Summary Of ' Evelina ' By Frances Burney

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Innocence with regard to virtue is admirable, but Frances Burney’s 1778 novel, Evelina, raises the question of whether a person can be innocent to a fault. Not stopping there, the story further questions if one can be innocent to such a degree that he or she is a danger to himself or herself. Any person who has spent time with Evelina, the protagonist in Burney’s novel, would not hesitate to acknowledge the young woman as a model example of an “innocent” person. The novel suggests that this innocence comes from both her innate nature and the parenting of her guardian, Mr. Villars. The death of her mother, Caroline, at Evelina’s birth left Evelina subject to the care of her father, Sir John Belmont, who immediately denounced having been married to Caroline in the first place. Due to the lack of competent family relations, Evelina was raised by the same man who raised her mother, Mr. Villars. Evelina begins reaching a mature age and the reader enters en media res, as Evelina is leaving her security at Berry Hill with Mr. Villars, and is beginning her “Entrance into the World” (Burney v.) After reading the circumstances in which Evelina finds herself in and how she reacts in certain situations, many scholars have questioned whether Burney has set up Evelina’s guardian, Mr. Villars, to be partially, or wholly, guilty for the harm Evelina finds herself in as a result of her innocence. If so, many wonder if Burney has set within her novel a commentary on patriarchy.
In her

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