Fantomina Summary and Analysis of Part 2: The First Disguise


When the play comes to an end, the protagonist suddenly finds herself in an awkward situation. Because he believes she is a prostitute, Beauplaisir is eager to have sex with her, and proposes that they go either to his home or to her residence. She considers telling him her true identity but comes up with another solution, which has the advantage of giving her the opportunity to see him again: she tells Beauplaisir that she already has an appointment with another client that night. Beauplaisir accepts this story, and persuades her to agree to return to the theatre the following night so that they may meet again. She agrees, and the two part ways.

The protagonist returns to her home in a flurry of emotions. She knows she is taking a risk by continuing the charade; however, she is intoxicated by the freedom it gives her, and she believes she will be strong enough to resist sexual temptation. She is also obsessed with the idea of continuing her interactions with Beauplaisir. The next day, before she goes to the theatre, she rents rooms in a nearby house. This gives her a space to which she and Beauplaisir can go, one where she hopes she will feel a sense of agency and control.

That evening, she meets Beauplaisir at the theatre again. He is determined that she will go home with him after the play ends, and happily accompanies her back to the rooms she has rented. Once there, he tries to make arrangements to have food delivered to them, but she has a lavish meal provided at her own expense. This makes Beauplaisir believe that she must be a very high-ranking courtesan; he becomes concerned that her services will be very expensive, but he decides that she will be worth the expenditure.

After they eat, Beauplaisir becomes very assertive in his attempts to seduce her. The protagonist begins to panic and almost reveals her true identity, but she realizes that she has already violated social convention and that revealing her true identity will only damage her reputation. She tells him that she is a virgin and that she only pretended to be a prostitute in order to get close to him, but this does not dissuade Beauplaisir. The two have sex.


In contrast to the first part of the novella, this section shows the protagonist's plan quickly spiraling out of control and putting her into vulnerable situations. At first she sees only the pleasures associated with the new identity she has taken on: she can enjoy herself and openly talk and flirt with Beauplaisir. This freedom, however, comes with a price: he expects she will have sex with him, something he would never demand or suggest of an aristocratic woman. The protagonist's innocence and lack of foresight is revealed when she is astonished by this expectation and is unsure how to handle it. The protagonist is clever, but not sophisticated; therefore, she never has as much control over her plans as she believes she does.

Another weakness of the protagonist's becomes apparent in this section: her feelings for Beauplaisir and her desire to keep seeing him. Even after realizing that he has clear sexual expectations and that it will be risky to continue to see him, she cannot simply resign herself to the experience having been a one-time occurrence. She agrees to meet him again. The elaborate plans she puts into motion to secure a space for them to be alone in speak either to deep naivety or deep denial. She is either convinced or trying to be convinced that she can fend off his sexual advances, even if they are alone in a private space together.

The desire to retain control of the situation and to be able to make decisions about how far the relationship goes manifests interestingly in the protagonist's behavior. She wants to be in control of the space where they go, and she also retains financial control by not allowing him to pay for the late-night supper they eat. In a surprisingly modern twist, the protagonist attempts to use her financial agency to assert her power within the relationship, worrying that by allowing Beauplaisir to purchase things for her, he will get the impression that he can also purchase access to her body.

Ultimately, however, all of the protagonist's careful plans are unsuccessful. Beauplaisir has interpreted all of her previous behavior as sexual encouragement and believes he is entitled to sexual gratification. The question of consent is ambiguous in the pair's first sexual encounter. She is clearly attracted to him, but also unprepared to stand her ground, and taken aback at how far things have gone. He undoubtedly ignores her protests and insists on the two having sex. While the narrator suggests that the protagonist experiences pleasure, the description is also marked by loss and a sense that this is a negative turning point for the protagonist. The sexual encounter seems to mark a moment where her plans have failed her by actually leaving her more vulnerable and unprotected.