Power In Fantomina

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The Manipulation of Societal Expectations and Power
In the short story “Fantomina: Or, Love in a Maze”, Eliza Haywood shows how societal values, standards that people are expected to follow, can also be manipulated to a person’s favor. In the eighteenth century, a woman’s reputation is extremely important because her actions do not only represent her character, but it also affects her ability to find a husband and wed. Finding a husband is an act necessary to survive as a woman in this time period. However, the protagonist pushes the boundaries of societal limits by actively pursuing and having sexual intercourse with a man dressed as four different characters. Although, the protagonist is extremely careful when it comes to hiding her identity,
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In doing so, she eliminates the threat of Beauplaisir ruining her reputation because if he were to brag about this affair, it would be impossible to associate a character like Fantomina, who is expected to become a prostitute and pushed to the opposite side of the social spectrum, to the protagonist’s true and well-respected identity. When playing the low class Fantomina, the protagonist’s grip on her performance to attract Beauplaisir is the weakest. Beauplaisir was extremely direct and assertive when it came to sexual favors because he felt entitled and superior over Fantomina; therefore, the protagonist must play a different character who is more respected in this…show more content…
According to the narrator, the distance between her previous characters and the protagonist’s true identity is the main reason Beauplaisir denies that Fantomina, Widow Bloomer, and the “Lady whom she really was,” (2), were the same person. In every encounter, the protagonist is able to maintain some level of control over her identity. In contrast to Incognita, Fantomina’s and Widow Bloomer’s social statuses are far from the protagonist true identity; therefore, there was no need for a mask because it seemed impossible for a person in such a high position to be interested in adopting the role of lower class women and to express the same level of sexual interest that Fantomina and Widow Bloomer had. When the protagonist wears a mask, she is able to completely relinquish control of her body to her lustful desires and keeps Beauplaisir from gaining any kind of control over her and her reputation. This is the moment where the protagonist seems to take all of the power that Beauplaisir had in the previous encounters. For instance, Beauplaisir leaves Incognita’s house furiously and bitterly:
“----He resented, ---he once more entreated, --- he said all that Man could do, to prevail on her to unfold the Mystery; but all his Adjurations were fruitless; and he went out of the House determin 'd never to re-enter
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