The Myth of Rape in Eighteenth-Century Literature

Zakarya Aldukhayil


Rape as propaganda is the main focus of this study. Feminist scholars and activists have investigated rape in English history and discussed how this term was used by men to dominate women and spread fear amongst them. The patriarchal society of the early eighteenth-century England used rape in order to limit the freedom of female movement. Women were led to believe that their state of safety lies within their willingness to trade submission to a man for protection from all other men. This study investigates attitudes of rape and near rape attempts which were used in three seventeenth and eighteenth-century texts; Aphra Behn’s The Rover (1677), Eliza Haywood’s The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751), and Frances Burney’s novel Evelina (1778). These attitudes were presented in order to portray different ideas such as a critique of the patriarchal society, to warn women of the dangers they might face out of the domestic sphere and perks of abiding by the social conduct, and also to encourage women to follow the mandates expected of women of quality. These three text are evidence that rape was commonly discussed as a method to warn women to keep out of public space prior to the nineteenth century.

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World Journal of English Language
ISSN 1925-0703(Print)  ISSN 1925-0711(Online)

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