1. Sybil is often described in Christian terms and images: for example, Egremont sees her in the church, surrounded by a "halo" of light (128), his later description of Sybil as "a celestial charge" (341), her own martyr-like proclamations: "I should die content if the people were only free" (159). What effect does the novel produce by bombarding the Christian ideal of purity and charity (as embodied by the angelic Sybil) with a constant danger of physical molestation?
2. Sybil exemplifies the Victorian ideal of a woman's power over men through goodly influence. Comparing her to the other women in the novel, how dos it present her method of affecting social change? Does the novel indicate that her position as the ideal woman is enviable? How might her very nature of perfection preclude her status as a role model for wives in politics?
3. Despite Sybil's fear of violence, the novel often uses violent acts as a catalyst for character and plot development: the rick-burning drives Egremont toward social change (239), Lord Marney is stoned to death to facilitate Egremont's progress to aristocracy (402), even the violence against Sybil reveals the character of the lower classes (382). Although lower-class characters committ the notable aggressions, the upper-class characters reap the benefits. What does the novel say about the relationship of progress and violence?
Disraeli, Benjamin. Sybil. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Last modified 6 May 2009