Adeline Mwbray Analysis

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Adeline Mowbray (hereafter referred to as ‘AM’ in in-text citations) by Amelia Opie, protagonist Adeline is moulded to a certain extent on Mary Wollstonecraft, was originally published in 1804, six years after the publication of Richard Polwhele’s polemical poem “The Unsex'd Females” (1798). This poem intended to undermine radical female writers, particularly Mary Wollstonecraft, by attacking her personal life. Such works were emblematic of the “discursive battle”, according to April London in ‘History, romance, and the anti-Jacobin’s “common sense”’, that was occurring between the conservatives and the radicals in the 1790s which could be attributed to a mutual concern regarding control over the reading practices of a politically charged audience…show more content…
Unlike Adeline, both Mrs Mowbray and Glenmurray are aware that Adeline’s controversial views would be misinterpreted by society as a cover for her moral “frailty” (AM 170). The libertine rake, first presented by Sir Patrick and then a series of gentlemen who proposition Adeline in the text, consider her to be of easy virtue because she lives with Glenmurray without the protection of “an idle ceremony” (AM 462). What is progressive about Opie’s treatment of marriage is that even with Adeline’s change of heart towards the end of the novel, the primary positive aspect of marriage is its protection against social ostracism and insult. Marriage is not treated as a romantic union of souls because firstly that honour is given to Glenmurray and Adeline’s socially unsanctioned union and secondly, many bad marriages are shown in this novel, which is again a recurring theme in Jacobin novels. However, what Opie does endorse is the utility of marriage because it functions as a protection for female reputation, as a space within which both sexes are given more sexual liberty in the contemporary period (For example, Mr. Berrendale’s bigamy and the promiscuous married cousins of Glenmurray (AM 789, 510 )) and most importantly, it provides protection for children who are saved from the caprices of their parents’ affections, assured social status as well as a proper education. For Opie thus, a good education results in a good marriage and since…show more content…
Another example of Opie’s radical ideas can be found in her representation of the intellectual and, more controversially, sexual rivalry between Mrs Mowbray and Adeline, stimulated by Sir Patrick’s interest in both women albeit for different reasons, is a radical idea on multiple levels. This depiction destroys the myth of the house as a haven sanctified by a loving marriage which complicates the glowing recommendation of marriage that Opie puts forward. Opie seems to suggest that just like in education, so in marriage, to be carried away by affection and lack of practicality and perception of the truth can only lead to disaster. Another radical idea that relates to the central theme of the novel as put forward by Eleanor Ty who in Empowering the Feminine finds in this novel “the love story not between Adeline and her lover Frederic Glenmurray, but between Adeline and her mother” (148). Such a reading thoroughly marginalises the male presence in the novel and points towards the importance of the mother daughter theme. This relates to the depiction of Opie’s complex feminist politics in the text. According to Joanne Tong
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