Critics have argued that Sandford and Dorriforth, the male protagonists of A Simple Story (1791), behave inconsistently for reasons that remain enigmatic. The two men do indeed exhibit the sort of wayward behavior that was usually coded "feminine" in the late eighteenth century. But their motives are not enigmatic. Sandford and Dorriforth are complex characters whose behavior reveals significant fissures within eighteenth-century patriarchy. Each man defines his obligations in terms of multiple masculine roles. Sandford feels obligated to enforce the father`s law as a former Jesuit and a secular priest. Dorriforth feels obligated to enforce it as a secular priest, a guardian, the head of a family, and an aristocrat. In struggling to fulfill their obligations, the men find that patriarchal precepts are in conflict with one another. By relating their conduct to the history of the Roman Catholic "mission" in England and to the situation of the Jesuits after the order`s suppression in 1773, we can understand their motives, especially those of Sandford. Through these two characters, Inchbald analyzes the often self-defeating nature of patriarchal law and suggests that it undermines the very distinctions of gender it aims to sustain.