Posted tagged ‘Colonel Brandon’

Sense and Sensibility 49-50: New Confidences

February 10, 2009

I have just finished the final chapters of Sense and Sensibility. This post covers my entry for those chapters, not my final comments on the novel, the methods and scope for which I have yet to determine.

Plot Points

Edward Ferrars has arrived at Barton Park, and he asks Elinor to marry him. Elinor accepts the proposal, and the two have frank discussions about their experiences and the various players in their history, particularly Robert and Lucy. Edward seeks and is given his mother’s approval, and they move to Delaford, the offer of the home there still in place from Colonel Brandon.

Shortly after, Marianne marries Colonel Brandon, having been taken in by his character and knowledge of his fondness of her, and the two Dashwood sisters end up living in close proximity at Delaford. All parties are happy.

Character Commentary

Edward Ferrars obviously takes a big part in the resolution of the story. After his proposal to Elinor and their final confidence in each other, Austen says that “His heart was now open to Elinor — all its weaknesses, all its errors confessed, and his first boyish attachment to Lucy treated with all the philosophic dignity of twenty-four.” He admits that his actions—including his engagement with Lucy—were “foolish” and that one reason he found Lucy attractive was because he had known few women, and was thus unable to see her “defects.”

Later, there is some reproachment of Edward by Elinor, and “He could only plead an ignorance of his own heart, and a mistaken confidence in the force of his engagement.” Later, Austen writes, in speaking of Edward and Colonel Brandon’s newly reinforced friendship, that “Their resemblance in good principles and good sense, in disposition and manner of thinking, would probably have been sufficient to unite them in friendship, without any other attraction…” So do Elinor and Brandon see different Edwards? Not that Elinor is offended beyond marrying him, but there seem to be inconsistent views of Edward given by the combination of these two characters and the narrator.

Themes and Threads

Austen speaks of Marianne in the final chapter, when explaining her marriage to Colonel Brandon: “She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favorite maxims.” And, instead of”falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion,” she becomes a wife and patroness. “… her whole heart became, in time, as much devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.”

This marks an ending to the Marianne character as a driver of the thematic conflict in Sense and Sensibility. In a way, Elinor is shown to have won out. But is this really the case? Does the marriage of Marianne and Colonel Brandon result in a de facto victory for sense over sensibility? After all, the two sides were in a way switched, more thoroughly in the case of Marianne. (Remember that at some points late in the story, Elinor was behaving quite sensitively). I think this will require more analysis later on.

In Context

With the end of the Dashwood saga at hand, it is important that each of these young women be taken care of. To Austen’s initial readership, surely the best possible outcome for these heroines is a life of marriage. For Marianne, the reward is especially given: she is “patroness of a village” due to the wealth of her husband. From a purely economic standpoint, the Miss Dashwoods ended up in favorable hands, it seems.

Looking Ahead

I will be posting some final comments over the next few weeks as I parse through all of my posts on Sense and Sensibility to try to make sense of it all. I’ll also let you know about the next steps in Reading Jane Austen.

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Sense and Sensibility 37-40: Colonel Brandon’s “Proposal” of Sorts

January 27, 2009

My notes from Sense and Sensibility Chapters 37-40.

Plot Points

Chapter 37 sees full disclosure of the Elinor-Edward-Lucy situation as it is revealed that, while visiting the John Dashwoods and Mrs. Ferrars, Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars are engaged. This causes anger not only for John and Fanny Dashwood, who are sympathetic to Elinor, but to Mrs. Ferrars, who had wanted Edward to marry Miss Morton. Elinor informs Marianne who, though very upset about this, is convinced that remaining amiable toward Edward and Lucy is the appropriate thing to do.

Elinor receives various accounts of the strength of Lucy and Edward’s relationship, including from Anne Steele, a letter from Lucy Steele, from Colonel Brandon, and finally from a visit by Edward himself.

The Palmers invite the Dashwood sisters on a short trip, which of course Marianne disapproves as it would have them near Somersetshire. Elinor convinces her that attending would be the proper thing to do. While watching them talking, Mrs. Jennings thinks that she has overheard a proposal of marriange to Elinor by Colonel Brandon. A sort of comedy of errors ensues, but is soon corrected as having been an invitation by Brandon to have Edward and Lucy—his would-be wife—live and take over a house that he owns. Later, Elinor conveys this offer to Edward in person, who is glad to have it.

Themes and Threads

Austen’s desire to create comparison in Sense and Sensibility is shown in the juxtaposition between the Miss Dashwoods and the Miss Steeles. While at the park, the younger Steele passes along some information to Elinor which is later revealed to have been gotten by rumor (or whatever you’d call listening at the door). This, of course, disgusts Elinor, who rebukes her counterpart and wishes to have not heard something that had not been honestly gained. The Dashwoods, by comparison, are more genteele and honest, perhaps more sensitive and sympathetic to each other.

In Context

Much is made by John Dashwood—as he visits Elinor Dashwood to discuss the revelation about Lucy and Edward—about the money that Edward is forfeiting by marrying Lucy instead of Miss Morton. Morton has more than Lucy, of course, and is the preferred candidate for Mrs. Ferrars, and she would bring him more wealth. And though John Dashwood is sympathetic to Elinor because she is her sister, he is also at least equally (if not more) saddened by the situation that Edward is in, to see the revenge of Mrs. Ferrars taken in the giving of her inheritance to his brother Robert:

“‘Can anything be more galling to the spirit of a man,’ continued John, ‘than to see his younger brother in possession of an estate which might have been his own? Poor Edward! I feel for him sincerely.'”

John Dashwood can certainly be said to relate to Edward in this case. He’s the possessor of an inheritance given in the custom of the day: the money and wealth is handed to the eldest male heir. So in Mr. Dashwood’s eyes, the tumult that has come about House Ferrars is troubling indeed.

Memorables

“‘You have heard, I suppose,’ said he with great solemnity, as soon as he was seated, ‘of the very shocking discovery that took place under our roof yesterday.'”

“‘The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less.'”

Looking Ahead

The misunderstanding between Mrs. Jennings and Elinor was a farce, but there may be something to a potential Elinor-Brandon hook-up, if I am reading their ease of conversation correctly. Afterall, Jennings’s comment which obviated the misunderstanding, “Sure you do not mean to persuade me that the Colonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr Ferrars!” begs an important question even after there is no confusion for Mrs. Jennings: could Brandon have some other motives in the offering to Edward, in expressing the desire to please him or make his life easier (though he refutes that fact himself)?

Sense and Sensibility 31-32: Remembering The Mulberry Tree and Yew Arbour

January 19, 2009

Sense and Sensibility has Chapters 31-32!

Plot Points

Colonel Brandon visits the Miss Dashwoods where they are still staying in town. As usual, Marianne Dashwood is not excited about him, claiming sarcastically that “We are never safe from him.” In talking with Elinor Dashwood, Brandon conveys a story in which his friend Eliza was seduced by Mr. Willoughby, this being the reason (unknown at the time, however) that Brandon had previously exited Barton Park.

Upon hearing this, Marianne begins to be more sensitive and responsive to Colonel Brandon, though she is still sad about Willoughby’s overall actions. The other occupants of Mrs. Jennings presence (which now include the Palmers, Willingtons, and Miss Steeles, try to react to Marianne’s situation with sympathy, especially Sir John, who names Willoughby “Such a scoundrel of a fellow!”

Character Commentary

In Chapter 32, Elinor reports on Marianne’s changed demeanor: “though she [Elinor] saw with satisfaction the effect of it, in her no longer avoiding Colonel Brandon when he called, in her speaking to him, even voluntarily speaking, with a kind of compassionate respect, and though she saw her spirits less violently irritated than before; she did not see her less wretched.”

I believe this represents an evolution in Marianne as a character. It is not as if she has changed to a new attitude: she is still depressed, remember. However, there is a new understanding about her which I think goes beyond her simply thanking Brandon for presenting the information about Willoughby’s less-than-admirable behavior in the present and in the past. Perhaps she has matured a bit here?

Narratology Notes

I’ll turn once more to Austen’s narration of the story. Chapter 32 has Austen explaining Mrs. Dashwood’s reaction to the events (which have been communicated by mail as she is still at Barton Park), and Austen says plainly that to give her reaction “would be only to give a repetition of what her daughters had already felt and said…” So for the sake of perhaps not overly emphasizing the sadness of the entirety of the Dashwood family, Austen reserves the explanation of Mrs. Dashwood’s pain to her own words:

“Bad indeed must the nature of Marianne’s affliction be, when her mother could talk of fortitude! mortifying and humiliation must be the origin of those regrets, which she could wish her not to indulge!”

Later, Austen gives similar notes of exclamation, but this time they seem to be within the quotation marks of Sir John: “Such a scoundrel of a fellow! Such a deceitful dog! It was only the last time they met that he had offered him one of Folly’s puppies! and this was the end of it!”

These two passages, occuring in different narratologic contexts (one a commentary by the author; another occuring within the story itself, as a character’s words) offer an interesting look at Austen’s strategy. They are similar in every way: they involve a reprove of Willoughby’s actions; they each show the reactions of a characater; they use terms which speak of the extremes of human sense (“morifying,” “affliction,” “scroundrel,” “deceitful dog”; and they each use exclamation points!

Austen is certainly hitting home that the relevant characters are highly affected by the recent events, perhaps to form a change-inducing base for them (Marianne?). What the above passages tell me is that she will use various narration techniques to communicate this. I think there are other more subtle judgements which might be made, but I can’t think of them at the moment.

Language: Diction and Thesaur

Austen, in describing Colonel Brandon and Elinor, says that “The good understanding between the Colonel and Miss Dashwood seemed rather to declare that the honours of the mulberry-tree, the canal, and the yew arbour, would all be made over to her;” here, the implication is that a possible marriage between the Colonel and Marianne had grown dim. Austen italicizes “her” (and I hope that’s in the original) to emphasize that the next-closest wedding would more likely be between Elinor and Edward Ferrars.

This mentioning of the mulberry-tree, the canal, and the yew arbour is a look back toward a previous conversation between Mrs. Jennings’s and Elinor, in which Mrs. Jennings (extolling the good nature of Colonel Brandon) described his estate:

“Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice old-fashioned place, full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great garden walls that are covered with the best fruit-trees in the country; and such a mulberry tree in one corner! … Then, there is a dovecote, some delightful stewponds, and a very pretty canal; … and, moreover, is is close to the church, and only a quarter of a mile from the turnpike-road, so ’tis never dull, for if you only go and sit up in an old yew arbour behind the house, you may see all the carriages that pass along. Oh! ’tis a nice place!”

This advertisement of the Colonel Brandon estate returns in the mind of Elinor at the later date of her seeing the possibility of marriage for him and her sister wanes. At first, I read the mentioning of these floral/garden images as a possible reference to youth: as these are put off, the youthfulness of all parties (especially Colonel Brandon) is decreased. After a brief, informal inquiry into the yew plant, I see that it is associated with churches (or in Colonel Brandon and Marianne’s context, marriage?), especially in England.

The Mulberry is “fast-growing when young” according to Wikipedia.

Memorables

“Elinor began to find this impertinence too much for her temper; but she was saved the trouble of checking it, by Lucy’s sharp reprimand, whic now, as on many occasions, though it did not give much sweetness to the manners of one sister, was of advantage in governing those of the other.”

Sense and Sensibility 24-27: Letters Sent

January 17, 2009

Sense and Sensibility Chapters 24-27!

Plot Points

Elinor Dashwood probes further into the relationship between Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars. By this time, she is convinced as to the authenticity of Lucy’s claims that they are and have been engaged. Elinor suggests that Edward is dependent on his mother, and that such a fact could delay their eventual marriage; Elinor realizes (believes?) that Edward might not be happy with Lucy.

Later, after being convinced by Mrs Jennings and the Willingtons to go to the city, the Miss Dashwoods have different hopes for the trip. Marianne hopes to see or hear from Mr. Willoughby; Elinor seems to hope to continue her investigation of the intentions of Edward, but she is also curious about Willoughby and concerned for Marianne. Marianne hopes to have Mr. Willoughby visit her where the sisters are staying, but several false alarms—including an intimely entrance by Colonel Brandon—depress her.

While still in the city, they attend a dance hosted by Sir John and Lady Middleton, but Willoughby is not there despite his having been invited. Elinor begins to write her mother with concern about Marianne. After seeing the letter Marianne wrote to Mr. Willoughby, Colonel Brandon asks Elinor if Marianne and Willoughby are engaged. Elinor confirms this, and Brandon leaves, obviously disappointed at this.

Character Commentary

Elinor seems to have an uncharacteristic moment when she resists the invitation to enter town. On the pretext of not feeling the need to meet Edward Ferrars’s family as her mother suggests… Austen describes the scene: “Marianne lifted her eyes in astonishment, and Elinor conjectured that she might as well have held her tongue.” Here, Elinor not only overextended her opinion, but she led toward the notion that Edward meant less to her than her mother and sister had thought. Later, however, Elinor muses—through Austen’s narration—that she shouldn’t let her situation ruin Marianne’s happiness. Elinor’s situation with Colonel Brandon causes her to feel conflicted: she feels sorry for Brandon as he obviously cares for Marianne, but a reversal of his state would mean a sorry thing for her sister.

In Context

For the non-working women who inhabit Barton Park, economic health and vitality is an influencing factor on their decisions and consideration. When Lucy Steele considers the prospects of her future with Edward, she laments at Mrs Ferrars’ disapproval of their relationship, because Edward is expected to receive her fortune. Lucy says that “… in her first fit of anger upon hearing [of their marriage], [Mrs Ferrars] would likely secure everything to Robert; and the idea of that, for Edward’s sake, frightens away all inclinations for hasty measures.”

Memorables

“She sometimes endevoured for a few minutes to read; but the book was soon thrown aside, and she returned to the more interesting employment of walking backwards and forwards across the room, pausing for a moment whenever she came to the window, in hopes of distinguishing the long-expected rap.”

“‘Oh!’ cried Miss Steele, looking significantly round at them, ‘I dare say Lucy’s beau is quite as modest and pretty-behaved as Miss Dashwood’s.'”

Looking Ahead

I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Colonel Brandon. Mr. Willoughby remains elusive: I suspect there will be further ways to compare him with Edward Ferrars and, by extension, Elinor and Marianne.

Sense and Sensibility 13-16: Curricles and Concealments

January 9, 2009

Here are some notes from Chapters 13-16 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

Despite a planned outing to Whitwell, Colonel Brandon excuses himself, much to the disliking of the group, and leaves the scene. Marianne Dashwood and Mr. Willoughby continue their enthusiasms toward each other, even to the extent of sneaking off to Allenham, much to the surprise of Elinor Dashwood. However, disappointment strikes as Willoughby leaves town in haste, declining an offer by the Dashwoods to stay. Elinor and her mother discuss why he might have left, and Marianne is deeply distressed. As Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are walking one day, they meet Edward Ferrar as he is walking up the road.

Character Commentary

I’d like to touch upon the attitude of Mrs. Dashwood in these chapters. When Willoughby leaves Barton, Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood speculate about the situation. “Something more than what he owned to us must have happened,” Elinor says. Her mother agrees but is somewhat optimistic about what may be the cause of Willoughby’s unusually unexplained exit. In thinking that the cause of the exit rests on Mrs. Smith, Willoughby’s aunt, Mrs. Dashwood seems to be hopeful of an eventual marriage, and even argues that Marianne and Willoughby are most likely already engaged, while Elinor is skeptical of making such a quick assumption.

Mrs. Dashwood: “Concealing it from us! my dear child, do you accuse Willoughby and Marianne of concealment? This is strange indeed, when your eyes have been reproaching them every day for incautiousness.” Is knowledge of character really the reason behing Mrs. Dashwood’s feelings? Or is she simply hopeful that the efforts that have gone into the courtship and eventual marriage between Marianne and Willoughby keeping her spirits up? Afterall, she is fully aware of the reality of the situation, yet almost forcefully optimistic, as Austen notes: “In about half an hour her mother returned, and though her eyes were red, her countenance was not uncheerful.”

The exit of both Colonel Brandon and Mr. Willoughby offer a fun—if simple—view of Marianne Dashwood’s feelings. Marianne has “no doubt of it” that Colonel Brandon left not at being called, but through his own forged (literally and in spirit) actions. Mr. Willoughby, on the other hand, elicits extreme emotional problems for her.

Here is Edward Ferrars at last, but where has he been?

Memorables

“I am afraid,” replied Elinor, “that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.”

“It may be proper to conceal their engagement (if they are engaged) from Mrs. Smith … But this is no excuse for their concealing it from us.” – Elinor Dashwood.

Looking Ahead

By the time I finish the story, will Chapter 14 have been that calm before the storm? The time before which a significant transformational event occured in for Marianne? To quote Willoughby there: “Tell me that not only your house will remain the same, but that I shall ever find you and yours as unchanged as your dwelling…”

Sense and Sensibility 5-7: A Tale of Two Pianofortes

January 4, 2009

I have just read Chapters 5-7 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

The Mrs Dashwoods leave Norland for their new home at Barton Park, and become engaged in the social scene there, largely at the request of Sir John Middleton, who had arranged the living space. Barton Cottage is not as luxurious as their previous home, but it will do for now, and there exists the possibility of upgrades, as season and monies allow. Enter Sir John, Lady Middleton, Colonel Brandon, and Mrs. Jennings.

Character Commentary

Chapter 5 contains, I believe, the first words spoken by Edward. These, not surprisingly, supplement his status as an admirer of Elinor: “Devonshire! Are you indeed going there? So far from hence!” Marianne’s overly sentimental scene of angst at finally leaving the house in which she’d grown up likewise cements her personality. I am curious about Marianne’s view of Colonel Brandon, who contrasts with the over-enthusiastic (and drunk-like?) Sir John during her pianoforte recital: “He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for him on the occasion which the others had reasonably forfeited by their shameless want of taste. His pleasure in music, though it amounted not to that ecstatic delight which alone could sympathise with her own, was estimable when contrasted against the horrible insensibility of the others;”.

Sir John Middleton is described as “a good-looking man of about forty. He thrives as a socialite, engaging in revelry whenever possible, seeks new personalities (especially the Dashwoods), and is a hunter. His wife, Lady Middleton, is about 27 years of age (“her face was handsome, her figure tall and striking, and her address graceful”), but is not as much of a conversationalist as Sir John. She concerns herself mainly with their six-year-old son. To quote Austen, “Sir John was a sportsman, Lady Middleton a mother. He hunted and shot, and she humoured her children…”

Colonel Brandon, by contrast, is reserved, older, and, to quote Austen again, “but though his face was not handsome, his countenance was sensible, and his address was particularly gentlemanlike.” Also brought to the Dashwoods’ acquaintance through the Middletons is Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton’s mother. She is “merry, fat, elderly … who talked a great deal … and rather vulgar.” I suspect her brash personality and crude jokes might stir the pot a bit for Elinor.

Themes and Threads

The introduction of the Middletons into the story seems to portend Austen’s desire to provide a challenge to the ideals held by the various parties, mainly those of Marianne. The ideal relationship in her eyes seems to be one in which the man is young, attentive to the wife for sincere reasons, and knowledgeable in the arts. Oh, and handsome. In the Middletons exists a formula in which—though the man indeed generally fits these physical requirements—his picture highlights a subversion in Marianne’s understanding. He is too loudly attentive to Marianne’s music as to negate the sincerity of his interest.

Lady Middleton, consumed with childrearing and ignited not by music but by the noise of children, and herself gave up music, has a “cold insipidity.” Giving up her pianoforte is said to have been a celebration of her ladyship. These two extremes (too attentive, not at all attentive) are for Marianne a “horrible insensibility.”

Memorables

“… and she was reasonable enough to allow that a man of five-and-thirty might well have outlived all acuteness of feeling and every exquisite power of enjoyment.” – Marianne, on Colonel Brandon.

Looking Ahead

I predict that Elinor will continue to be annoyed by Mrs. Jennings, and that Marianne’s identity crisis will have reached a climax by the middle of the book.

For those who are interested, I’m keeping a running tally of Austen’s “handsomes” and “not handsomes” in my tags…