Posted tagged ‘Lucy Steele’

Sense and Sensibility 33-36: Cue Edward // Cue Robert

January 24, 2009

Picking up with Sense and Sensibility Chapters 33-36…

Plot Points

While out in the town shopping, Elinor Dashwood encounters her step-brother, John Dashwood, who has been in town for two days. John meets Mrs Jennings, the Middletons, and Colonel Brandon, each of which he judges as worthy of his (and his wife Fanny’s) attention due to their civility and wealth. He tells (teases?) Elinor with the idea of a match between herself and Colonel Brandon.

Fanny Dashwood, eager to entertain these new acquaintances, hosts a party at which the group will see Edward Ferrars and Mrs. Ferrars. This especially pleases Lucy Steele and makes Elinor nervous. Mrs. Ferrars is snobbish and offensive to both Lucy and Elinor. After making an insulting comment about Elinor’s painting, Marianne Dashwood defends her sister in an outburst, which in turn angered Mrs. Ferrars. Despite these events, Lucy feels that Mrs. Ferrars was “civil” to Elinor and kind to herself. During an awkward moment in which Lucy, Elinor, and Edward are alone, Marianne enters and questions Edward about his recent absences.

Later, Elinor meets Robert Ferrars, Edward’s brother.

Character Commentary

If there were a difference in opinion about propriety of behaviour after a loss such as occured with Mr. Willoughby, I wouldn’t be able to tell were it up to the close relation between Marianne and Elinor Dashwood. The two were close allthroughout, now that I recall. In the Mrs. Ferrars dinner party incident, Austen comments that Marianne’s outburst is noticed by Colonel Brandon “the affectionate heart which could not bear to see a sister slighted in the smallest point.” Yet, the difference between the two is still highlighted in this moment: Elinor is made awkward by the outburst (who wouldn’t feel a bit of unease at someone coming to their defense in this way?). Marianne’s next words are patronizing and ironic: “… don’t mind them. Don’t let them make you unhappy.” Later, in Marianne’s questioning and defense of Edward in the presence of Lucy and Elinor, she is presented as aloof and out of sync with the reality of Edward’s alleged love triangle.

In Chapter 33, Austen gives somewhat of an indictment of Fanny Dashwood. Fanny does not accompany her husband, John, on his initial visit to meet the Middletons and company. This is revealed to be her typical course of action when she is unsure if she will like a potential acquaintance. And John is perfectly in league with this system: “But now I can carry her a most satisfactory account…” Later, Fanny argues to have the Miss Steeles visit, blocking the visit of her own relatives. If there were an antagonist in this story, Fanny is it, if only for the fact that she dissaproves of and is dissaproved by the Miss Dashwoods.

Robert Ferrars makes his named appearance here. He is shown previously in a shop, nitpicking over the products in a shop. Later, Elinor speaks with Robert, and is generally unimpressed with him.

Narratology Notes

Every time there is an entrance, I instinctly think of the author’s motives in having the character appear at that moment. Such is the case in Chapter 35’s meeting between Lucy, Elinor, and Edward. Here are Lucy and Elinor discussing the previous event (Mrs. Ferrars, etc), when Edward—after 2 pages of such discussion, but in the span of a one-sentence paragraph—arrives unannounced. The scene is memorable because it presents the private awkwardness in Lucy and Elinor’s situation into the public: “they were not only all three together, but were together without the relief of any other person.”

Here, the tone of Austen’s narration seems to point to a new (or at least interesting) attitude of Elinor’s. “She would not allow the presence of Lucy…” and “She would not be frightened from paying him those attentions…” present her as confident. But the description of these events last for 6 paragraphs before Marianne’s entrance and disruptive “Dear Edward!” bit of dialogue—like an exploseive relief—punctures Austen’s narration of how the characters feel and how their privately held inhibitions affect them!

Looking Ahead

I expect that Robert Ferrars’s role will increase, but that Elinor will not be interested in him, as she is displeased with the rest of his family.


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.”


“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 21-23: The Miss Steeles; Explicating Elinor

January 15, 2009

I have recently read through Chapters 21-23 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

The Palmers exit, and Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are left with the Middletons. They are introduced to the Steeles, two girls names Lucy and Anne, with whom they socialize via the Middletons. It is in this setting that they learn that Lucy is acquainted with Edward Ferrars. Currious about the connection, Elinor inquires. Yet it is by the confidence of Lucy that Elinor learns—to her great horror—that Lucy has been engaged to Edward for some time. Elinor is very distressed, but is successful in suppressing her emotions regarding this revelation. At the close of Chapter 23, Elinor is hoping to learn more about their relationship.

Character Commentary

Two new characters make their appearnce in these chapters: Lucy and Anne Steele—the Miss Steeles. And they sure do shake things up for the lives of the Miss Dashwoods, particularly Elinor. Lucy is described by Sir John as “monstrous pretty, and so good-humoured and agreeable!” She seeks to please those around her, especially Lady Middleton, by way of superficially coddling her children, especially Annamaria. “What a sweet woman Lady Middleton is,” exclaims Lucy. Later, Lucy uses these sentiments to escape the card table, claiming that it would displease the little girl if she didn’t finish the basket meant for her.

The Dashwoods generally view the Steeles as superficial. Elinor perceives that Lucy’s “powers had received no aid from education, she was ignorant and iliterate, and her deficiency of all mental improvement, her want of information in the most common particulars, could not be concealed…”

Continued is Elinor’s characterization as someone who suppresses emotion for the better, or at least what she perceived to be the best action. Note Austen’s saying of her that “upon Elinor … the whole task of telling lies when politeness required it always fell.” She suppresses her emotion, perhaps ultimately to her advantage if she wants to learn more about the situation surrounding the apparent love triangle.

Style Points

I was generally pleased with the way Austen moved from the dialogue-heavy chapter 22 (in which Elinor learns of the probable unfaithfulness of Edward) to the explication of Chapter 23 (in which thoughts of Elinor are given in detail). The opening sentence of Chapter 23 give the tone of the mix between intense thought and subdued action of which Elinor has become familiar: “However small Elinor’s general dependence on Lucy’s veracity might be, it was impossible for her on serious reflection to suspect it in the present case, where no temptation could be answerable to the folly of inventing a falsehood of such a description.”

Elinor goes through all the possibilities: did Edward lie to her? did he really care about Lucy?: “Had he feigned a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement to Lucy an engagement of the heart?” These lines and others do well, I think, to draw the reader in to the thoughts of a character. I have questioned this ‘open’ method before, both in the words of Austen here and in those of George Eliot at The Modern Dash, but here it is successful—partly after its coming off of the heels of the previous conversation between Elinor and Lucy, which I feel is muddy (though necessary) due to the descriptions of opposing interests. After that intense conversation (and revelation about Edward), we need a time of reflection.

By the end of the Chapter, Elinor has made an effort to seek more information: “And as she could now have nothing more painful to hear on the subject than had already been told, she did not mistrust her own ability of going through a repetition of particulars with composure.” Here, we see what I think Austen has intended all along. Sure, Elinor is sensible, but let’s see how she does in a real crisis. Putting one’s characters to the test—sending them clueless into the crucible—is a component of great fiction, in my opinion.


“The young ladies went, and Lady Middleton was happily preserved from the frightful solitude which had threatened her.”

“… she had … suffered the extinction of all her dearest hopes…”

Looking Ahead

What more will Elinor find about about Lucy and Edward? Their relationship still seems a bit vague, but Elinor seems determined—though careful—to dig more. Also, is there is a confrontation coming? Edward’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.