In both Sense and Sensibility and Belinda the fate of the fallen woman is something that is discussed and warned against. While in Sense and Sensibility, Marianne rejects that woman who stray will never return to their former propriety, Virginia in Belinda reinforces this idea. In Sense and Sensibility this precaution is shared through the tale of Eliza and her fall from propriety due to her romantic relationships. It becomes obvious in Sense and Sensibility that the predicament of Eliza is something not to be admired, but rather to be cautioned against and that proper young woman should stay within the domestic spheres. This warning comes coincidentally as Marianne and Willoughby’s relationship pushes what is societally seen as proper, and due to Eliza’s tale, it seems as though Marianne may fall into the same path. However, Austen revises the plight of the fallen woman and shows that Marianne has grown in her maturity at the end of the novel, during her walk back at Barton Cottage with Elinor. Marianne describes that she is devoted to investing more time into her personal growth through reading, and eventually marries Colonel Brandon, indicating that though a woman may stray from the path, that does not mean she is permanently bad. Rather she can improve herself and grow from her mistakes, as Marianne shows.
In Belinda the repercussions of straying off the path are also discussed through Virginia’s backstory. Virginia’s grandmother takes extreme precautions to keep Virginia away from any men, as her daughter was led astray by a romantic relationship. This keeps Virginia without any education or connection to the outside world. Despite this isolation Clarence Hervey finds her, and she desperately falls in love with him. Clarence ebbs and flows in his love for Virginia. However, Virginia remains delusional in love despite everything Clarence does. She is portrayed as a woman who cannot control her feelings and emotions, and once fallen down the path of love cannot get out. Even with the intervention of Mrs. Ormond and Clarence himself, Virginia remains hopelessly in love. The novel guides us to look at Virginia as almost delusional and pity her attachment to Clarence. Though in Sense and Sensibility we are able to see Marianne grow away from stereotypes of fallen woman, in Belinda Virginia exemplifies this stereotype.
As Belinda is described as a moral tale, it seems fitting that a caution against woman straying off the proper path would be in the novel. However, by showing Virginia as a helpless woman who cannot control her feelings, Edgeworth perpetuates stereotypes about the propriety of woman and guides them to act more like Belinda, a more cold and cautionary character.