Charlotte Temple Summary and Analysis
Montraville falls more in love with Julia and marries her. However, he still feels guilty about leaving Charlotte, and allots enough money for his former mistress to live independently, although he hopes she will go back to her parents. He recruits Belcour to pass the money along to Charlotte. Belcour readily agrees, although he secretly plans to do nothing of the sort, hoping instead to make Charlotte financially dependent on him and thus obligated to fulfill his sexual desires. The night before Montraville’s wedding, he writes her a letter apologizing for all the suffering he has caused her. He gives the letter to Belcour to deliver, and asks him to help Charlotte “return to virtue.”
Charlotte is completely deserted. Mrs. Beauchamp has gone out of town with her husband, and only writes to her once in three months. She continually writes to Montraville but he does not receive her letters, and Belcour is the only person who visits her. Although Charlotte has lost much of her youthful beauty due to stress, she is still charming and Belcour is still determined to make her his mistress.
He suggests that Charlotte come with him to New York, so that she can meet some new female friends. However, Charlotte is too humiliated by her pregnancy to leave the house. Belcour then reveals that Montraville is going to marry Julia. Shocked and heartbroken, Charlotte becomes gravely ill. Because of this, Belcour is no longer attracted to her, and he abandons her without giving her Montraville’s money.
The narrator addresses the reader, wondering if the young women reading the novel are bored of hearing about Charlotte’s sorrows. She also addresses the fact that Mademoiselle La Rue seemingly gets away with being dishonest and immoral, explaining that even if someone seems to profit from evil behavior, he or she has an unhappy inner life.
Although La Rue has a miserable marriage with Crayton, she is considered the toast of society because she is beautiful and wealthy. She has an affair with a young officer of weak character named Corydon. When she hears that Montraville has married Julia, she laughs at Charlotte’s misfortune and wonders briefly about what will happen to “the little affected prude.”
Charlotte eventually recovers from her illness, but she has sunk deep into debt because of the medical bills. It has been four months since she wrote her parents, and she has given up hope that they will forgive her. One night, her landlady calls on her, demanding rent. The landlady has heard that “Captain Montable” has left and she wants the rent now, in case he is killed in battle before he can pay it. Charlotte honestly explains her situation to the woman and appeals to her sense of charity. However, the woman angrily refuses to let Charlotte stay in the house, calling her a “hussey” and suggesting she work in the barracks.
Charlotte writes to Mademoiselle La Rue (now Mrs. Crayton) for help. She reminds her of their shared past and begs for the smallest room in the Crayton mansion so that she and her baby will not die of exposure. Afraid of encountering her landlady again, Charlotte sets off for New York on foot. The narrator interrupts the story to explain that Charlotte had no jewelry to sell for transportation, since Montraville lost interest in her shortly after they arrived in America.
Charlotte’s clothes are very inappropriate for a long walk in the snow, and by the time she reaches New York, she is cold and bedraggled. She asks a foot soldier for directions to Colonel Crayton’s house. Taking pity on her, the soldier offers to show her the way but adds that it’s no use asking for help from Mrs. Crayton, because she is infamously ungenerous. He suggests instead that Charlotte go to the Franklins’ house, for Mr. Franklin will almost certainly offer her shelter. However, Charlotte refuses when she realizes that Julia Franklin is married to Montraville, and insists on approaching La Rue first.
The narrator frequently uses direct address in these chapters. She pre-empts criticism of her story as dull or improbable, reminding her readers that Charlotte Temple is “a tale of truth” and thus not subject to the artistic standards and limitations of fiction. This pretense of verisimilitude helps to explain the author’s erratic narrative structure; she frequently deviates from Charlotte at important moments in the story to discuss the fate of other characters, such as Mrs. Temple or Mademoiselle La Rue. This thorough approach is unusual for a didactic novel; in this period, stories meant to teach morality often confined themselves to details and characters that clearly related to the author’s points.
It is also important to remember whom Rowson is writing to when she interrupts the story to address readers. In Chapter XXVIII, Rowson assumes a young, female reader, addressing her audience as “my dear, cheerful, innocent girl.” At this point, she is pre-empting complaints that her novel is dull and that the characters are punished out of proportion to their crimes. However, in Chapter XXX, she assumes a male reader, “Sir,” is criticizing her story’s implausibility.
This relates closely to the way that novels were received in the eighteenth century. Novels written for and about women were rarely taken seriously as literature, and Charlotte Temple was considered a melodramatic story that would only appeal to women. Hence, Rowson might expect female readers to engage enough with the story to be upset at its unjust outcome, while male readers would only scoff at its more far-fetched moments.
In these chapters, Rowson’s moral thesis begins to crystallize. She advocates an intrinsic, internal morality that is constant regardless of whether one is rewarded or punished for one’s actions. She explains this in her defense of Mademoiselle La Rue’s fate; her point is not to show that women can be promiscuous and still have a “happy ending,” but rather that one’s wealth and popularity do not matter. Instead, her readers should focus on having a healthy spiritual life, which can only be achieved through moral behavior.
Class signifiers continue to appear in this section. When Charlotte’s landlady comes to evict her, Rowson renders her dialect phonetically, misspelling words and incorporating slang and profanity. This frightens Charlotte but could easily have had a comic effect for contemporary readers, laughing at the expense of the farmer’s wife, a kind of working-class minstrel. In contrast to the haggard woman, Charlotte still cuts a fashionable and educated figure, despite being an “artless cottager.” The portrayal of the farmer’s wife may also be an instance of British nationalism, meant to appeal to a nation still sore over America’s victory in the Revolutionary War. Although Charlotte and the farmer’s wife are not from vastly different social backgrounds, the backwardness of the farmer’s wife could represent the violence and incivility of the American Patriots.
Charlotte Temple Essays and Related Content
- Charlotte Temple: Major Themes
- Charlotte Temple: Essays
- Charlotte Temple: E-Text
- Charlotte Temple: Questions
- Charlotte Temple: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Susanna Rowson: Biography
- Charlotte Temple Summary
- About Charlotte Temple
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Preface and Chapters I-V
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters VI-X
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters XI-XV
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters XVI-XX
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters XXI-XXV
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters XXVI-XXX
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters XXXI-XXXV
- Britain and America After the Revolutionary War
- Related Links on Charlotte Temple
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources