Source: Revised GRE PDF 2nd Ed. Section 4; #10 (p. 67)

20

The passage suggests that Carnell sees Behn’s novels

The work of English writer Aphra Behn (1640–1689) changed markedly during the 1680s, as she turned from writing plays to writing prose narratives. According to literary critic Rachel Carnell, most scholars view this change as primarily motivated by financial considerations: earning a living by writing for the theatre became more difficult in the 1680s, so Behn tried various other types of prose genres in the hope of finding another lucrative medium. In fact, a long epistolary scandal novel that she wrote in the mid-1680s sold quite well. Yet, as Carnell notes, Behn did not repeat this approach in her other prose works; instead, she turned to writing shorter, more serious novels, even though only about half of these were published during her lifetime. Carnell argues that Behn, whose stage productions are primarily comedies, may have turned to an emerging literary form, the novel, in a conscious attempt to criticize, and subvert for her own ends, the conventions and ideology of a well-established form of her day, the dramatic tragedy. Carnell acknowledges that Behn admired the skill of such contemporary writers of dramatic tragedy as John Dryden, and that Behn’s own comic stage productions displayed the same partisanship for the reigning Stuart monarchy that characterized most of the politically oriented dramatic tragedies of her day. However, Carnell argues that Behn took issue with the way in which these writers and plays defined the nature of tragedy. As prescribed by Dryden, tragedy was supposed to concern a heroic man who is a public figure and who undergoes a fall that evokes pity from the audience. Carnell points out that Behn’s tragic novels focus instead on the plight of little-known women and the private world of the household; even in her few novels featuring male protagonists, Behn insists on the importance of the crimes these otherwise heroic figures commit in the domestic sphere. Moreover, according to Carnell, Behn questioned the view promulgated by monarchist dramatic tragedies such as Dryden’s: that the envisioned “public” political ideal—passive obedience to the nation’s king—ought to be mirrored in the private sphere, with family members wholly obedient to a male head of household. Carnell sees Behn’s novels not only as rejecting the model of patriarchal and hierarchical family order, but also as warning that insisting on such a parallel can result in real tragedy befalling the members of the domestic sphere. According to Carnell, Behn’s choice of literary form underscores the differences between her own approach to crafting a tragic story and that taken in the dramatic tragedies, with their artificial distinction between the public and private spheres. Behn’s novels engage in the political dialogue of her era by demonstrating that the good of the nation ultimately encompasses more than the good of the public figures who rule it. The passage suggests that Carnell sees Behn’s novels featuring male protagonists as differing from dramatic tragedies such as Dryden’s featuring male protagonists in that the former depict these characters as less than heroic in their public actions, emphasize the consequences of these characters’ actions in the private sphere, insist on a parallel between the public and the private spheres, are aimed at a predominantly female audience, depict family members who disobey these protagonists

4 Explanations

1

Maria Knodt

Why is the answer not E "depict family members who disobey these protagonists"?

Nov 25, 2018 • Comment

David Recine, Magoosh Tutor

E really is a tempting answer, isn't it? It's true that the passage does reference obedience, saying:

"Behn questioned the view ... that... passive obedience to the nation’s king—ought to be mirrored in the private sphere, with family members wholly obedient to a male head of household."

However, the passage does not say that actual disobedience from family members is depicted in these novels. Instead, it says that Behn's novels with male protagonists focus on the bad actions, the "crimes" of the male protagonists themselves. Also note that the passage does not say the male protagonists are actual heads of their households, so we can't assume that the protagonists are people in authority who can be disobeyed.

Again, E seems like a distinct possibility. E *could* be true. But you always want to go with the answer that *is* true, and is directly evident in the passage. Answer B is directly evident in the passage, but answer E is not.

Nov 26, 2018 • Reply

1

Ruika Lin

I was hesitating between A & B, and because B stresses "consequences" which aren't directly mentioned in the passage, and A is more straightforward in describing the crimes of these men in domestic sphere - obviously less heroic than in the public space, I chose A.

Could you please further distinguish A & B, and why A isn't correct? Thank you!

May 13, 2018 • Comment

David Recine, Magoosh Tutor

The biggest reason A isn't correct is that it claims that Behn would "depict... characters as less than heroic in their public actions." But the passage itself said that Behn focused on characters being un-heroic in their PRIVATE actions, within the domestic sphere of their own households. You can see this in the part of the passage that reads:

"...even in her few novels featuring male protagonists, Behn insists on the importance of the crimes these otherwise heroic figures commit in the domestic sphere."

So right there (A) is incorrect, because (A) deals with the public sphere rather than the private one.

As for the "consequences" referenced in (B), it is true that the exact word "consequence" isn't used in the original passage. However, the idea of consequences for actions in the private sphere DOES appear in the passage, as seen in this part (emphasis mine):

"Carnell sees Behn’s novels not only as rejecting the model of patriarchal and hierarchical family order, but also as warning that insisting on SUCH A PARALLEL CAN RESULT IN REAL TRAGEDY befalling the members of the domestic sphere."

"Can result in real tragedy" has the same meaning as "can have tragic consequences." So the idea of consequences for bad actions in family/private life, as seen in answer (B), is also seen in the text.

May 18, 2018 • Reply

1

Anna Roberts

Why is the answer not C
Isnt Behn insisting on a parallel between the public and private spheres?

Dec 29, 2017 • Comment

David Recine, Magoosh Tutor

Hi again, Anna. :)

Once more you've touched on some pretty important questions regarding this passage.

But, as I've discussed on pages for other parts of this passage/question set, Behn actually seems to think that the morals and rules of the private and public spheres are different, not parallel.

Specifically, th passage indicates that Behn supports complete obedience within the public sphere of her day, the monarchy. In contrast, she also believes that complete obedience to authority is not always just or fair in domestic households, AKA the private sphere.

We can see Behn's support for public obedience in her "partisanship... for the.. monarchy." (Her strong support for the power of the public rulers, in other words.) At the same time, we also see Behn's questioning of authority and obedience in the private sphere, because she "questioned... that the envisioned public political idealpassive obedience to the nations kingought to be mirrored in the private sphere." In other words, she said it was doubtful that passive obedience to the head of the household was actually a good thing in private live, even though she felt public obedience to political leaders *was* good.

Jan 15, 2018 • Reply

15

Gravatar Chris Lele, Magoosh Tutor

Sep 22, 2012 • Comment

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