academic writing samples

Discuss the representation of the body, gender and/or sexuality
and also reflection of the contests or conforms to norms –
Fantomina by Eliza Haywood


Fantomina: or, love in a maze is the novel about the love, passionate desire and the activities of the gender that is against the social norms by Eliza Haywood. The novel demonstrates the power that is performed by the female character to fulfill her needs and desire. It can be seen in the novel that the leading female character change her identity many often to get the attention of her love interest. The purpose of the paper is to analyze the characters and the social norms.

Main Context

The novel Fantomina by Eliza Haywood reflects the desire for finding the sexual as well as a stimulating emotional relationship that is quite difficult for the men and women in the eighteen century. The novel shows the character of a woman who plays the role of various ladies for seducing the man who was named as Beauplasir (Saxton, and Bocchicchio, 2015). It can be depicted from the novel that Fantomina changes her identity so that she is able to capture the attention of Beauplasir. It is clear from the fact that the novel in the initial stage gives more important to the sexuality and the gender attraction that Fantomina had for Beauplasir. The novel also shows the strong character of the gender that feels good with the change and the disguised role. It is clear from the novel that Fantomina enjoyed the disguised that she took as it allows her to perform any task whatever she wishes. According to the novel, she is one of the strongest characters, and she does not care about the norms of the upper class or lower class. She does not think that the relationship between the upper-classmen and the lower class women does not last long. Her reflections in the novel show strength that is beyond the norms and the social life. Fantomina in the novel is the mistress of high class that also in the eighteen century who have many restrictions due to her profession (Spedding, 2016). It can be depicted from the novel that she was not allowed to communicate with any male person but she has an interest in Beauplasir, and for that, she was desperate to change her identity.

The restriction that Fantomina had to face made her change her identity desperately. It is clear from the point of view of the restriction that women of the high social standing have to face in their life. Clothing is one of the major symbols that show social standing of the people. In this novel, it can be seen that Fantomina dress up in such a way that she represents the lower social class of prostitute. She pursues this as her new identity to get the attraction of Beauplasir, and with this new identity, she was able to perform any task without any restriction (Hughes, 2016). It can be understood from the facts that social norms play a major role in the society. This is because after getting her new identity and Beauplasir in the first case she resists him due to her reputation. Fantomina changed her clothes and her identity, but she was unable to change her moral concept for the first time. But her desire to get more allows her to perform her best as a prostitute in front of Beauplasir. It is clear from the novel that Fantomina took the disguise of the prostitute due to curiosity. She was strong women and has the ability to manage the situation according to her ability and wish (Morrison, 2017). But Beauplasir was unable to get the real fact about Fantomina, and for that, he easily grows tired of her. This is, of course, the possible reason that the task of a prostitute is not properly performed by Fantomina which makes Beauplasir confused and disgust.

The social norms show that people judge every person by their profession and their clothes. It is the social status to show the class and the position of the people. In the novel, it is clear that Fantomina was a strong woman and for her love, she has the ability to adopt any disguise that will help her to attract Beauplasir (Smyth, 2017). After Beauplasir gets tired of Fantomina as the prostitute, she again changed her identity to get along with her love. It can be understood from the novel that the female gender is a stronger character in the case of love and also she can do anything to get her love. Then Fantomina became the maid of Beauplasir to gain his attention and also to continue their sexual relationship. The disguise continues as Beauplasir gets tired with one woman. It can be understood from the facts of the novel that the action which starts from the curiosity turns out to be an intentional act of Fantomina for getting Beauplasir. But another fact is that Beauplasir never wanted a strong and stable relationship and for that he could easily maintain a relationship with four different women though they all are same. Fantomina is a strong lady with intelligence, and for that, she used to calculate all her steps and the process of seducing Beauplasir to maintain her relationship (Howard, 2015). Most of the time it can be depicted from the novel that Fantomina became emotional, but at the same time, she was able to hold her back and continue with her passion.

As time passed her passion for Beauplasir also increased and it shows the deepest desire of the female character that is strong and also vulnerable. The author of the novel states the women as the strongest character that can perform any task if they are willing to do. According to the character of the novel Fantomina, she believes that the character she plays has power as well as freedom (Kvande, 2013). But if the powers seem in the point of view of the social norms it can be understood that the actions are mostly powerless as Fantomina did not achieve anything from any of her characters. On the contrary, it can be said that she portrays herself in such a way that Beauplasir believes that he has been sleeping with four different women. It can be seen from the fact of the novel that love and passion all are working at the same time for Fantomina and by any means; she wants to stay with Beauplasir. This shows the strongest desire of the women to fulfill her dream and desire. Fantomina took her last disguise that is a woman of the same class of Beauplasir as Incognita. This disguise of Fantomina also fails like her other disguise because Beauplasir did not show any interest to maintain the relationship. Though he wants to know more about Fantomina and her real identity he never meant to be in the long-term relationship. It can be depicted from the facts that Beauplasir without any hesitation or issue sleep with different women.

Eventually, all the four women were same, but for Beauplasir they were all different and in another sense, it can be seen that Beauplasir is also to the satisfaction of his desire. The novel also shows that Fantomina has gradually become the object that is used to fulfill the desire of others. It can be understood from the novel that in the eighteen century performing the unsocial deeds was a big risk for the women and this is the social norms that somehow or the other is still alive in the present society (Comitini, 2014). The character of Fantomina is strong enough to fulfill her desire, but at the end she gets nothing. It can be understood from the facts that both Beauplasir and Fantomina are not actually in the bond of relationship rather they were busy fulfilling their desires. This is unfortunate for Fantomina that her creative disguise to attract Beauplasir turns out to be the disguise just to fulfill her needs. She was unable to create the long-lasting relationship with Beauplasir despite her creative disguise and love. It reflects the facts of the society that the disguise used by Fantomina was not appropriate for the social norms. At the end of the novel, it can be seen that Fantomina lost her everything even her reputation for fulfilling the desire and the passion that she had for Beauplasir.


It can be evaluated from the facts of the novel that the society merely describes the character of a woman and for that Fantomina was unable to maintain a relationship with Beauplasir. It is clear that the creative disguise that was adopted by Fantomina are all of lower social standing and for that, it did not provide the power to hold in a high-class relationship. The novel shows the mentality, power and the possession of gender in the society. It is clear from the facts that both Beauplasir and Fantomina took the wrong step to fulfill their desire. But it is only Fantomina who have to pay for the deeds and lose everything which shows the social norms of the world.


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  • Howard, G., 2015. Equal Performances: An Exploration of Eliza Haywood's Depiction of Hillarian Ideals in Fantomina.
  • Hughes, J., 2016. Love in the Time of Finance: Eliza Haywood and the Rise of the Scenic Novel. In New Directions in Popular Fiction (pp. 23-41). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  • Kvande, M., 2013. Printed in a Book: Negotiating Print and Manuscript Cultures in Fantomina and Clarissa. Eighteenth-Century Studies, 46(2), pp.239-257.
  • Morrison, L., 2017. Serialized Identities and the Novelistic Character in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina and Anti-Pamela. Eighteenth-Century Fiction, 30(1), pp.25-44.
  • Saxton, K.T. and Bocchicchio, R.P. eds., 2015. The Passionate Fictions of Eliza Haywood: Essays on Her Life and Work. University Press of Kentucky.
  • Smyth, M., 2017. Plotting Fancy in The New Atalantis and Fantomina. In Women Writing Fancy (pp. 199-236). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
  • Spedding, P., 2016. A bibliography of Eliza Haywood. Routledge.