In Charlotte Dacre’s novel Zofloya; or the Moor: A Romance of the Fifteenth Century, the protagonist, Victoria, is described as spoiled, “haughty,” and, at times, evil. These character traits carry throughout the events of the novel, and, occasionally serve as explanations for Victoria’s actions. The narrator labels Victoria unfavorably as if her personality traits, her actions, and her reactions were assigned to her by nature itself. The narrator would argue that Victoria is the way she is because that is the way that she was born. Sally Haslanger’s discussion of “Ontology and Social Construction” breaks down classifications of social construction, particularly in regard to labels. Haslanger would argue that the unfavorable labels the narrator assigns to Victoria are socially constructed. Victoria is not spoiled and “haughty” by nature, but rather, Victoria is a product of her environment and her circumstances. The cause and effect of the events portrayed in the novel are all connected. Victoria’s willfulness and overindulgence are causally constructed. Using Haslanger’s categories of social construction, I argue that Victoria herself is not evil. Rather, Victoria’s personality and therefore her choices are all products of her environment and circumstances. Using Haslanger’s definitions of social construction, I contest that Victoria’s personality and her choices are socially constructed.
Professor Lisa Ann Robertson
Morgan, Jacquelyn, "Haughty by Nature?: Social Construction in Zofloya" (2021). IdeaFest. 372.