The Female Quixote
Charlotte Lennox’s “The Female Quixote” was published in 1752. We’re introduced to Arabella whose mother appeared to have died after her delivery. She informs us that she never had a lover, but I want to note that the text is created in the form of a romance novel. When her father dies Arabella must be married to Glanville, her cousin, if she doesn’t want to lose her home. Arabella tells us how her father wanted to burn her all books at one point because of how distracted she was, but her books were saved from this tragic fate. We see that Arabella does have an interest in Glanville though when we’re told that, “ When they were gone, she found her time hung heavy upon her hands; her father was continually in her thoughts, and made her extremely melancholy: she recollected the many agreeable conversations she had with Glanville” (Lennox 25). It turns out that even after the book burning incident Arabella still loves her father, and thinking about him causes her great sadness. She, even, reminiscences about the conversations she had with Glanville. It also appears that at one point in the text Lady Bella seems to disappear, and Glanville sets out to find her. The first third of the text ends with, “Miss Glanville, who knew her brother as extremely desirous of seeing Arabella, was glad to accept of these strange terms; and left her chamber, order to acquaint him with that lady’s intentions” (Lennox 39). Here, we see that Glanville does love Arabella, and does have desires to see her. While, Glanville’s sister isn’t concerned about her brother’s desires at all.
This text is historically important because it is a parody of Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.” Cervantes’s text is similar to the plot of Lennox’s text; however, the twist is the protagonist of this text is a male. It was published in 1605. It’s interesting because Lennox was able to create a text that wasn’t male driven decades after this text was published. She’s able to have a female heroine whose life is narrated as if we’re reading one of the romance novels Arabella would read. I also want to point out that it looks as if Lennox was a well-known writer and poet at the time, but she died in poverty.
While I read Lennox’s text, I thought it falls into the genre of romance novels. When the text begins the narrator tells us how, “Arabella, the mean time, was wholly taken up with adventure, as she called it, at church: the person and dress of the gentleman who had so particularly gazed on her there, was so different from what she had been accustomed to see, that she immediately concluded he was some distinguished rank” (Lennox 7). When I read this, it sounded so dreamy how Arabella looked at this man who she thought had a prominent status. It’s similar to romance novels before it because of this dreaminess Arabella causes us to feel, but different than most romance novels because it is a spin off of a novel that’s male-dominated. Lennox’s female dominated text shows us how complicated life can be for a female who is barely is an adult, and has to get married once her father dies.
After reading the first third of this text, one issue this text raises is the roles of women and men in the plot of a novel. It was intriguing to have the narrator tell me how, “She never had a lover in her life; and therefore, the first person who addresses her has the fairest chance for succeeding” (Lennox 6). This is an issue for me because it’s telling us that just because Arabella never had a lover in her life she has to choose the first person that comes along. This is a problem that could be analyzed on the exam because we can explore how men and women are viewed in the plot of this novel, and is it justified? I did question how women’s’ roles were different in 1605 when Cervantes’s text was published compared to 1752 when Lennox’s text was published. It’s surprising to me that Lennox was able to publish a text that was mainly women dominated in 1752, and it’s an idea we could explore further for the exam.
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