Arcadia

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Hannah Jarvis Character Analysis

A modern-day feminist scholar, Hannah earned renown with a bestselling book rehabilitating the reputation of Caroline Lamb, a historical figure who was Byron’s lover. Hannah is hardworking, skeptical, and passionate about the value of academia and the quest for knowledge. Unlike every other character, love doesn’t sway Hannah, and she rejects advances from Bernard and Valentine.

Hannah Jarvis Quotes in Arcadia

The Arcadia quotes below are all either spoken by Hannah Jarvis or refer to Hannah Jarvis. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Arcadia published in 1994.
Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

The whole Romantic sham, Bernard! It’s what happened to the Enlightenment, isn’t it? A century of intellectual rigor turned in on itself. A mind in chaos suspected of genius. In a setting of cheap thrills and false emotion…The decline from thinking to feeling, you see.”

Related Characters: Hannah Jarvis (speaker), Bernard
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the scholar Hannah Jarvis makes a series of bold pronouncements about the Romantic era of European history. During the romantic era, she claims, Europe underwent a steady decline. Whereas the Enlightenment era had celebrated thought and rigorous self-control, the Romantics celebrated feeling, freedom, and happiness for their own sakes. The general "decay" from Enlightenment to Romanticism was, for Jarvis, characteristic of a decline from "thinking to feeling."

The passage openly suggests that the contrast between thinking and feeling is a major theme of the play. Hannah, like Lady Croom, is definitely on the Enlightenment/thinking side of the equation. (Such a binary is misleading, however, since the Romantics were hardly the sensual idiots Hannah believes them to be, and the Enlightenment thinkers were hardly the cold rationalists she claims they were.)

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Act 2, Scene 5 Quotes

Chaps sometimes wanted to marry me, and I don’t know a worse bargain. Available sex against not being allowed to fart in bed.

Related Characters: Hannah Jarvis (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hannah dryly sums up her take on marriage. She's been proposed to before, but she's always turned down her potential husbands, because she doesn't want to have to worry about things like "farting in bed." In other words, Hannah sees marriage as an attack on her personal (bodily) liberty, justifiable only in that it provides "available sex." At times, Hannah seems like a (pretty nasty) caricature of the modern feminist academic: humorless, opposed to all "conventional" relationships, etc.

It's interesting to think that there are almost no characters in the play, in either the present day or in the Romantic era, who believe in the ideal of love. Hannah dismisses love as sex and the loss of liberty, and Septimus seems to see love as an opportunity for sex, nothing more. The one character who, presumably, does believe in love is Lord Byron, and tellingly, he's never actually on the stage. Arcadia isn't really a play about interpersonal love at all; it's about the various kinds of desire and attraction that might lead someone to pursue mathematics, academia, science, or writing.

Act 2, Scene 7 Quotes

Comparing what we’re looking for misses the point. It’s wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we’re going out the way we came in.

Related Characters: Hannah Jarvis (speaker), Valentine
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:
In this passage, Hanah makes a stirring speech about the ephemeral nature of all human knowledge (a speech that is seemingly intended to evoke the speech Septimus gave in the first half of the play). Like Septimus, Hannah sees knowledge as necessarily incomplete. Where Septimus sees human limitation as the source of knowledge's incompleteness, Hannah sees desire and eros as the reason for the incompleteness of knowledge. There can never be total knowledge, and that's a good thing: the desire for knowledge is more important and more powerful. Hannah's point of view is rather Romantic, then, since it eschews completeness and perfection in favor of a constant, noble striving. Yet her ideas could also be interpreted as evoking the Enlightenment, since they hinge on the rigorous examination of information. As the play approaches an ending, it becomes clear that even the characters who claim to believe in "thinking, not feeling" actually need both to survive.
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Hannah Jarvis Character Timeline in Arcadia

The timeline below shows where the character Hannah Jarvis appears in Arcadia. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...both eras—so papers, pens, and Septimus’s tortoise from the first scene remain on the table. Hannah Jarvis, a scholar, looks through Noakes’s sketchbook, then steps out. Chloë Coverley, the daughter of... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...tries to figure out who Bernard is. Bernard explains that he’s come to talk to Hannah about academic matters. Valentine talks about how his mother loves Hannah’s book, which was a... (full context)
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Hannah enters, calling Bernard “Mr. Peacock,” though his last name is Nightingale—evidently Chloë concealed his identity,... (full context)
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...giving a talk possibly about Chater next week, and is looking for leads about Chater. Hannah says she’s not used to such “groveling,” because the academics who reviewed her book looked... (full context)
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Hannah and Bernard banter about Valentine, who’s studying something at Oxford related to math, computers, and... (full context)
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
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Hannah explains in more depth her academic project, which centers around the same era (early 19th... (full context)
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Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Hannah continues talking about the Sidley Park hermit, whom Thomas Love Peacock (a real 19th-century writer,... (full context)
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Bernard asks Hannah about some details relating to Lord Byron, and she realizes that Byron, not Chater, may... (full context)
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...Piccadilly Recreation, published in April 1809. Bernard’s chief evidence: the book came from Byron’s library. Hannah counters that the reviewer was definitely Septimus, but Bernard thinks Hannah’s idea doesn’t make sense—the... (full context)
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...is certain that there will be something in Lady Croom’s papers that proves his idea. Hannah has had enough of him, but as she tries to get him to leave, she... (full context)
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Chloë tells Hannah that Bernard appears to have some feelings for her, and that he should come to... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
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Back in the present day, Hannah and Valentine are looking at Thomasina’s old math textbook. Hannah reads Thomasina’s note about how... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
Academia and Education Theme Icon
...both the textbook and Thomasina’s notebook, where she’s written more details and graphs. He tells Hannah that Thomasina was using iteration, a mathematical technique based on feedback, in order to describe... (full context)
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Hannah asks for more details about how Valentine’s work relates to Thomasina’s. Valentine explains that he’s... (full context)
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Hannah asks if Valentine might be able to draw the apple leaf using iteration. Valentine explains... (full context)
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...Croom mentioned in Scene 3). Bernard sees this as proof of his hypothesized Byron-Chater connection. Hannah mentions that she’s discovered a letter that notes that Brice and Mrs. Chater married in... (full context)
Mathematics, Nature, and Fate Theme Icon
...Bernard, stunned, exits in search of the books. Gus enters, and Valentine prepares to leave. Hannah, still focused on Thomasina’s iterations, asks why no one did that kind of work until... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 5
Academia and Education Theme Icon
Bernard reads his paper about the Chater-Byron duel to the Coverly siblings. Partway through, Hannah enters with a copy of a letter related to their research. Bernard continues, sketching out... (full context)
Romantic Conceptions of Beauty Theme Icon
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The argument escalates, and Bernard calls Caroline Lamb, beloved subject of Hannah’s bestseller, talentless. Valentine mentions that statistical analyses of the Piccadilly review didn’t convincingly connect it... (full context)
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Hannah explains a bit of her romantic history. She’s tired of men always so focused on... (full context)
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...attending with Chloë. In fact, Bernard confesses arrogantly, they’ve been sleeping together for some time. Hannah slaps Bernard. Bernard, not dissuaded, reads Hannah a bit of 19th-century travel writing that mentions... (full context)
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Hannah reads Valentine a little from the new source about the hermit. The article, from 1832,... (full context)
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Hannah notes that Septimus Hodge and the hermit were born in the same year, 1787. She... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 7
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Hannah enters, noting the group’s unusual outfits. Bernard’s theory about Byron has even made the tabloids,... (full context)
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Valentine continues work on his grouse project. Hannah in a stirring monologue about the necessity of the search for knowledge, encourages him not... (full context)
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Hannah looks at Valentine’s work. He shows her how he’s iterated Thomasina’s equation millions of times,... (full context)
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As Hannah and Valentine continue, silently, to do work at the table, the two time periods begin... (full context)
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...explains that it’s an iteration—“It eats its own progeny.” Septimus looks back at the book. Hannah and Valentine talk about whether the math demonstrates the end of the world, while Septimus... (full context)
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Sex and Love Theme Icon
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...him. They leave to take a walk, Augustus carrying Thomasina’s drawing, as Bernard, Valentine, and Hannah enter. Hannah carries the garden book of Lady Croom. Bernard is in a fury about... (full context)
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...be Septimus’s), but the exciting part of his discovery is gutted. Bernard rather unfairly asks Hannah why she didn’t stop him. He wonders how long he has before another scholar points... (full context)
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Hannah and Valentine enter. Valentine goes to the table to find Thomasina’s diagram. Septimus also finds... (full context)
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...visit her in the night, but he won’t agree to. Meanwhile, Gus enters, and hands Hannah a portfolio containing Thomasina’s drawing, labeled “Septimus holding Plautus,” the tortoise. Hannah thanks Gus, and... (full context)