My first thoughts upon completing Cecilia were centered on the fact of its thematic relevancy for a modern audience. It’s a story that could easily play out today on the screen: A young girl gains an inheritance and is thrust into high society with little to no guidance but her own innocent good heart. One can readily imagine what will happen to her and her fortune. The constant emotional and financial demands placed upon this heroine do in fact take their toll. Though there is a happy ending, the reader can’t help but question the degree of true happiness felt by all of the principal characters met with over the course of the novel. Though one may strive to be steadfast in thought and purpose to serve and protect those most loved, it can be extremely difficult to not let petty jealousies and prejudices impact this initial purpose, especially when they pose a threat to one’s own sense of pride. Because of this the prize of love given within those final few chapters arguably feels more like a consolation prize.
I thoroughly enjoyed the style of Burney’s novel. Though it mainly chronicles Cecilia’s story, there are many little stories and vignettes interspersed throughout that are very good—some comedic and entertaining, others with a somber, tragic theme. The story’s pacing is quick and highly visual. The serial, episodic nature of the storytelling can be readily viewed as a precursor to the style Dickens adopted in his own writing.