in Bertrams

Chapter 04 – Our Prima Donna

divine beauty

In describing Adela, Trollope states that he will not disclose her physical attributes in writing.  Instead, he invites readers to ascribe to her as much “divine beauty” as they wish.  This is in stark contrast to the other main female character of the novel.  In describing Caroline Waddington, Trollope uses a mountain of divine descriptors, most often calling upon the image of Juno, queen of heaven.  This contrast in description of the two leading ladies is mirrored by the contrast in their characters.  Adela is quite passive, whereas Caroline is very active in the world.  Further, Adela is constant in her purpose and opinions throughout the novel, while Caroline changes.  [CMC 2012]


Sophia Wilkinson

Adela mentions to Arthur that his sisters Sophia and Mary have always been active in the parish that Arthur is about to become the vicar of.  Sophia is the Greek word for “wisdom,” and although Sophia Wilkinson is such a minor character in this novel that we don’t get much of a chance to see if the etymology of her name is appropriate for her, in Chapter 42 she does show greater sagacity than her sister:  she realizes that Adela loves Arthur.  [CMC & RR 2012]


Cupid’s phrases

Adela is heartbroken and upset that Arthur has decided that he cannot marry under the conditions set upon his living by the marquis.  Although Arthur had never explicitly declared his love to her, Adela feels that they had an implicit understanding about their feelings which Arthur has now foresworn.  Although Trollope sympathizes with Adela throughout the novel, he explains here that any oaths made by lovers are “Cupid’s phrases”–the words of the changeable Roman god of love–and not to be trusted.  [CMC & RR 2012]