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Shangnon Fei AP English Language and Composition Mr.

Hill April 10, 2012 In the passage from Maria Edgeworths 1801 novel, Belinda, the narrator plays with both tone and point of view to establish Clarence Hervey as a self-obsessed, vain, but ultimately respectable character. As Edgeworth describes Herveys self-conscious and disingenuous nature, she employs a mocking and sarcastic tone as she describes his interactions with others and thoughts of himself. According to Edgeworth, Hervey had been early flattered with the idea that he was a man of genius, and he imagined that, as such, he was entitled to be imprudent, wild, and eccentric(5). However, despite his perceived entitlement, and his considerable literary talents, by which he was distinguished at Oxford(10), Herveys desire to be popular is portrayed as so strong that he pretended to disdain every species of knowledge(13) to avoid being seen as a pedant. Edgeworth maintains a relatively frank tone throughout this description of Herveys insincerity, but makes her attitude towards this aspect of his nature clear through subtle sarcasm; for example, when she mentions that He was supposed to be a favourite with the fair sex(18), and that He affected singularity, in order to establish his claims to genius(9). By reporting his good qualities as suppositions and claims rather than fact, Edgeworth shrewdly alters her tone to further underscore Herveys vanity and disingenuousness. However, the true complexity of Clarence Herveys character is revealed as the perspective of the passage shifts from a general description of Herveys character to a more intimate look into Herveys mind as he interacts with Belinda. Edgeworth reveals that despite Herveys obsession with class and self-image, there are certain boundaries he will not cross in terms of compromising his own identity. Edgeworth describes Herveys private thoughts about Belinda as; If he had not been prejudiced by the character of her aunt, Mr. Hervey would have thought Belinda an undesigning, unaffected girl; but now he suspected her of artificeand even when he felt himself most charmed by her powers of pleasing, he was most inclined to despise her, for what he thought such premature proficiency in scientific coquetry(48). This simple shift in perspective from the general to the specific reveals several complexities in Herveys character. Firstly, it shows that he is prone to make superficial judgments of people based on such irrelevant details as the characters of their relatives. Secondly, it reveals the irony that a man with such a proclivity towards artifice would hastily suspect insincerity in others. Finally, it reveals that despite his willingness to sacrifice individuality for popularity, Hervey possesses certain scruples; while he is hypocritical in judging Belinda for her supposed scientific coquetry, he recognizes that regardless of how outwardly charming a person may seem, their artificial nature is not worth the social advancement that would come with marriage. Therefore, while Hervey is not self-

cognizant enough to use this recognition to prompt changes in his own conduct, he does understand the difference in value between art and nature.