Posted tagged ‘Delaford’

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.

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.”