Capitola The Mad Tomboy Essay

1619 words - 7 pages

E.D.E.N Southworth’s The Hidden Hand is a carefully constructed novel that touches on different 19th century issues and presents them in various forms. It was originally written as segments for a magazine, and its goal was to entertain readers. For that reason, Southworth made her story not only full of suspense and drama, but humor too. The humor, however, is not presented in the form of crude, sexual scenes, but instead, the humor is found in the almost mocking tone Southworth has towards the standards set by the 19th century society. She plays with the popular ideas of what society expects by morphing them into almost the opposite of what an ideal would normally be. One of the most twisted issues within the novel is gender and the creation of a female acting as a tomboy because the existence of the masculine female figure is the basis for many of the adventures and trials Southworth creates in her novel. Having this tomboy character creates many humorous situations because Cap participates in activities that a 19th century lady would never have even attempted to participate in. The mockery of the uptight expectations of gender in Southworth’s society gave way to the funny nature the novel presents.
Capitola, Southworth’s main character, is the tomboy of this novel, and from the moment we meet Cap we see that she is not the average, 19th century, prim and proper lady. Instead, she is a girl posing as a boy picking up any jobs from the street that she can to obtain some money to survive (47). She’s portrayed by Southworth as a witty, clever and brave young girl, but readers could often mistake her for a lad because of the way she spoke, acted, and even dressed at some points within the novel. Southworth, by creating a female character who so closely resembled the nature a young boy would exhibit, was criticizing and mocking the ideals that her 19th century society had created for what is to be expected from a young girl, instead of allowing young girls to be independent, courageous, and curious.
Capitola’s tomboy personality is exhibited throughout the entire novel, but there are specific scenes in which not only Capitola’s actions exhibit boy characteristics, but Cap’s language does as well.. One such scene is when Cap decides to trick the minister. Typically, 19th century ladies were completely honest, especially when speaking with a minister, but Cap, being the tomboy she is, manipulates the minister in order to trick him, simply because she finds it fun. “And—and—I hope you will forgive me, sir! But—but he was so handsome I couldn’t help liking him!” (184) Cap says to the minister. The readers and minister alike assume that Cap has committed some sexual sin with a man whom she was attracted to, and the minister proceeds to reveal these assumptions to Cap, but in all reality, she is speaking of “Alfred, the Blenheim poodle that strayed away from some of the neighbor’s houses” (185). Following his manipulative meeting with Cap, the minister...

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