcome by the expectations of society.

Keywords

Key Words: Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, social hierarchy, eighteenth century, satire

Start Date

10-4-2015 9:30 AM

End Date

10-4-2015 11:00 AM

Location

Liberal Arts Bldg 107

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Apr 10th, 9:30 AM Apr 10th, 11:00 AM

Defoe and Behn: an Investigation of their Misunderstood Outcasts

Liberal Arts Bldg 107

Through my research of Aphra Behn’s The Lucky Mistake (1689) and Daniel Defoe’s Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress (1724), I found an interesting pattern in the way each novel includes a minor male character, both of them misunderstood outcasts, who use underhanded measures and tactics to achieve the authority and power that eighteenth-century European society has denied them, based on their physical appearance and problematic masculinity, and in the case of one of the men, based on religion. Their methods involve black mail, threats, and even violence, but I believe these characters are in fact victims of an unfair society that has denied them opportunity of social advancement from the very beginning of their lives, so they feel the need to lash out to achieve the power they want. Vernole, from Aphra Behn’s The Lucky Mistake, is the mentor of the heroine Atlante, and he eventually tries to become her lover. Atlante is disgusted by him, and instead desires a younger and more handsome suitor, Rinaldo. Vernole blackmails Atlante, saying she has slept with a man before marriage, which would ruin her reputation, and he hires thugs to scare off Rinaldo. The character referred to simply as the Jew, from Daniel Defoe’s Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress, is a jeweler who Roxana hires to inspect her jewelry. The Jew’s expertise and opinion is cast aside during this interaction when he accuses Roxana of stealing the jewels she came to get appraised. Because he is Jewish, his opinion about Roxana's character is discarded. In the society of Vernole and the Jew, they are considered to be without authority, and throughout the stories they attempt to gain power through intimidation and underhanded methods, but the outcome is not the one they desired. When they find out they cannot obtain what they want, they settle for what society has given them. Vernole does not get Atlante, the famously beautiful daughter, so he settles for Charlot, the younger more rebellious daughter. The Jew threatened Roxana, but because of his accusations against her, he got his ears cut off for speaking poorly of a Christian woman of the upper class. In addition to readings of Behn's and Defoe's language, my paper incorporates critical theories of the early English novel in finding that these characters, although represented as antagonists to the heroines, are also men who have been overcome by the expectations of society.