The Myth of the Ideal in Belinda College

In Belinda by Maria Edgeworth, portrayals of gender and womanhood have crucial and complex roles. In addition to the binary it asserts between Lady Delacour and Lady Anne Percival, the novel also provides a young generation of female characters, namely Belinda and Virginia, whose characters cause notions of womanhood to be questioned and altered, since they are growing into these constructs with certain implications. Through all of these female characters and their positions and development throughout, Edgeworth depicts traditional ideas of the domestic woman as unrealistic and impractical, as the narrative displays the attributes of independence and a strong sense of self through Lady Delacour’s personality and growth.

Lady Delacour’s character starts out as dramatic and defiant, and does not necessarily relinquish these traits entirely by the conclusion. Although she was known for being dissipated, Lady Delacour had a certain timeless and uncanny charm that defied the usual laws of fashionable society, and outlived her transition from youth into womanhood; she “continued to be admired as a fashionable bel esprit” beyond the novelty of her appearance in society (Edgeworth 8). Much of this perception...

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