Morality In Ann Radcliffe's The Romance Of The Forest

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How do we establish virtue? For most of us, the answer is not so easily encountered, and nuance and ambiguity persistently muddy our paths to righteousness. In The Romance of the Forest, however, Ann Radcliffe explicitly crafts her characters’ morality, inventing a limited spectrum upon which most of her characters fall. On the side of uncomplicated wholesomeness exists Adeline and the La Luc family, whose introductions inform their goodness in plain terms. Conversely, the novel’s main antagonist, the Marquis de Montalt, inhabits the side of primarily uncomplicated evil (or at least, expressing a privation of righteousness). Although a convincing argument might be made that Radcliffe’s characters are all, at different moments, sympathetic and morally …show more content…

Of course, one almost intuitively understands that the novel’s leading women adhere rather closely to socio-gender norms; both Adeline and Clara, the two women who most represent Radcliffe’s idealized morality, are traditionally beautiful, focus on emotional intelligence via poetry and music rather than on scientific pursuits, and represent the appealing innocence of ingénues. In the same manner that Adeline’s unconsciousness contributes to her integrity, it also appears that her extensive physical beauty results in part from her inherent saintliness, her beautiful eyes linked to some intrinsic purity (7). Further highlighting this ethical preference for femininity, Adeline exhibits fear related directly to the presence of men; in the Marquis’s chateau, her terror specifically abates when she realizes that “elegant” and “beautiful” women surround her, and later the inverse occurs as she balks in fear at “the voices of men” (158, 299). On some level, Adeline seems to recognize that masculinity poses a significant threat to her, and instinctively shies away from its

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