An Insight Into Amy's Devotion

keywords: criminal conversation, devotion

Fiorella Gambetta, Neuroscience major, Georgia Institute of Technology

Ashley Jais, Neuroscience major, Georgia Institute of Technology

I. Introduction

Throughout Roxana’s life, Amy has always been by her side. She’s been loyal to Roxana even when her husband abandoned her and when she was tasked to sleep with her landlord. Amy’s devotion has always had a presence in Roxana’s life, especially when her estranged daughter challenges Roxana’s lifestyle. The sudden appearance of Susan, Roxana’s daughter, led to the criminal plot of Susan’s murder. The two main characters, Roxana and Amy had secret illegal conversations that led to criminal actions. They justified their venture through Amy’s undying love and commitment to Roxana. In Roxana. criminal conversations were the illicit exchanges that Roxana and Amy had to conduct their private affairs; devotion is the loyalty and love that the two characters expressed for one another, especially what Amy expressed. This essay advances our understanding of how criminal conversations and devotion plays out through Roxana’s inner monologue and conversations with Amy.

II. Passage

"This we pick’d out of the Girl's Discourse, that is to say, Amy did, at several times; but it all consisted of broken Fragments of Stories, such as the Girl herself had heard so long ago, that she herself cou’d make very little of it; only that in the main, that her Mother had play’d the Whore; had gone away with the Gentleman that was Landlord of the House; that he married her; that she went into France; and, as she had learn’d in my Family, where she was a Servant, that Mrs. Amy and her Lady Roxana had been in France together; so she put all these things together, and joining them with the great Kindness that Amy now shew’d her, possess’d the Creature that Amy was really her Mother; nor was it possible for Amy to conquer it for a long time. 

But this, after I had searched into it, as far as by Amy's relation I cou’d get an Account of it, did not disquiet me half so much, as that the young Slut had got the Name of Roxana by the end; and that she knew who her Lady Roxana was, and the like; tho’ this neither, did not hang together, for then she wou’d not have fix’d upon Amy for her Mother: But some time after, when Amy had almost perswaded her out of it, and that the Girl began to be so confounded in her Discourses of it, that she made neither Head nor Tail; at last, the passionate Creature flew out in a kind of Rage, and said to Amy, That if she was not her Mother, Madam Roxana was her Mother then, for one of them, she was sure, was her Mother; and then all this that Amy had done for her, was by Madam Roxana's Order; and I am sure, says she, it was my Lady Roxana's Coach that brought the Gentlewoman (whoever it was) to my Uncle's in Spittle-Fields; for the Coachman told me so: Amy fell a-laughing at her aloud, as was her usual way; but as Amy told me, it was but on one side of her Mouth; for she was so confounded at her Discourse, that she was ready to sink into the Ground; and so was I too, when she told it me. 

However, Amy brazen’d her out of it all; told her, Well, since you think you are so high-born as to be my Lady Roxana's Daughter, you may go to her and claim your Kindred, can't you? I suppose, says Amy, you know where to find her? She said, she did not question to find her, for she knew where she was gone to live privately; but, tho’, she might be remov’d again, for I know how it is, says she, with a kind of a Smile, or a Grin; I know how it all is, well enough.

Amy was so provok’d, that she told me, in short, she began to think it wou’d be absolutely necessary to murther her: That Expression fill’d me with Horror; all my Blood ran chill in my Veins, and a Fit of trembling seiz’d me, that I cou’d not speak a good-while; at last, What, is the Devil in you, Amy, said I? Nay, nay, says she, let it be the Devil or not the Devil, if I thought she knew one tittle of your History, I wou’d dispatch her if she were my own Daughter a thousand times; and I, says I in a Rage, as well as I love you, wou’d be the first that should put the Halter about your Neck, and see you hang’d with more Satisfaction than ever I saw you in my Life; nay, says I, you wou’d not live to be hang’d, I believe, I shou’d cut your Throat with my own Hand; I am almost ready to do it, said I, as 'tis, for your but naming the thing; with that, I call’d her cursed Devil, and bade her get out of the Room. 

I think it was the first time that ever I was angry with Amy in all my Life; and when all was done, tho’ she was a devilish Jade in having such a Thought, yet it was all of it the Effect of her Excess of Affection and Fidelity to me." (Defoe, 269-271)

A Lady at her Toilet with her Maid

Fig. 1 A Lady at her Toilet with her Maid, 1727

III. Explication

In a recent turn of events, Roxana feels threatened by the arrival of her daughter from her first marriage, Susan. In the text, it can be seen that Roxana harbors feelings of resentment as she never affectionately calls her daughter anything other than “Girl”. So, to Roxana, Susan isn’t seen as her family, rather, she’s seen as a threatening presence. Her loyal maid, Amy, goes out and interrogates Susan to find out if she has any information on her Lady. After Amy returns from her sleuthing, she briefs Roxana about her encounter with the “Girl”. Susan says that she only knew that her mother became a whore, who later on married their Landlord. Amy later found out that she obtained this information from Roxana’s family when Susan was working as their servant. On Roxana’s orders, Amy treats Susan affectionately; however, Susan mistakes Amy’s affection and claims she is her mother. Susan dismissed this claim when she found out that her mother’s new name was Roxana. Susan began to connect the missing pieces and realized that Amy was here on her mother’s orders and her mother was Amy’s Lady. Amy immediately tries to cover up any details connecting to Roxana and blatantly laughs in Susan’s face while telling her to go and confront her. Susan enraged at Amy reveals that she knows where Roxana privately lives and runs off. After recalling the details of the story, Amy tells her mistress that she feels threatened for Roxana’s safety and would like to kill Susan for Roxana’s benefit. In response to hearing this, Roxana is confused. As much as she loves her, she “wou’d be the fist that should put the Halter about” Amy’s neck. As Roxana feels raged, she still acknowledges her love for Amy.

Throughout this passage, Roxana is going back and forth between two different conversations through the same first-person limited narrative structure. She leads us through her internal monologue, a re-cap of her conversation with Amy, as well as Amy’s conversation with Roxana’s daughter, Susan. For example, as Roxana recalls Amy’s conversation with Susan, Amy says “Well, since you think you are so high-born as to be my Lady Roxana’s Daughter, you may go to her and claim your Kindred, can’t you?” After recalling this conversation, Roxana shifts her narrative to how she perceived Amy at that moment, describing that Amy said this “with a kind of a Smile, or a Grin...” Since Defore wrote the story through the perspective of one character, the readers are unsure of the accurate portrayal of the story due to Roxana’s bias. Since she is also guiding us through her conversation with Amy, we are getting a sense of how their criminal conversation flows. However, since this book is written as a confession from Roxana, it’s hard to gauge whether the criminal conversation only came from Amy. Due to Roxana’s vanity, she may have placed all of the criminal intent on Amy’s actions. Roxana does not want to corrupt her status in the upper class, so she made the criminal conversation a one-sided conversation. But, the truth will never be known.

Throughout Roxana’s conversation with Amy, Amy is starting to conspire her plan of murdering Susan. At first she comes out with the blatant statement of murdering Susan. But as Roxana is hesitant, Amy tries to rationalize her plan for Roxana saying that if Susan were her own daughter, she would murder her a thousand times. Throughout their exchange, we are also getting a sense of how deep Amy’s devotion is to Roxana. Whenever Roxana mentions Amy, whether it be through her conversations or her internal thoughts, it is clear how devoted Amy is to Roxana. Even as Roxana is reflecting on their conversation, she mentions that what Amy was conspiring was due to “the Effect of her Excess of Affection and Fidelity to” Roxana (see Fig. 1).  Through Roxana’s perspective of her conversation with Amy, she is still able gain insight into why Amy is conspiring to murder Susan. Amy’s criminal thought process is done for the purpose of her affection and devotion towards Roxana.

Fig. 2 Case on the murder of John Cook, 1707

In Roxana’s recollection of her conversation with Amy, she uses several hyperboles to describe not only what Amy is saying, but also how Roxana feels. For example, as Amy is telling Roxana of her plan to kill Susan, she tries to rationalize herself by saying that if it were her own Daughter she would do it a thousand times. The re-iteration of her doing it a thousand times over is an attempt to sell Roxana on the idea. The fact that Amy does not give a second thought about killing Roxana’s child shows that she places Roxana on a pedestal and does not consider other people as important as Roxana. Even though it is not mentioned explicitly, Amy overlooks the consequences for murder (see Fig. 2). In this same sentence, Amy uses a metaphor to convince Roxana to approve of her devious plan. Amy decides to compare Susan to her own daughter; however, at this point it is hard to tell if Amy is even making a comparison. Amy’s loyalty to Roxana has developed immeasurably that it would make sense that she sees Susan as her own daughter. In view of the fact that Amy sees Susan as her own, proves even more how devoted and attached she is to Roxana. If Susan were her own daughter, Amy would give no second thought to killing Susan for the sole purpose of Roxana’s safety. 

IV. Conclusion

This text is significant because it is the first time Roxana is angry with Amy. Throughout the novel, Roxana and Amy’s relationship was tried and true. As Roxana experiences poverty for the first time in her life, Amy stuck through it with her. Amy even went as far to sleep with Roxana’s landlord to prove her loyalty. Up to this point, it seemed that the relationship Roxana and Amy had was flawless. The artifacts chosen for this piece deepens our understanding of Amy's devotion and criminal conversations. Figure 1 depicts a Lady of the upper class and her maid getting ready for the day. Her maid stands attentively at her Lady’s side and appears to be actively listening to her Lady. The figure shows a relationship in which the Lady is dependent on her maid, yet her maid seems to not mind it. Amy and Roxana have a similar relationship. Roxana depends on Amy. For example, she sends Amy on trips for information and confides in Amy. But as their relationship grows, Amy’s devotion deepens. As Amy considers murder as her only option to save Roxana’s face, the ramifications of murder did not hold Amy back. At the time in which Defoe wrote the novel, the punishment for murder was grave. In figure 2, the case of John Cook, displays process of the aftermath of a murder. Kingston, the murderer, faced branding to his hand and was forced to work in a harsh environment. Although Amy is aware of the punishment for murder, she’s still willing to commit such a crime.

At the end of the novel, Roxana’s biased narration leaves Susan’s death ambiguous. The chosen text only shows the story through Roxana’s perspective. In fact, the whole book is written through Roxana’s account, which leaves little room for true accuracy of the whole story. She could be only highlighting the parts where she looks better than Amy. Near the end of the book, it’s uncertain whether or not she forgives Amy. She did let Amy back into Holland, which leads to the question of whether or not Amy did kill Susan. And since she let Amy back into her life, this also leads to the question of whether or not she approved of this criminal plan. 

Just like the ending of the book, this passage leads to some confusion. Did Roxana eventually approve of Amy’s criminal ideations? Did Roxana leave her conspirations out of the story? Based on the fact that we will never know the true story, it’s hard to get full clarification. But this passage also gave us clarification on how deep Amy’s devotion goes. Although we don’t know the actual reasons behind Amy’s intent, it can still be concluded that she did what she did, or what she didn’t, for Roxana.