In the exchange between the sisters about Elinor’s feelings for Edward, I couldn’t help but think of adolescent girls in the 21st century and what their argument would look like. I’ll be it would be different.
“You love him!”
“No, I don’t. I’m not certain I even like him!”
“Liar! You LOOOOOOOOve him!”
“Well, he sure is sweet, and I think he’s cute and….”
“You love him! I’m telling!”
Or something like that.
Elinor is temperate. Marianne is passionate. More than that, in not being passionate, Elinor is lying, in Marianne’s opinion. Elinor regrets exposing her feelings even as much as she has.
Elinor started at this declaration, and was sorry for the warmth she had been betrayed into, in speaking of him. She felt that Edward stood very high in her opinion. She believed the regard to be mutual; but she required greater certainty of it to make Marianne’s conviction of their attachment agreeable to her. She knew that what Marianne and her mother conjectured one moment, they believed the next—that with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.
As we discussed with Northanger Abbey, romance, engagements, possible marriage were issues not to be joked about or alluded to. They were deadly serious. Elinor knows her sister and her mother. Elinor is temperate and prudent; her mother and sister are not.
To make things worse and more uncomfortable for everyone, to the point that the Henry Dashwoods finally leave what has been their home for over a decade, it is clear that Fanny Dashwood does not approve of Edward’s interest in Elinor, or rather, as she perceives it, Elinor’s reeling in Edward against his better judgment.
Is Elinor right to be circumspect?
Fanny Dashwood continues to be appallingly amazing with her thought that since the Henry Dashwoods are so poor, what need do they have for lovely furniture and plate? Poor people don’t need nice things. This is not Fanny being cruel—it is her being logical. Rich people have the surroundings for lovely things that poor people lack.
John Dashwood is also impressive here:
Now was the time when her son-in-law’s promise to his father might with particular propriety be fulfilled. Since he had neglected to do it on first coming to the estate, their quitting his house might be looked on as the most suitable period for its accomplishment. But Mrs. Dashwood began shortly to give over every hope of the kind, and to be convinced, from the general drift of his discourse, that his assistance extended no farther than their maintenance for six months at Norland. He so frequently talked of the increasing expenses of housekeeping, and of the perpetual demands upon his purse, which a man of any consequence in the world was beyond calculation exposed to, that he seemed rather to stand in need of more money himself than to have any design of giving money away.
It really is disappointing that Mrs. Henry Dashwood did not give aid to John financially. Such poor manners on her part.
An interesting note in my text about servants discusses how gentry, even those who didn’t have much money, had servants, and three servants was the bare minimum. Servant salary was really low at the time of this novel—about 6-10 pounds a year for a maid. This would be equivalent to about $1000 today. If the servant lived in, the servant would also receive bed and board and uniforms making this salary so worth the work.
Class is key in Austen, especially in terms of money. For more information on what it meant to be gentry, here is a link with great information: https://www.chipublib.org/historical-context-of-pride-and-prejudice/
One final note: we see that Marianne continues in a theatrical vein at the end of this chapter. She does remind me of Isabella in the need to exclaim her feelings so often.
Does anyone else see this?
I, for one, am glad that they removed from their old home and have entered the cottage. Sir John Middleton, Mrs. Henry Dashwood’s cousin, is a much kinder and more amiable person. I so appreciated his welcome—sending fruits and vegetable and game to them. The difference with John Dashwood is so great.
His pressing them to eat at the park every day was a little much, but again, it was meant kindly. Or was it?!!!
I loved that while Lady Middleton is beautiful and poised, she is not particularly as open as her husband, and that had she not brought her son with her, there would have been no conversation.
Conversation however was not wanted, for Sir John was very chatty, and Lady Middleton had taken the wise precaution of bringing with her their eldest child, a fine little boy about six years old, by which means there was one subject always to be recurred to by the ladies in case of extremity, for they had to enquire his name and age, admire his beauty, and ask him questions which his mother answered for him, while he hung about her and held down his head, to the great surprise of her ladyship, who wondered at his being so shy before company, as he could make noise enough at home. On every formal visit a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In the present case it took up ten minutes to determine whether the boy were most like his father or mother, and in what particular he resembled either, for of course every body differed, and every body was astonished at the opinion of the others.
I find that dogs and cats can also do for this. Or, don’t have social gatherings at all, and then one doesn’t have to come up with any kind of conversation. I personally hate small talk and am quite poor at such social discourse. I think that Jane Austen nails this.
So, what do you think so far?