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In Mary Robinsons The Natural Daughter Martha an eighteenth century young woman is faced with making choices that run counter to what is considered acceptable for a woman of her day In a society that demeaned the worth of women and made it virtually impossible to succeed without the protection of a family or husband Martha overcomes all obstacles while retaining her individuality Does this make Martha a heroine or is she simply the protagonist in the novel Whether Robinson intended her character of Martha to stand forth as a hero is impossible to establish with any certainty and because the characterization of an eighteenth-century hero is dissimilar to modern day notions to simply examine the textual definitions of each term would prove inadequate A determination of whether Martha is or is not a heroine must be based on the expectations and conditions of her own time An examination of Marthas actions and trials will show that Marthas character is indeed a definitive portrayal of an eighteenth century heroine whose extraordinary perseverance elevates her beyond that of a mere protagonist Martha lives in a time that requires women once married to give over governance of any property they bring into the marriage or subsequently acquire to their respective husband Marthas society believed that women should distinguish themselves as tender mothers and faithful wives rather than furious partisans Since womens ideal role was to be supportive to their husbands care for their children and provide a haven from the troubles of the outside world the idea that they might wish an independent life or career of their own seemed unnatural Stearn 8 They were not allowed to have wills or enact any real estate transactions without consent of their husband By law women had been deprived of equal property and civil rights by custom they had been denied equal educational opportunities and access to public office Flory 251 The only way a married
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