Let’s tell the truth here: Lucy Steele is a bitch, and not in a good way. She is in rarer form than usual here.
This chapter is wonderful, and I had to take a break from it. Austen has built this house so well. She has shown us Elinor and Edward. She had revealed a secret engagement and suggested a third possible entanglement for Edward. She has created a restrained and, even perhaps, overly civil character in Elinor, and a jealous, ignorant, and hypocritical one in Lucy. And while Lucy shares so much, always in order to either give Elinor pain or to gather information, Edward remains a secret.
We don’t know what will happen, but the tension is high, and then Edward enters the room. We haven’t seen him since Elinor found out about the engagement. Edward doesn’t know what Elinor knows. Wow. Just brilliant set up. I love how Austen follows this amazing meeting by describing each of the characters. What a change from everything that came before. I feel like I need to read this chapter several times.
This is the last chapter of the volume, and in some ways, it seems a let down from Ch. 13. That is not the right term, for I am not disappointed by it, but while it does ratchet things up a bit, perhaps the most important being that the Steeles join Fanny, and Elinor misconstrues this, it doesn’t have the tension of the previous chapter. It’s an intriguing way to end things.
To derail things a bit, I don’t understand why the ladies can’t stay at Mrs. Jennings’ place. Just because she isn’t there? I get the sense it might be because Mrs. J. is afraid they’ll be bored? I would hate this so much. And I have to say, I’m sympathetic with Lady Middleton. I don’t like her, but man, if I got saddled with people I didn’t like who I knew didn’t like me on a daily basis for 8 or more hours a day, I’d be unhappy about this too! I also feel bad for Anne Steele. Yes, she is vapid and so on, but the narrator tells us even given a minute of attention would be enough to satisfy her. She’s not evil like her sister. I think a little kindness could be extended to her.
We meet in this chapter the coxcomb Robert Ferrars, and of course he is Fanny’s brother. Such a jerk. And, like Elinor, I wonder how Edward emerged a mostly decent human being though I am no longer surprised at his diffidence. He was surrounded growing up with a terrible mother, sister, and older brother. Poor Edward. I recommend therapy.
But I am grateful to the meeting with Robert for one thing. He says many stupid things (and I keep thinking of Michelle Obama’s comment that billionaires aren’t really very smart). Austen has Elinor clearly disagree with pretty much everything Robert is saying, but being Elinor, of course, she doesn’t voice this. Instead, the narrator tells us:
Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.
This is what I’ll be writing, paraphrased a bit, in response to racists and anti-covid people. I can’t wait.
The John Dashwoods again turn out to be greedy turds thinking only of themselves. I, personally, think it was a great escape that Elinor and Marianne didn’t end up with them. Ugh.
So we close out Volume 2 with the Steeles ensconced at the John Dashwoods, Edward has not done anything to clear things up, and Marianne continues to be in a bad way. Things do not look good.
2 thoughts on “Sense and Sensibility Volume 2 Chapters 13-14”
Chapter 13–BTW, the edition of the digital book I am reading offers only continuous chapters, so Vol 2 Chapter 13 is Chapter 36 in my world; I hate having to do math when I read!–is one of my favorites. YES THE TENSION IS HIGH!! OH HOLY COW the tension in that room. Lucy is awful and mean. Once can, yes, easily apply the B word to her. This would be another scene were I to see in in film form that I would be on pins and needles to see acted out. My lens on this scene was not on Lucy but on Elinor. What restraint. Naturally, she is pragmatic. And socially she keeps herself under such control. My wonderment was this: Austen takes such care in the beginning of the novel to distinguish Elinor’s practical, logical ways from Marianne’s fly by the seat of her emotional pants ways. But could it be–honoring the sister bond which we did see play out beautifully in the scene where Elinor grieves with Marianne over the dissing of Marianne by Willoughby–that Elinor is going to make an emotional shift in this novel? Could it be she will reach her breaking point? Man, she holds a lot inside. I do not like that. As for Marianne, ‘come on, girl.’ Really, Austen is creating of her a very odd character. Yes, when you astutely pointed out that unattractiveness in Austen’s time amongst this class was associated to a degree with health, I thought of my yoga history training. In the 19th Century, The Age of Vanity, where mirrors became common objects to own and the where the beginning of widely distributed newspapers that depicted illustrations of people and not soon after photographs was set, people were seeing themselves in a literal new light, under increasingly ‘publicly available’ lenses. So health was a desired feature to present, especially amongst those being drawn and photographed in the era: the wealthy. Because health bespoke (!!!) wealth. If in this time period one were weak emotionally (grief, nerves), especially a woman, she became to be called unattractive because as Martha Graham said 100 years after, The Body Never Lies. But this chapter really lit up in my imagination a pale, undernourished (by choice, by nerves) Marianne. What kills me, though, is the ZEAL with which she insists on bulldozing over others’ thoughts and emotions to present hers. What a mess she is! Because if you are physically weak, you don’t have enough energy to be verbally over the top, right? I have to think about this. Perhaps I can find some modern examples. Either way, she is spending the energy she has very unwisely. I feel sorry for her. I feel sorry for those engaging with her. Is SHE going to change in this novel? Is she going to get healthier? Is she going to get happier and become more aware of her tendencies to be a near social misfit? She cries a lot, in front of other people now. Yikes. Despite all the characters in this novel and all their interrelationships, I can’t get out of my mind that Marianne is a major character, so I have to keep my eye on her. She is a major character, right? She was presented along with Elinor in the first chapter. Is this story about her and her sister? I think so. I’m devoted to M and E because of that.
Chapter 14: I purport that ANY chapter following 13 would be a letdown/comedown. It would have to be, for the tension was so high in 13 that if it stayed the same or went up a notch, we might have had a novelistic explosion! But that’s Austen’s super crafting powers coming into play. I really really enjoyed Chapter 14, though, mainly because of Austen’s sharing more with us about two men, Mr. Palmer, New Father; and “The Very He,” Mr. R. Ferras. Of Mr. Palmer, Austen makes a very subtle dig by leading off with the description of his complete indifference to babies, including his own, by saying it is TYPICAL OF MEN IN GENERAL to hold such dispassion. If she had not said this, I would have remained on the ‘Mr. Palmer is abusive’ train. Here, her social commentary about men who are fathers is a nice dig. More for the mother to do if the father is emotionally disconnected from the child. Sad. But “The Very He” Mr. Coxcomb…Oh I how loved his monologues revealing his superiority complex. How he helped Lord Courtland realize that his cottage–um, HARDLY a cottage…18 couples in one room, drawing room, library, saloon–would be a splendid place for a dance was hilarious.
“Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.” THIS sentence blew me out of the water, and yes yes yes, run with it, for it is loaded with nuance and is highly applicable today.
I don’t know why the sisters can’t stay with Mrs. Jennings. Perhaps because she is gone so much taking care of Charlotte and the baby? I don’t quite get it, so I conclude it is, indeed, because people fear people being bored.
There’s one more part I really liked in these chapters, about Mrs. Middleton’s thinking: “Though nothing could be more polite than Lady Middleton’s behavior to Elinore and Marianne, she did not really like them at all. Because they neither flattered herself nor her children, she could not believe them good-natured; and because they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical, perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical.” HAHAA! That last phrase is sticking with me. Austen’s really digging in here, in a super humorous way to me, about the woman who does not bother to read. I liked that and think much can be made on the subject of readership and literacy in Austen’s works.
I am making quick comments here about Volume 3 chapters 1-3 (or chapters 37-39 in my edition) and then I can move them to the correct place when you post yours, Katherine.
I LOVE the misunderstandings, mishearing, and misinterpretations of conversations in these chapters. One who listens through a door to hear a conversation is one who is NOT hearing the conversation correctly, for it is not IN-PERSON, in-room. Lucy’s letter to Mrs. Jennings’ being first read, incorrectly, by Elinor. And Mrs. Jennings complete misunderstanding to what Elinor and Col. Brandon are talking about. These chapters are rich in showing us how the characters get information.
People holding power over others…seeking revenge over others (Mrs. Ferras over Edward) through the use of money is one of the sorrows associated with human beings, for “money talks,” as the phrase goes, and those who are left with little, who have love nonetheless, are rich in other ways. This is a tried and true theme in literature and fact of life. (By this I don’t mean to say that everything’s okay if you don’t have money since all you need is love. All you need is love, food, shelter, and clothing. And universal health care.). Col Brandon’s final offer for Edward to have a place in a parish IF he were to remain single can also be seen as a way that money can rule or constrain or define love relationships, but Brandon’s case is not nearly so awful as Mrs. Ferras’ cutting off her son from her fortune.
I think that’s it for now. More Marianne as the sufferer. Honestly, I don’t understand Elinor’s spirit very well; the closest I have come to understanding her motives for all her staid calm when her emotions are strong is that, she says, it is her duty to help those who are in great emotional need (e.g., Marianne losing Willoughby). I thought for the first time that Elinor might be functioning in this novel as a Bodhisattva, one who takes helping others for the better of humanity seriously. Elinor is conducting herself with her purpose or dharma at the forefront always, and, in that, principally and well. For that, I like Elinor.