Saturday, November 26, 2011

Role of M. Dubois in Evelina

We've spent a lot of time this semester talking about the roles and functions of the main characters in the novels we've read, especially females, but what about those characters who hold slightly less prominent positions? In Evelina, Burney weaves a very intricate web of familial connections between her characters, juxtaposing nature and nurture by comparing Evelina, the Mirvans, and Lord Orville to Madame Duval, The Branghtons, and Sir Clement. Further complicating that web, however, are minor characters like Mr. Lovel and Monsieur Dubois. These men, although they are often involved in the major action of the novel, seem to hold relatively unimportant positions.

I would like to focus specifically on Dubois because not only is he the more reserved, seemingly more polite companion of the abrasive Mdme Duval, but he also takes a keen interest in Evelina. In your opinion, what is the role of Dubois in Evelina; why did Burney find it necessary to include him in her already heafty character list? What does he add to the plot line, and what kind of commentary does he provide about the society to which Evelina is introduced?


  1. Monsieur Dubois and Madam Duval always have to be read within the context of British-French relations and generally they need to be considered together. I feel like any scene with M. Dubois is making a commentary about the British attitudes towards the French. That said, he is a relatively positively portrayed character, if something of a dupe. He functions more in the story to illustrate the poor nature of Captain Mirvan.

    I had earlier argued that Burney upholds typical upper class attitudes towards the relationship between status and virtue. However, Captain Mirvan and also Madam Duval are both upper-class figures who act poorly in general. Burney could be complicating these ideas about class with these characters or she could be just saying, ‘look this woman is an aristocrat but she is French so she still doesn’t know how to act right!” M Dubois is less of a character than he is an accessory to the character of Mme. Duval. It is an important part of her personality that she never goes anywhere without male company. We see the same convention expressed in English society when Evelina cannot leave the opera house by herself, and thus Willoughby has trapped her in his company. But this custom seems to be restricted to unmarried young women. Could this parallel suggest that Mme Duval (and the French in general by implication) is mentally juvenile? Or that the French are inappropriately lusty?

  2. I tend to agree with Jesse that Burney introduced Monsieur Dubois into the narrative in order to further highlight the negative aspects of other more central character's personalities. In the case of Captain Mirvan, Monsieur Dubois is portrayed as an innocent victim of the Captain's games to attack Madame Duval. As for his relationship with Madame Duval, I think that Burney was trying to make Duval seem even worse than other French citizens. Also, I think that Burney created the character of Monsieur Dubois specifically for another beau of Evelina, demonstrating that she really is favored by all different sorts of men. As for Mr. Lovel, I think that Burney introduces him into the novel in order to show the growth of Evelina throughout the novel. He is the first man that, for lack of a better term, hits on Evelina when she gets into London. At this instance, Evelina does not know how to react to Mr. Lovel. However, by the end of the novel when Evelina encounters Mr. Lovel again, she acts in a way appropriate to her class position.