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“Pre-life” of the Name Olivia

Slaves in Algiers

Rowson’s play is a reaction to actual events on Barbary Coast, where pirates raided American ships and captured passengers and sailors for ransom. The writer compares Arab culture and American values presenting the latter from a favorable perspective. Her characters are designed to demonstrate American faith in freedom and her personal belief in women’s power. In particular, a girl named Olivia, the daughter of the captured enslaved Americans Rebecca and Constant demonstrates courage and readiness for self-sacrifice. American women in the play instill in Algerian friends values and the desire for freedom and are ready to sacrifice everything for its sake. Olivia is the gorgeous woman, although in love with an enslaved man, who agrees to marry a dey of Algiers if he releases her family and friends (Rowson 62). She is adult and confident and understands the strength of her appearance and female attractiveness, which is unusual for the 18th century.

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This image of a character with the name Olivia could positively affect the perception of the main character of The Woman of Color. For example, she may appear as a beautiful and strong woman who appreciate the values of freedom and is not alien to a willingness to sacrifice. However, there is also potential for a negative image for Olivia from The Woman of Color. For people with prejudice, the name will seem to be an unfounded claim to values and an understanding of freedom alien, in their opinion, to the African race.

The Female Advocates

The character of Taverner’s play, Olivia, appears on only a few pages. For the sake of her and her love, another character – Captain Stanworth spins incredible scams. The main features that Olivia shows, in turn, are devotion and courage. She is devoted to Stanworth, as well as her sister Charlotte. The young woman shows perseverance and bravery in love for the captain (Taverner 15). Moreover, she significantly supports her sister and, together with Charlotte, manages to avoid unwanted marriage for the latter, although not without cunning. Thus, the character can also ambivalently influence Olivia from The Woman of Color. On the one hand, a character with this name can be expected to be bold and loyal, but on the other hand, be tricky.

The Count de Poland

While this work does not mention the name Olivia, it can also significantly affect understanding of The Woman of Color. In a letter to her daughter, Mrs. Osmond, as a mother, expresses concern about the fate of the second daughter Emily. The latter agreed to marry, and it seems to the mother that this union will not bring happiness. She is worried about the inequality of the marriage, contrasting tempers, and other aspects that affect living together (Minifie 3-4). The degree of concern shows how much the fate of women of the 18th century depends on their husbands or another guardian man. The future of the main character of The Woman of Color is also strongly determined by the choice of who, the husband or brother, will make further decisions in her life. Olivia has no third option, and as the biracial heroine meets even more difficulties than white women have.

The Plain Dealer

The character of this play, named Olivia, makes the most negative impression, unlike in previous works. The protagonist Captain Manly, considering her his faithful bride, leaves Olivia his capital and goes sail. During his absence, the woman independently manages the money and marries Manly’s friend. Moreover, the character of Olivia is not only a bad bride but also a bad wife, as she is ready at any time for an affair with other men. When the author reveals her deception, she mainly feels a desire for revenge (Wycherley 141). Thus, readers familiar with this work can expect cheating from Olivia of The Woman of Color. A complex relationship with Augustus can reinforce such suspicions and impact the woman’s perception.

The Guardian Letter

This letter came from a woman named Olivia, whom Guardee unfairly treated. On behalf of all the women of her “complexion,” she claims that they are more modest and have their beauty. In her words, there is a profound reflection on her appearance, “Olive Beauty,” and the understanding that white women are more popular and meet the standards of beauty of that time (The Guardian Letter). At the same time, there is some strength in her words that leave no doubt about her confidence and acceptance of herself. This Olivia can significantly affect the understanding of the main character of The Woman of Color. The latter is very tormented because she does not fit into any standards, frameworks, and, accordingly, societies.

Theory Application

The pre-story of characters with the name Olivia presents various perspectives on the heroine of The Woman of Color. Nevertheless, her position is unique since she is not just a young woman who arrived in Britain to get married, but also biracial. According to the theory of Paul Gilroy, who studies the issues of culture, race, and racism, the mixing of races can be considered provocative in societies where different identities are presented as mutually exclusive. As a result, in attempts to fit into the new community of white Britain, Olivia forms a “double consciousness” (Bezanson 10). Applying this concept to the sources considered, it can be argued that the heroine of The Woman of Color is significantly different. However, these works also demonstrate how many identities can be intertwined in one person – Olivia is from Jamaica, is a woman, and has an exotic appearance. All these factors are essential for the formation of her perception of self.

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Bezanson, Brian. Mimicry, Imitation, and Double Consciousness: The Absence and Presence of Black Heroines in The Woman of Colour and William Earle’s Obi. 2013. Master of Arts Thesis.

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