Posted tagged ‘Robert Ferrars’

Sense and Sensibility 46-48: Exit, Willoughby; Enter, Edward

February 8, 2009

My notes from Chapters 46-48 of Sense and Sensibility.

Plot Points

Having left Cleveland after Marianne’s illness, the Dashwoods return to Barton Park, where Marianne continues to recuperate. Meanwhile, Colonel Brandon returned to his home in Delaford. Elinor first debates the propriety of, then follows through on, the retelling of Mr. Willoughby’s confession, to which Marianne reacts in an uncharacteristically calm spirit. It is generally decided—encouraged by Elinor and accepted by Marianne—that Willoughby would have been an unfortunate match for Marianne, and that the two are incompatible. Marianne conjectures that Willoughby’s problems stem from his initial error in the Eliza Williams situation.

Word is brought to Barton Park that “Mr. Ferrars is married.” The Dashwoods, especially Elinor, are disturbed by this. Elinor had thought that she would hear more from her other friends on the state of Edward and Lucy, and displays an uncharacteristic sensitivity to the affair. As a reversal of these thoughts, Edward unexpectedly arrives with news that his brother Robert had married Lucy, to which the Dashwoods are shocked.

Character Commentary

Marianne undergoes a period of self reflection in Chapter 46 that I believe is an important turning point in that character’s theme (see below). Marianne says that her illness has caused her to think seriously: “I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, and that my want of fortitude under them had almost led me to the grave. … Had I died, it would have been self-destruction.” She continues to claim that she had been unkind to many, including Mrs. Jennings, the Palmers, etc.

Marianne both claims and appears to be unencumbered by thoughts of Willoughby. Thoughts of Edward, however, seem to plague Elinor, who worries about him and reacts emotionally to thoughts of and address from Edward.

Themes and Threads

In these chapters, the attitudes of the Miss Dashwoods seem to undergo changes. Marianne’s usual oversensitivity is largely held at bay, while Elinor’s reactions and states of mind are uncharacteristically emotional. As they are exiting the carriage upon arrival at Barton Park, Elinor notices that Marianne is calm even though she’d been crying:

“In the whole of her subsequent manner, she traced the direction of a mind awakened to reasonable exertion; for no sooner had they entered their common sitting-room, than Marianne turned her eyes around it with a look of resolute firmness, as if determined at once to accustom herself to the sight of every object with which the remembrance of Willoughy could be connected.”

One problem that the Miss Dashwoods have is their now tendancy to conjecture about other people. For instance, Marianne is quick to conclude the Willoughby saga by explaining off his actions as part of or caused by his actions toward Eliza Williams, and generally writes him off as a scoundrel. Elinor is led by her imagination to new psychological and interpretive ends. In Chapter 48: “She saw them in an instant in their parsonage house…”, and “In Edward, she knew not what she saw, nor what she wished to see; … (emphases added)” Elinor imagines Edward and Lucy together, their having traveled together on a trip to her uncle’s house.

Such an imagination in Elinor causes her to overreact to external stimuli in an uncharacteristic way. She has, up to this point, been held up as strong-minded and thoughtful above being affected by emotion. But, here she is worrying about Edward and, when he arrives at Barton Park unexpectedly to relay the news that Robert had in fact been the “Mr. Ferrars” who had married Lucy, Elinor “almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.”

It seems as though the process of illness had affected Marianne, and that the process of attending to the long-term troubles of Marianne has affected Elinor.

Out of Context

I especially appreciate this line of Marianne’s as she is wanting to explore new ways to occupy her mind: “I have formed a plan, and am determined to enter on a serious course of study.” Not only does this notion make psychological sense, but I myself have used this method of distracting from either unpleasant or unwanted experiences. I’m sure that preoccupying one’s mind to escape relationship troubles is commonplace.

Looking Ahead

In the final 2 chapters, I hope to be able to determine “who” this novel is about. Throughout, Austen has shifted focus as various points, consistently between the sisters Marianne and Elinor.

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.'”

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.