Independence in Belinda

“‘Why my dear,’ said her ladyship, after having listened to all Miss Portman could say about her love of independence, and the necessity of economy to preserve that independence…” –Belinda

The idea of independence in Belinda exists in stark contrast to the common beliefs surrounding marriage at the time in which the novel was published. In fact, the idea of independence weighs heavily on the mind of the titular character due to the pressure she has been put under by her aunt and the Delacour’s to find marriage.

In this specific passage, Lady Delacour suggests that Belinda allows others to shape her belief system by influencing her actions. Lady Delacour points out that “instead of punishing them, you sagely and generously determined to punish yourself” (Belinda 70) when discussing Belinda’s passivity in light of an instance where she could have stood up for herself.

Further, the idea of independence does not solely exist in the status of relationships within Belinda but also in places such as wealth and social status. When first arriving at the Delacour’s, Belinda finds herself enthralled by the lavish lifestyle ever-present in this new setting. The people she becomes surrounded by, including the Delacour’s, are quite dependent on their riches. Therefore, as Belinda grows and begins to realize the faults and problems associated with wealth, she begins to determine that true independence exists in living through oneself rather than relationships, money, and social status.

Belinda thus exists as Maria Edgeworth’s satirical critique of the glitz of the upper class and their lack of independence at the time. It decidedly questions the idea of morality as it exists in Belinda’s world. Morality plays as a foil to gossip a lot of times in the novel. Edgeworth argues that morality becomes a form of independence as depicted by the fate of its characters, many of which seem doomed. Therefore, there is a difference between a love for independence and a longing for morality.

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