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Discuss the view that Tony Lumpkin is nothing more than a comic country bumpkin
Traditionally the pastoral genre celebrates the virtues of simple, unsophisticated life far from the city or court, in which the population is stereotyped as unintelligent and fatuitous. Tony is characterised as jovial and carefree through language and form. He is uninhibited and is interested in ‘fun going forward’ without being diverted by any sense of commitment, ‘mother, I cannot stay’, which mirrors the unpredictability of nature and country.
Through characterisation, Goldsmith uses Tony’s character as a symbol for the simple, idyllic country life where drinking, enjoyment and singing are paramount. Although Goldsmith challenges this stereotype of the rural population through the character of Tony throughout She Stoops to Conquer and subsequently illuminates the theme of opinion vs. reality. Goldsmith’s nominalisation of Tony Lumpkin initially presents his character as stereotypic of a simple country dweller. ‘Lumpkin’ could be a subtle indication of Tony’s figure. Lump’ suggests that Tony is a stout man, which reflects his uninhibited lifestyle lead in the country; relaxing and singing songs in the Three Pigeons, ‘toroddle, toroddle, toroll’. This mirrors Third Century idealised pastoral life in which shepherds and shepherdesses enjoyed a life of blissful ease, thus presenting Tony as an unsophisticated character who lacks the refinement of a man of the town ‘bred a scholar’. Moreover, Lumpkin is similar to the word ‘bumpkin’ which is a derogatory term for a simple rustic, further implying Tony’s lack of grace.
Goldsmith enhances this depiction of Tony’s carefree lifestyle through the setting of the alehouse. ‘Several shabby fellows’ are identified in this setting which reflects the lower social class facet of society which Tony associates with, the adjective ‘shabby’ suggests that this is a relatively impoverished group of local country dwellers who, like Tony, are content with drinking ‘punch’ and smoking ‘tobacco’. The song sung in said alehouse by Tony perpetuates the fact that he lives the unprosperous life of a country bumpkin.
The words ‘nonsense’ and ‘learning’ are juxtaposed in the lyrics to show Tony is uninterested in education, and furthermore that he is a lazy and unambitious character; which is how country folk are presented to behave in the pastoral genre. Nonetheless, Goldsmith establishes Tony’s character as much more than this, as he is able to deceive the town folk into believing Hardcastle’s home is ‘an inn. ’ Tony’s deception is also rather profound as he diverts Marlow and Hastings from the ‘long, dark, boggy’ road which they intended to travel.
The numerous adjectives listed shows Tony as a rather manipulative character with more intelligence than was first shown, which is an anti-pastoral presentation of Tony considering country folk were thought to be kind and welcoming. Through this Goldsmith challenges the stereotypes of the country, as Tony, a supposed country bumpkin is able to mislead the town folk with supposed ‘excellent understanding’. This farce encompasses the themes of appearances and stereotypes into the plot and undermines the simplicity of Tony’s character. Goldsmith parallels Tony with the servants and doric characters like Diggory, which the country hosts.
The poor grammar of Diggory, ‘parfectly unpossible’, shows his low levels of intellect; supposedly as a result of rustic life. Goldsmith uses Tony’s language and dialect to show his similarly plain and simple life in the country. Goldsmith incorporates malapropisms into Tony’s speech which shows his limited intellect. He frequently confuses ‘genius’ with ‘genus’, which creates a humorous irony since the very word he is using incorrectly, he has used to describe himself, shown through the personal pronoun ‘my genus. ’ This creates comedy as well as reflecting to the audience Tony’s simplicity.
Furthermore, Goldsmith utilises the word ‘ecod’ in Tony’s speech, which was 18th century jargon used to express mild surprise, meaning ‘oh God. ’ However Tony’s speech often encompasses this word even in situations which are not surprising or exciting, this suggests that Tony’s life in the country is lacking vivacity and therefore he must find excitement in the most sullen situations, which seldom occupy the life of a ‘bumpkin’. However, Tony often provides witty remarks which entertain the audience but also contradict the interpretation that Tony is just a ‘bumpkin. When acting as witness for the theft of Mrs Hardcastle’s ‘bobs’, Tony says ‘I’ll say I saw them taken out with my own eyes’, which is comically ironic since he ‘got them’ himself and therefore actually did see them ‘taken out’. The dramatic irony of the situation relays to the audience the comedy and wit of Tony’s conversation. Contrarily, Mrs Hardcastle remains ignorant to the whole ruse, contrasting Tony’s aptitude for the situation, which presents him as superior and separate from the ignorance of the other country dwellers.
Goldsmith embellishes this subtle superior presentation of Tony through the utilisation of stage directions. At the alehouse Tony is seated ‘a little higher than the rest’, which presents him as having relative authority over the other ‘fellows’. Furthermore, his song creates a harmony within the group and unites the men, which Goldsmith shows through the unanimous ‘hurrah’ said by ‘omnes’; Latin for ‘all’. Both devices present Tony as a figure resembling a shepherd, protective of his flock.
Despite the pastoral connotations this presentation of Tony shows him to have relative power and authority, separating him from the other doric characters and thus suggesting he is more than a comic country bumpkin. Alternatively, Vicki Janik describes Tony as “the most ignorant of the country bumpkins”. Through Mrs Hardcastle, Goldsmith reveals that Tony isn’t well educated, ‘I don’t think a boy wants much learning. ’ Tony’s lack of education and structure in life; indulged by his doting mother, has resulted in his ‘consumptive figure’ and his occasional lack of awareness.
Goldsmith highlights Tony’s flawed character through Mrs Hardcastle’s deception of ‘concealing (his) age’ so that he may not claim his inheritance. In fact it is revealed Tony has been of age for ‘three months’, the absurdity of the situation ameliorates the comedy as well as augmenting the stupidity of Tony’s character, since he cannot even track his own age; complimenting Janik’s criticism. Moreover, considering that in Georgian England, most country dwellers were uneducated; Tony is clearly an accurate stereotype of a bumpkin.
Tony’s lack of education, ‘the ale-house and the stable are the only schools he’ll ever go to’, also reflect Tony’s limited horizons which means he’s confined to his country life without hope of improvement; this is shown through Goldsmith’s use of ‘only’. Tony’s small scope of existence illuminates the simplicity of his life and that of a bumpkin. However, Goldsmith shows that Tony does have some degree of awareness of his situation, as he asks his mother ‘let me have my fortin’, demonstrating that Tony is not contented with his current finance and wishes to pursue his inheritance.
This drama is recurring throughout the play which shows Tony’s determination to become financially independent and ‘be made a fool of no longer’ since currently he is only able to go to ‘the alehouse so often’ because he has ‘a key to every drawer’ of his ‘mother’s bureau’. This suggests that Tony is not merely a country bumpkin since he demonstrates a certain greed more commonly associated with the town with their ‘vanity and affectation’, therefore not all the qualities of his character conform to the stereotype of a country bumpkin.
Goldsmith uses a cyclical structure to further highlight how Tony is trapped in his unambitious, mundane life. In the final lines of the play, Goldsmith identifies that Tony is ‘his own man again’, the use of the word ‘again’ reflects the lack of development in Tony’s character, nothing has improved in his country life; which could indicate the stability and continuity of the uncorrupted country or alternatively it could illuminate Tony’s lack of ambition for self-improvement to embellish his simple nature.
This presentation of Tony as a simple, undeveloped character reaches a climax at the end of the play as Goldsmith contrasts Tony from the country and Marlow from the town. Through stage directions, ‘joining their hands’, Goldsmith shows that Marlow has been able to overcome his ‘trembling’ when talking to ladies of high society, through his romance with Kate, whereas Tony, as afore mentioned, remains the same suggesting he is a country bumpkin unable to develop due to his indulged rural existence. Nonetheless, Goldsmith presents Tony’s character as having a level of moral complexity through his relationship with his cousin, Constance.
Tony refers to Constance as cousin Con, the shortened version of her name acts as endearment and the indication to the familial relationship shows how Tony is caring and ‘a good natured creature at bottom’. Furthermore, Tony helps his cousin retrieve her jewels; which are her ‘fortune’, so she may leave with Hastings. Tony quickly agrees to ‘clap a pair of horses to (their) chaise’, in aid. This generosity demonstrated through the plot to retrieve Constance’s jewels implies that Tony’s character may be more complex than originally believed to be.
Similarly, Tony clarifies that he ‘want(s) no nearer relationship’ with his cousin and therefore Tony’s acceptance to ‘assist’ Hastings and his proposal to ‘whip (Constance) off to France’ can be interpreted as a selfish, anti-pastoral act to be rid of Constance. The rural population are seen to be welcoming and sympathetic, rather than narcissistic and under-handed which is how Goldsmith characterises Tony through the nature of this plot, which suggests that Tony is in fact the complete polar opposite of a country bumpkin.
Despite the comedic trait of Tony’s character being indisputable, seeing as he is usually at the heart of the farce in this play. Throughout She Stoops to Conquer, Goldsmith clearly opposes the stereotypes of the country folk through the character of Tony Lumpkin. Initially, Tony is seemingly rather plain and peaceful; mimetic of the country, but his character develops throughout the play into a more complicated personality, so much more than a country bumpkin.