Proper kinship in Evelina

Frances Burney’s novel, Evelina, forces readers to penetrate Evelina’s private thoughts and become entitled critics the same way Mr. Villars was. Evelina shows a need for male guidance in her letters as a societal expectation. Mr. Villars says he wants to protect her “innocence” (254), but his actual intention is for her to stay with him forever. Villars finds power in being the only man fit to conduct her. However, later, she develops an awareness of the patriarchy and manipulates expectations in writing to alert men reading her letters and get what she wants.

Evelina begins narrating letter VII by being honest that it had been “two days” (256) since she wrote in her “journal” (256). The tone tries to appeal to Mr. Villars’ attention with her use of innocent words like “Sweetly, most sweetly” (256) in the beginning. However, she still feels the need to prove herself an innocent young woman by claiming she could not be “exact” (256) in her journal. Eighteenth century women confess everything to men through letters, so Evelina is showing even more innocence by saying that. She says she was “too much engaged” (256) in other matters. This is her way of assuring Mr. Villars that he is still in charge of her. Evelina uses this innocence to narrate to Mr. Villars how men treat her. She describes to him Lord Orville who protects her from these predators to make him agreeable in every way, since Villars is in charge of her fate. However, Letter VI from Mr. Villars asks her to “quit” (255) Lord Orville on September 28, the same day she writes letter VII to him, so she has no idea he wants her to avoid him until letter IX on October 1st. She is in doubt about whether Lord Orville is “still himself” (229) or not until Letter II where she shows her happiness to Villars. Therefore, letter VII is only a continuation to show how civil Lord Orville is compared to how “brutal” (257) and “unmanly” (257) men like Mr. Coverley and Mr. Merton are.

Kinship in Evelina is her ultimate savior, while Mr.Villars, who does not truly care for Evelina’s future, is the antagonist. His greed guides him not his mind, and that is evident after he tells her to avoid Lord Orville (254) in letter VI. He doesn’t want to lose her. However, in letter VII, we see that Evelina becomes aware of that and uses her reason when communicating with the men around her— coming up with consistent explanations to show Mr. Villars the danger of being alone. For example, when the drunken Lord Merton “caught” (258) her hand as she tried to avoid him, no one made him let go of her until she wished for “a brother” (259). Evelina understands that the moment Luisa asks her brother to “walk in with” (259) her that respectful treatment comes from her kinship to men, nothing else. That is why she claims that if she “had a brother” (259) she would be treated better. Lord Orville hurriedly asks her to “allow him the honour of taking that title,” as if to gain control (259). Evelina includes the moment in the letter, so that Villars could approve him. But here, Burney is also foreshadowing Maccartney being her real brother in the end to stop Villars from having an overall say in her life because she does have a proper kin to guide her.

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