How does "The Beach of Falesá" reflect as well as contrast with Victorian domestic values?

In "The Beach of Falesa," Wiltshire and Uma's marriage reflects Victorian domestic values in that it epitomizes the Victorian conception of domestic felicity. However, Stevenson's portrayal of the marriage also casts miscegenation in a positive light. The latter was antithetical to Victorian mores and largely frowned upon at the time.

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In Stevenson's short story, John Wiltshire is a copra trader on the island of Falesá. With the help of Case (a rival trader), he initially enters into an illegal marriage with Uma (an island maid).

As time progresses, Wiltshire falls in love with Uma. Although he learns that Uma's taboo (a nebulous curse that supposedly taints her reputation on Falesá) is also his by marriage, Wiltshire finds himself powerless to resist her charms. He tells her that he would rather have her than all the copra in the world.

In other words, Wiltshire insists that he will remain faithful to Uma, even if her taboo prevents him from engaging in the copra trade. Stevenson's prose highlights the Victorian ideal of feminine beauty in the use of phrases like "pretty enough to eat" and "a maid beguiled."

The portrait of a woman as an innocent maid is reinforced in the language Stevenson uses:

She threw her arms about me, sprang close up, and pressed her face to mine in the island way of kissing, so that I was all wetted with her tears, and my heart went out to her wholly. I never had anything so near me as this little brown bit of a girl.

Uma is diminutive, sweet, and possessive of childlike innocence. Although some may argue that the prose betrays a patronizing, colonial attitude, the fact remains that this "angel of the house" persona was largely revered in Victorian culture. The ideal Victorian wife was loving, tender, and utterly devoted to her spouse.

While Wiltshire and Uma's marriage is the picture of Victorian domestic felicity, it also casts miscegenation in a somewhat positive light. In this way, it contrasts against Victorian domestic values.

Stevenson's language at the end of the story highlights the Victorian social unease with miscegenation. In the last paragraph, Wiltshire laments the institutional racism experienced by the offspring of mixed-race couples. He worries about the future of his "half-caste" children, acknowledging that they would fare better in Falesá than the "white man's country."

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