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The Outsiders- Evelina and Jenny


Innocence and delicacy were considered critical values of woman in the eighteenth century. It was a signifying factor of upper class, elegance and moralistic values. Although Evelina is not raised in a superior society, her character expresses vast moral and sensible values. She witnesses many events and acts on them in ways that later demonstrate her good hearted nature. Burney uses this to highlight Evelina’s moral values. In her continued letter to Mr.Villars she writes about an event that leaves her uneasy, Du Bois planted imprisonment. Evelina feels ashamed and uneasy following this plot and ultimately going along with deceiving Madame Duval. This letter touches on terror and deception in the society of the upper class. Burney here is demonstrating that Evelina is in ways above this society she was brought into. Their apparent delicacy and need for luxuries does not compromise their ill personality and morals. Evelina is able to look beyond and recognize the manipulation of character such as Mr. Captain, which brings to light the idea that Evelina’s upbringing may not have been in an upper class society but was one the prepared for her such society. In my previous post I focused on the idea of elegance lack of elegance of characters while commenting on its similarity to Gossip Girl. This concern of elegance and sensibility in Evelina is similar to that of a character in Gossip Girl.
Through several seasons the series exposes the life of the upper east society of New York. The story also includes a less fortunate family from Brooklyn. Jenny Humphrey is a part of this family. Her father wanting best for his children, sends them off to school in the upper east side. This concept of innocence is primary to Jenny’s character. She is bullied and criticized for her lack of elegance because of where she lives. She is also initiated by the forerunner of the upper east side, Blair Waldorf, whom is known for her ability to deceive and manipulate in order to claim the social ladder in society. Jenny becomes a part of this society and is, much like Evelina, forced to whiteness events that she is aware are unjust and insensitive. Although she is at times affected and influenced by this world she was sucked into, her values on family and fashion continue to surpass her influences. she eventually leaves New York city for good in order to maintain her values and her personality. Through this the writers are able to relate to viewers as well as expose true sensitivity and elegance in a woman, similar to what Burney is displaying within Evelina.
It is interesting to recognize this similarity between the modern world and eighteenth century society. Evelina’s ability to adapt to the apparent class of elegance and pure morals is underlined by manipulation and decrepit. Evelina’s innocence is brought out though instances such as DuBois as Burney’s way of creating a relevant and relatable character who evokes not only the elegance and morals of a superior class but also a character who resonates within a reader.


1 Comment

  1. juliabeng307 says:

    I was noticing this too as I read Evalina–we live in a society which seems to have come so far in terms of women’s empowerment (which it has!), yet so much of the class consciousness is still the same, like the bizarre, contradictory valuation of morality and elegance. I really like how you connect Evalina and Jenny as young women who gain critical insight from being stuck in a very uncomfortable space between social spheres. You are right–this ability to both “adapt” and see the “decrepit morals” in “mannered society” makes both women important characters in terms of cultural resonance and emotional appeal.

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