The Depth of Evadne

I have edited my comment-post from last week and made it into a new post here, incorporating this week’s prompt as well.

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When Mary Shelley catalogs the downtrodden state of Evadne’s home (and even Evadne herself), there’s also a part that reads “-yet in the midst of such drear and heart sickening poverty, there was an air of order and cleanliness that surprised him” (109). This is subtle, but since it is used at the very as the final thought of Raymond when he first sees Evadne’s home, it may also be the most important. This line signifies that there is much more to this character than the ragged appearance will suggest.

Similarly, when describing Evadne herself, Shelly writes, “her garb was mean, but her attitude might have been selected as a model of grace” (109). Once again, this positive spin at the end of descriptions hints at something deeper and more significant hidden within the character. Finally, Raymond also calls Evadne his “Princess in disguise” (110). This seems to be the most telling moment of Evadne’s introductory passage. He does not say former princess, as someone who once had power/prestige/etc, but instead uses phrasing which suggests that there is still currently a princess hiding beneath her ruin-like visage.

Furthermore, upon examining the close reading for this week, I think that Evadne also represents a sense of timelessness. When she says, “This is the end of love!-Yet not the end!” Evadne is representing that the past glory of Greece has fallen, yet will still remain (181). She reinforces this idea when she says “The instruments of war, fire, the plague are my servitors. I dared, I conquered them all” (181). Essentially, Evadne is showing that Greece (through her allegorical representation) has been through a number of atrocities throughout history, and has died and reinvented itself numerous times, and yet the ancient art has lasted through it all and not been lost to time. The only crux is when she adds on”till now!” at the end of that sentence. This reflects back to Mary Shelly and how at the time of writing The Last Man she is confused about the future, having lost all her friends and family, not to mention living in the aftermath of the French Revolution, and has trouble believing the past will continue to exist as it has in the future.

While certainly unique, Evadne also ties in very well to the traditional Romantic powerful female figure, albeit not in an obvious way. Most of these other women are impressive in their appearance as great beings, whether they be gods, representations of gods, or other divinely connected beings. Evadne on the other hand is impressive DESPITE her appearance – I think this is an important distinction. There actually is a “Princess in disguise,” and the splendor of one of these great mythological women figures may be hiding beneath her pitiful exterior. I am reminded of Keats’ Moneta in The Fall of Hyperion at this moment, when she says, “What haven? Every creature hath its home; / Every sole man hath days of joy and pain, / Whether his labours be sublime or low” (171-173). Despite their differences, I think Moneta describes Evadne’s situation very well here. Her appearance may be ragged and poor, but that does not exclude her from “days of joy and pain,” and her home is a home whether or not it is an actual haven. Therefore I think Evadne, along with what you have said, also represents the beauty and splendor of Greece hidden behind its outer layer of dirt.

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~ by atrevelyan on November 15, 2012.

One Response to “The Depth of Evadne”

  1. Yes, Evadne and Moneta are spiritual sisters, symbols for a fallen ancient Greek order. In fact, Moneta describes herself as a “last woman,” or the “pale Omega of a withered race.” But you need to foreground the irony you spotted in your reading of “till now!” Shelley’s novel is mourning the passing of high Romantic ideals and a progressive PhilHellenic politics in a way that Keat’s poem does not–although this last point is open to interpretation.

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