Study Guide

The Mysteries of Udolpho Women and Femininity

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Women and Femininity

In person, Emily resembled her mother, having the same elegant symmetry of form, the same delicacy of features, the same blue eyes, full of tender sweetness. (1.1.13)

Yeah, Em plays the part of the eyelash-batting lady pretty effortlessly. But there's a lot going on underneath that sweet mug of hers that'll come in handy when she's underestimated.

She spoke not; her cheek was cold, and her senses seemed to fail her, but she did not faint. (1.13.46)

Glory be, Em resists the overwhelming urge to faint! Saying no to Valancourt's elopement scheme is a new step toward being the kind of woman she wants to be—one who exercises good judgment.

"Astonishing!" exclaimed Montoni: "this is beyond even my expectation, though I have hitherto done justice to the caprice of the sex!" (2.3.57)

That's a burn. It looks like Montoni has a pretty low opinion of the fairer sex, not helped by his tendency to treat them like chattel.

"Is a marriage with a man, who adores you, so very terrible in your eyes, that you would prefer it to all the misery, to which Montoni may condemn you in this remote prison?" (2.6.124)

So says the creepy guy who breaks into Em's bedchamber. But Morano brings up an interesting point: Em really would prefer to stay locked in Montoni's castle than suffer through a loveless marriage. As a woman of this time period, she doesn't have that many choices.

"I am the most wretched of women—I am indeed cruelly treated!" (2.7.43)

You gotta feel a little bad for Madame Cheron. One poor decision about a man, and her life is effectively chained to his.

She had now only to hope, that Montoni's order was prompted, not by any extraordinary design, but by an ostentation of displaying his family, richly attired, to the eyes of strangers […] (2.10.4)

When Montoni tells Em to dress in sexy clothes, she knows she really has no choice. Performing femininity is a real chore.

"[…] you possess an understanding superior to that of your sex; and that you have none of those contemptible foibles, that frequently mark the female character […]" (3.5.10)

Montoni is doing a most excellent job of preying on Em's insecurities. He's also revealing himself to be a big-time misogynist. Really, Montoni?

"Many young ladies, circumstanced as you are, would think my conduct, on this occasion […] impertinent. I do not fear such a return from you." (3.13.44)

There we go with the "most young ladies" thing again. Count de Villeforte, too, has a preconceived notion of how women should behave. But Em is special.

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