In her 1811 novel, The Missionary, Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan) uses realism in conjunction with an icon to illustrate her views on cultural adaptation. In the following passage, she describes the realistic nature of Hilarion as a young, conflicted priest, who sacrifices earthly pleasures to honor his faith:
All that could touch in the saint, or impose in the man breathed around him: the sublimity of religion, and the splendour of beauty, the purity of faith, and the dignity of manhood; grace and majesty, holiness and simplicity, diffusing their combined influence over his form and motions, his look and air. (The Missionary, p. 82)
In contrast, Luxima, the Hindu Priestess, embodies beauty with spirituality as she interacts with the Missionary through her “dovelike eyes and innocent hands…raised in same direction, for gazing on the glories of the firmament, a feeling of rapturous devotion, awakened and exalted by the enthusiasm of the Missionary, filled her soul.” (The Missionary, p. 121) Not only do her characters contain realistic qualities that independently represent their iconic associations, but her setting this tale in India, provides the other realistic aspect of Owenson’s novel, for in the seventeenth century, India is the focus of European nations, who are seeking new economic and political territories to whet their imperial appetites. Moreover, the Catholic Church, having made so many dissenters from its powerful stance, needed to expand its philosophical territories, so the emergence of missionaries became a reality in India during the early seventeenth century. Portuguese missionaries do travel to India for the purpose of religious conversion of the non-Christian Hindus. Owenson draws upon observations from the historical documentations of Francois Bernier (1625-1688) to provide anthropological references as a means to create realistic characterizations, as she brings two people together in a Garden of Eden to form the genesis of a consciousness that alerts her audience to the possibilities of overzealous proselytizing of any stalwart community.
Owenson represents iconic realism with the placement of Hilarion, the Franciscan Priest, an icon of Jesus Christ and European philosophy, physically and spiritually immersed with Indian culture through his interaction with an Indian Priestess, the icon of 17th century Hindu community and victimized follower of a faith and culture that is targeted for conversion. As Thomas Kavanagh points out:
The signified meanings, instead of being accepted as such, instead of taking us outside the text as text, become themselves the signifiers of the iconic signs, of a continuing movement, of a second temporality definable only within the parameters of the text.” 
Hilarion is a Catholic Missionary because he is the nephew to the Archbishop of Lisbon. Although her description of his qualities is quite flattering, under his cloak of religiosity, his true nature is simply that of an ordinary man. As a true follower of Jesus Christ, he transfigures into a real person with real emotions and real anxieties regarding the bureaucracy of his organized religion. In Owenson’s portrayal of him as an icon set within the realism of seventeenth century India, he signifies two elements: the Catholic Church of the Inquisition period and imperialistic England, whose dogmatic government maintains its own mission to convert the Irish to the British consciousness. John Locke, in his essay on the “Powers of the Commonwealth” refers to this form of bureaucracy in government and religion:
For no man or society of men having a power to deliver up their preservation, or consequently the means of it, to the absolute will and arbitrary dominion of another, whenever anyone shall go about to bring them into such a slavish condition, they will always have a right to preserve what they have not a power to part with, and to rid themselves of those who invade this fundamental, sacred, and unalterable law of self-preservation for which they entered society. And thus the community may be said in this respect to be always the supreme power, but not as considered under any form of government, because this power of the people can never take place till the government be dissolved. 
Thus, the hierarchy of authority within human society creates significant conflict of interest for those whose consciousness differs from the status quo. Owenson demonstrates this conflict through her diverse characterizations.