The novella is set in various locations in eighteenth-century England, with a primary focus on the urban setting of London.
Narrator and Point of View
The novella is narrated in the third person by an omniscient narrator. It is usually focused on the thoughts and feelings of the unnamed protagonist, although it occasionally includes the perspectives of other characters.
Tone and Mood
The novel's tone is often playful and ironic; the narrator is presented as more knowing and experienced than the protagonist, and therefore able to poke fun at the mistakes and misconceptions she makes. At times the tone is also meant to be erotic, as when it describes the various sexual encounters between the protagonist and Beauplaisir.
Protagonist and Antagonist
An unnamed young woman of noble birth is the protagonist; there is no clear antagonist, although late in the novel her mother does interfere with her relationship and her use of disguises.
The major conflict of the novel is that the protagonist wants to be able to enjoy a sexual relationship with Beauplaisir, but also to protect her identity and social reputation. In order to do so, she must ensure that her true identity is never revealed, but she is constantly at risk of being found out. A secondary conflict is that while the protagonist is devoted and faithful to Beauplaisir, he quickly loses interest in any woman with ehom he is involved.
The climax occurs when the protagonist finally reveals her elaborate schemes and many deceptions to both Beauplaisir and her mother.
There is repeated foreshadowing throughout the novel that the protagonist will eventually suffer as a result of her infatuation with Beauplaisir and their sexually illicit relationship. Beauplaisir thinks to himself after they first have sex that she will likely end up a ruined woman, and the narrator makes repeated comments about the protagonist's inability to recognize the mistakes she is making.
See section on imagery.
The paradox of the novella is that while the protagonist is highly intelligent, organized, and enterprising, she is unable to resist her desire for Beauplaisir. She seems to be able to control everything except her own heart. There is also a paradox in that, while she can control her body by disguising it and effectively taking on different identities, she cannot prevent her body from betraying her by conceiving a child.
The major parallelism in the novel takes place amongst the different storylines of the affairs Beauplaisir has with people whom he believes to be different women. Each time, Beauplaisir begins by feeling intense desire and going to great lengths to seduce her. After a short time, he grows bored and disinterested. The parallelism across the different disguises reinforce the inconstancy of his nature and make it clear that no woman, no matter what characteristics she has, will ever remain interesting to him.
Metonymy and Synecdoche
Fantomina Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Fantomina is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.