The character of Hellena in Aphra Behn's The Rover could be described as outspoken, witty, and rebellious. This article will focus on Hellena's rebellious nature and explore the deeper meanings of it. We find Hellena rebelling against her brother Pedro's wishes to send her to a nunnery, against the conventional system of honor expected of 17th century women, and against the traditional roles of females in society. These three areas will be studied in depth to reveal the reasons for, and the results of, Hellena's rebellious nature.
Hellena's personality is set forth almost immediately in the play when she says to Florinda, "Now hang me, if I don't love thee for that dear disobedience. I love mischief strangely...". The Rover creates a picture of a society dominated by men, and Hellena is clearly not a woman who wants to be controlled.
In the first scene, we discover that the futures of Hellena and Florinda have already been determined by their father, and their brother Pedro plans to carry out his wishes. Florinda humbly submits to her brother: "Sir, I shall strive to do as shall become your sister". But the outspoken Hellena openly rebels in the face of her sister's obedience: "As becomes his sister! That is to be as resolved your way as he is his". In this way, Florinda is a foil to Hellena because she is portrayed as the "ideal" subservient woman while Hellena is much more of a free spirit. Presumably, one of Hellena's chief concerns as a prospective nun should be chastity, but she is much more concerned with expressing her sexual desires. Pedro scolds Hellena by remarking that she is "not designed for the conversation of lovers". However, it is Hellena's conversation with Pedro that sheds light on Florinda's desire to marry Belvile. In this way, Florinda is also a parallel to Hellena because they are both being forced, by men, to suppress their desires. Hellena's rebellion against her brother and against the convent is clearly a stance against being...
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