Today, I will only comment on this chapter, for it is the end of Volume 1.
Secret engagements already make the heart skip in an Austen novel, or really any novel of the time, but in this case, what a blow!
That Edward, so beloved by Elinor, would be engaged to Lucy.
Note that throughout the discussion, Elinor attempts to find tells that would indicate falsehood.
Before we delve, weren’t you doing the same, dear Reader? I was. I don’t like Lucy. I think this was Austen’s mission all along. We see how Lucy kowtows to the Middletons and refuses to say anything against the horrendous children, but there are reasons why this might occur. But we find that Marianne dislikes her, at the beginning of Ch. 22—but Marianne can also be rude. She was unkind, for example, to Colonel Brandon, completely unnecessarily so, so her dislike of Lucy might not be taken too seriously. But we find that Elinor, who is kind and patient, and does see some good in Lucy, ultimately, even before the confession sees:
she was ignorant and illiterate; and her deficiency of all mental improvement, her want of information in the most common particulars, could not be concealed from Miss Dashwood, in spite of her constant endeavour to appear to advantage. Elinor saw, and pitied her for, the neglect of abilities which education might have rendered so respectable; but she saw, with less tenderness of feeling, the thorough want of delicacy, of rectitude, and integrity of mind, which her attentions, her assiduities, her flatteries at the Park betrayed; and she could have no lasting satisfaction in the company of a person who joined insincerity with ignorance; whose want of instruction prevented their meeting in conversation on terms of equality, and whose conduct toward others made every shew of attention and deference towards herself perfectly valueless.
In other words, Lucy is a hypocrite and not to be trusted.
But, Lucy provides proof of her assertion that she is engaged—she knows his history; she has his picture; she corresponds with him. All is lost.
Or is it?
So many questions: why does Lucy choose to share this with Elinor? I doubt every reason she gives. Why did Edward ever engage himself to her? Why are they still engaged? What has been his relationship to Elinor? Was it all build up on Elinor’s part? And what do you make of Elinor’s self-possession? If there is anything good to come of this, I find that I admire Elinor so much. She had every reason to crumble, and we are told she almost does. By standing firm, and giving nothing away, we see that she retains some power. Lucy does not win in this, what I now see, as combat. Elinor’s behavior, what she maintains and retains, makes me want to do better.
What a powerful chapter!
I find, in this chapter alone, a great dislike of Lucy. She feels like an actor playing a part. The way she shared her dynamite and then looked sidelong at Elinor to see what impact her information had made. She seems quite content to hurt Elinor.
What do you think?