Posted tagged ‘Masochism’

Sense and Sensibility 41-42: Leaving London

January 29, 2009

I have just read Sense and Sensibility Chapters 41-42.

Plot Points

It is decided that Elinor and Marianne Dashwood will finally exit London. Before leaving, Elinor (but not Marianne) feels compelled to visit her step-brother, John Dashwood, and his wife, Fanny. John is surprised (as were most) by the giving of an estate to Edward Ferrars by Colonel Brandon. Elinor and John discuss the appointment, Elinor characteristically matter-of-fact about her involvement, and John characteristically suspicious and curious about the motives behind it. It is revealed that Robert Ferrars will marry Miss Morton, and Robert expressed his dissatisfaction with the Edward-Lucy match.

The party arrives at the Palmer’s estate in Cleveland. Marianne really enjoys the landscape and grounds there, and seems to be happier—though more somber—back in the country. Mr. Palmer and Colonel Brandon join them shortly after.

Character Commentary

Elinor really tends to keep her composure in awkward or socially straining situations. As she talks with Robert Ferrars, she is inadvertently implicated as having been (or would have been) a bad match—or a not enough good one—for Edward. In speaking of his distaste of Lucy Steele marrying Edward, Robert says that she is “Just the kind of girl I should suppose likely to captivate poor Edward.” I’m still trying to decode what exactly happened between Edward and Elinor, but it sure seems like Elinor captivated—at least momentarily—the attention of Edward as well.

Themes and Threads

There is a paragraph or two in early Chapter 42 when Austen is explaining the effect of exiting London on the two Miss Dashwoods. Of course, Marianne is emotionally attached to the house, and has trouble leaving: “… Nor could she leave the place in which Willoughby remained busy in new engagements, and new schemes, in which she could have no share, without shedding many tears.” As I as a reader can relate, this place in which emotional events had occured holds a special, perhaps even masochistic reflex for Marianne Dashwood. She sufferred, yet she revels in her suffering.

And right after that, Elinor’s reaction to leaving London is given: “Elinor’s satisfaction at the moment of removal was more positive. She had no such object for her lingering thoughts to fix on, she left no creature behind from whom it would give her a moment’s regret to be divided for ever…” In now-classic Elinorean fashion, the heroin is stable in this changed (in contrast to her sister) environment.

But aren’t the two situations similar if not parallel? Marianne and Elinor suffered hints at future loss pre-London, entered London with certain expectations and hopes, experienced London in a full blitz of those hopes being dashed, and are leaving London emptyhanded. So my question, and one which probably depends on whether the reader takes Austen seriously here (did Elinor really have “no such object for her lingering thoughts to fix on”?), or is Elinor not as good of a emotion repressor as we thought?

I think that this comparison shows that either (1) Elinor and Marianne really do have different ways of dealing with pain, or that (2) Elinor and Marianne had differing experiences such that one genuinely must deal with it differently than the other. Perhaps there are some options I’m leaving out.

Memorables

“‘There is no doubt of your doing exceedingly well—quite as well, or better, perhaps, all things considered. Has Colonel Brandon been with you lately.'”