Posted tagged ‘Mr. Willoughby’

Sense and Sensibility 43-45: Revelations

January 31, 2009

Some notes on Sense and Sensibility Chapters 43-45. I intend to finish the book with accompanying posts within the next 2 days.

Plot Points

Marianne Dashwood becomes ill, and everyone—especially her sister Elinor—is concerned. Her illness is described to be a kind of fever. Due to wanting to avoid risk of passing the infection to their new infant child, the Palmers leave their home at Cleveland. The doctor, Mr. Harris, is summoned, but Marianne’s condition seems to worsen, and Colonel Brandon is summoned to retrieve their mother, Mrs. Dashwood. Hearing a carriage approach, Elinor thinks she’s arrived, but is shocked to find Mr. Willoughby.

Mr. Willoughby explains that he cares a great deal about the welfare of Marianne, and that their relationship at Barton was cut short due to his needing to return to Mrs. Smith to settle the issue that had been previously told to Elinor by Colonel Brandon. Mr. Willoughby’s motive is that he wanted to marry a wealthy girl, a requirement that Miss Grey fit when they met in town. Miss Grey (then his new fiance) had seen the letters between Willoughby and Marianne.

Immediately after Willoughby exits, their mother arrives, relieved to find Marianne well. She explains that she had ridden with Colonel Brandon all the way, during which he had professed his love for Marianne. Mrs. Dashwood is now convinced of the appropriateness of such a match, and glad that it is so. Elinor feels a bit of pity for Mr. Willoughby.

Character Commentary

A lot of the focus of these chapters seems to be on Elinor, and there are some moments indeed in which she seems to be uncharacteristic. Even before Willoughby arrives, Austen says that “Never in her life had Elinor found it so difficult to be calm, as a that moment [when she heard what she thought was her mother’s carriage].” Then, Mr. Willoughby tells his story, to which she is sure to have many emotions brought to the forefront.

Elinor “looked at horror at the sight of him, obeyed the first impulse of her heart in turning instantly to quit the room…” Elinor is usually the one who is calm and in control, but here the utter surprise at seeing who she probably thought she’d never see again, is too much. And during their discourse, Willoughby proclaims that “if I can, to make you hate me one degree less than you do now” is his goal. Later, this seems to have been accomplished in excess. Elinor derides him at certain points in his explanation, but after her mother does arrive and proclaim a match set between Colonel Brandon and Marianne, she seems to feel sorry for him, even to wish him success: “… Elinor withdrew to think it all over in private, to wish success to her friend, and yet, in wishing it, to feel a pang for Willoughby.”

What is Austen getting at here? Is she finally providing the thematic break-up of the sense versus sensibility paradigm which has been the focus of the analysis of the Dashwood sisters?

Narratology Notes

The sickness of Marianne seems to offer an interesting opportunity for Austen to explore the interactions of the other characters, not only in the context of her condition, but as a seeming narrative sans Marianne. When she is absent, we see the dedication of Elinor as a sister, both in her attentiveness/concern and in her reaction to the untimely arrival of Mr. Willoughby. How convenient and interesting that Marianne was not around to witness the intended revelation of Willoughby’s actions.

Style Points

The re-entry of Mr. Willoughby into the plot was truly unexpected for me, but it was the punchline which drove the scene home. Almost like opening a door to find something unexpected, the experience of the reader (if he or she has not skipped ahead with the eyes, as is sometimes the temptation) mirrors that of Elinor. The final line—even the final word—of Chapter 43 shows Willoughby at the doorstep, not Mrs. Dashwood the concerned mother, as was hyped up in the previous few paragraphs. Austen has done this before (waiting until the final line to reveal) though I cannot remember exactly where and under that circumstances.

Looking Ahead

I wil attempt to finish the book with 2 more posts: 1 ranging a bulk of chapters and another covering the last chapter.


Sense and Sensibility 28-30: Letters Returned

January 18, 2009

Here are my notes from Chapters 28-30 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

Opening up Chapter 28, the Miss Dashwoods acompany Lady Middleton to a party, where they finally find Mr. Willoughby. At first, Willoughby does not make a big deal of the encounter, though Marianne is of course excited by this. Willoughby is embarassed when asked by Marianne why he hadn’t returned her letters sent while in town, and he seems to made uncomfortable by the short-lived conversation.

The next day, Marianne received a letter from Willoughby. He explains that he is engaged elsewhere, and apologizes for having misled her. Marianne tells Elinor that they were in fact not engaged, and that her impressions of Willoughby were based on his actions toward her, which had apparently been short of a formal verbal declaration of engagement. Along with Willoughby’s response comes the letters Marianne had sent him as well as the lock of her hair (as requested in one of Marianne’s letters). Marianne wishes to return home from the city.

Elinor and Marianne learn that Mr. (John) Willoughby is engaged to Miss Grey, who is somewhat rich, and Colonel Brandon arrives at the house after overhearing Mrs. Ellington—Grey’s guardian—discussing the imminent marriage.

Character Commentary

Though appearing only in reference, Miss Grey is said to be in possession of “fifty thousand pounds” and “a smart, stylish girl… but not handsome.” It is supposed by the Dashwoods that one (a main?) reason for Willoughby’s interest in Grey is her money.

We see a lighter and more serious side of Mrs. Jennings in Chapters 29 and 30. She sympathizes with Marianne’s condition and sides with her in the amonishment and criticism of Willoughby’s actions. She claims that her previous fun-making of Marianne & co. was mean to be light-hearted and can be expected of/by young people. Mrs. Jennings, though disappointed about Willoughby, immediately brings up the issue of Colonel Brandon’s better position, and praises Brandon’s residence—a topic Elinor is probably not as enthusiastic about (as she knows Marianne’s feeling about Brandon).

Themes and Threads

Austen overtly brings to light the comparison between Elinor and Marianne in Chapter 28. On commenting about Elinor’s reaction to the Willoughby sighting, she remarks that Marianne and Elinor find themselves in similar—though opposite—positions within their respective relationships:

“Her own situation gained in the comparison; for while she could esteem Edward as much as ever, however them might be divided in future, her mind might be always supported. But every circumstance that could embitter such an evil seemed uniting to heighten the misery of Marianne in a final separation from Willoughby — in an immediate and irreconcilable rupture with him.”

For Elinor, Marianne’s state offers reflection on her own situation.


“—how am I to bear their pity? The pity of such a woman as Lady Middleton! …”

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 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?


“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 8-12: Chagrined and Surprised

January 6, 2009

I have just read through Chapters 8-12 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

The Dashwoods, now firmly established at Barton Park, continue to meet characters such as Mrs Jennings, who does no shorting of “railing” in her sarcastic poke-funnery at the sisters. Marianne enters into an affectionate—friendship?—with Mr. Willoughby, who charmes her (and her mother) in every way. Meanwhile, Elinor’s confidence in her own situation dwindles.

Character Commentary

Never in Marianne’s life has something so simple as a “false step” caused something so glorious. Her situation seems to have turned completely around: she is enthusiastic, confident, and enthralled by the entry of Mr. Willoughby. She seems to have found her perfect match, for “their tastes were strikingly alike.” At this opportunity, Elinor and Marianne exchange sarcastic remarks, which serve to solidify their respective positions on such things. Austen takes time here to give Marianne some physical description: “handsomer.”

Mr. Willoughby contrasts with Edward in every way: he is sensible and spirited, which is why Marianne is encouraged around him. He draws some level of contempt, I suspect, from Colonel Brandon and Elinor Dashwood.

Themes and Threads

The question of one’s actions being proper is challenged in these chapters. Marianne and Willoughby showing no restraint in their affection toward one another, Marianne and “her systems,” Marianne accepting a pony as a gift, and to some extent Margaret’s inadvertently encouraging Mrs. Jennings’s hurtful remarks.

Narratology Notes

In Chapter 8, Elinor and Marianne’s discussion of age and male virility as a component of the male-female relationship offers a curious, if potent, look at Austen’s writing at a heightened pace. Marianne is convinced that an older women (in her eyes, 27 years of age) has very little to offer a mate, and that the joining by such a women with an older-aged male would be one of convenience—less in sincerity than what it would be were they younger. Elinor objects: “Confess, Marianne, is not there something interesting to you in the flushed cheek, hollow eye, and quick pulse of a fever?”

In the text that follows, Marianne approaches her mother about an issue which she “cannot conceal from [her]”: Edward Ferrars hasn’t visited yet. And this fact, to Marianne, equates to their relationship being an impassionate one. So readily did Elinor defend Colonel Brandon and his future wife, and defend the validity of their union, that the comparison in Marianne’s mind is made: Elinor and Edward are each a Colonel, older, slower, not as attentive as they should be: “How cold, how composed were their last adieus! How languid their conversation the last evening of their being together!” And though Elinor, Marianne, and thier mother had discussed the evolved relationship that would come in time (“You will gain a brother…”), the opinion that Edward’s actions were “as an affectionate brother to both” is now used against him.

The diction used here, “cold” and “languid” is a reflection back to previous talks of Colonel Brandon’s sickly behavior on “a very cold, damp day” and of the fever to which Elinor sarcastically refers. But why is Marianne acting naive at best—with malice at worst—in taking the topic to her mother? In the text directly after Elinor and Marianne’s conversation, a strange (in my view) transition takes place: “Soon after this, upon Elinor’s leaving the room, ‘Mama,’ said Marianne, ‘I have an alarm on the subject of illness…” Perhaps this direct-to-dialogue approach to explaining the action jumps out because so much of the narrative up to this point had been told in third person (as if a summary), but the quickened turning from Elinor to her mother seemes conspicuous. At least, it makes me wonder what thoughts (malice or misunderstanding?) go through Marianne’s head as she turns.

Style Points

I think that Austen has thus far (I’ve read through chapter 12, remember) been successful at creating sympathetic, engaging characters. There are some whose potential feels unfulfilled—caricatures (as was used to describe Fanny Dashwood) of some extreme. These have their purpose, no doubt. But, I am thinking of Elinor and Marianne, who are various points in the story have had their ups and downs. This is successful in getting me, the reader, through the text. That being said…

Shame on Jane

Yes, it’s that time. By now, I’m used to the “handsomes” and “not handsomes.” I get it: readers have to project whatever they prefer—or need—to imagine these characters as real variables seeking their function in a real world. But here Austen has gone to far, in my opinion. In describing Willoughby: “… his person, which was uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice and expression. Had he been even old, ugly, and vulgar, the gratitude and kindness of Mrs Dashwood would have been secured by any act of attention to her child; but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance, gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings.”

Why describe his personality and activity through his having a gun, in possesion of two dogs, and the courage to assist Marianne, if you, in the next paragraph, qualify his beauties with such broad—and frankly utterly uncreative—strokes as NOT old, NOT ugly, NOT vulgar? In my view it lessens Willoughby as a character. Sure, he goes on to play a vital part in the story of Marianne, but he will be looked back upon as the one who fit the bill—not only perfectly, but not unperfectly, in a just-in-case-you-need-further-convincing sort of way.

“… and he then departed, to make himself still more interesting, in the midst of a heavy rain.” That’s a beautiful image! Too bad it occurs after such assuming writing as to make me feel like a three-year-old in trying to imagine how Willoughby posseses such “manly beauty.”


“But Marianne could no more satisfy him as to the color of Mr Willoughby’s pointer than he could describe to her the shades of his mind.”

“It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy: it is disposition alone.” – Marianne Dashwood.

Looking Ahead

Elinor looks to be in bad shape; where’s Edward been all this time?