One of the defining characteristics of 18th-century England was the contrast between the city and the country. The people who lived in the city were as partial and loyal to their own environment as the people who were brought up in the countryside, and the two groups developed opinions about each other that were often based on bias and misunderstanding. Frances Burney’s novel Evelina presents a comparison of city life and country life from the point of view of city and country dwellers, showing how the country and the city were viewed differently by residents of both places.
In Evelina, the inhabitants of the countryside appreciate the calm and peaceful lifestyle they enjoy there. Whenever the characters of Burney’s novel find themselves in the countryside, they occupy themselves with activities that are relaxing instead of active or strenuous. For example, when Evelina and Miss Mirvan are surprised by Sir Clement Willoughby’s appearance at Howard Grove, they are “strolling . . . down a lane” near the grove, simply enjoying the fresh air and natural vistas (Burney 111). This kind of activity is healthy and rarely leads to trouble or harm, making it preferable to the busyness of the city. Afraid that Evelina might become too fascinated by the city, Mr. Villars expresses his opinion that a country life would allow Evelina to “spend her days in tranquility, cheerfulness, and good-humour, untainted by vice, folly, or ambition” (106). To Mr. Villars, a country dweller, a life of tranquility is the best option, and the lifestyle that allows the most tranquility is definitely that of the countryside.
Country life looks different from the point of view of stylish London residents. To them, the tranquil lifestyle of the countryside seems unsophisticated and boring. Throughout Burney’s novel, the characters who are used to city life make several sarcastic comments about how ignorant people who live in the country are. Mr. Lovel makes a suggestion that...
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