Tuesday, March 16, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 13 & 14

So much to discuss in these two chapters!  Let's get to it.  ::rubs hands eagerly::

I chuckle a bit over the description of the picnicking party assembled at Barton Park:  "They were all in high spirits and good humour, eager to be happy, and determined to submit to the greatest inconveniences and hardships rather than be otherwise" (p. 120).  Boy, if that's not a perfect description of people ready to set off on a pleasurable outing, what is?  It especially makes me think of going on field trips with our homeschool co-op.

If you're wondering why they're having breakfast all together first, and so late in the morning, my annotated edition's notes explain that 10 am "was a common breakfast time.  It resulted from the generally late hours of wealthy people... and their habit of late evening suppers" (p. 121).  Now you know.

Goodness, I could shake Mrs. Jennings for her ridiculous nosiness!  Pestering poor Colonel Brandon when he clearly has Important Things on his mind!  Grr.  And then Sir John as the effrontery to suggest, "I suppose it is something he is ashamed of" (p. 124).  More grr.  :-(  I'm not pleased by this behavior toward my avowed favorite!

So, just in case anyone here doesn't know what a "natural child" is, it's a genteel way of talking about an illegitimate child.  Mrs. Jennings is convinced that Colonel Brandon, who has never been married, has an illegitimate daughter called Miss Williams.  People were supposed to be very shocked by the idea of children born of out wedlock, and young maidens such as Marianne and Margaret, and possibly even Elinor, really weren't supposed to be aware of them, or at least not to acknowledge that they understood how an unmarried person could create a child.  It's kind of shocking that Mrs. Jennings will talk so openly about this to Elinor, who's not only unmarried, but only nineteen!  Her doing so is evidence of her enjoyment of gossip outweighing her consideration of propriety or how her words could hurt or harm even her listeners.

Anyway, isn't Elinor and Marianne's argument in chapter 13 interesting?  Elinor insists that "the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety" (p. 130), but Marianne maintains that "we always know when we are acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure" (p. 130).  Once again, we're getting at the heart of this novel -- should you be ruled by your emotions, or should you use your own good sense to sift through and understand them?  Can we even trust emotions?  Should we allow our feelings to guide us, or should we guide them instead?  And if we only ever do one or the other, will that present problems?  So much to chew on here!

Okay, so Willoughby and Marianne visiting his aunt's estate basically equals him declaring he intends to marry her.  First, they were alone in a house (except for possibly some servants belonging to the house, but not any accompanying them) for a long time -- long enough to go through all the rooms.  Several hours.  That could (and does) expose Marianne in particular to gossip.  She's considered a virtuous young woman, but if she does things like that, her reputation will inevitably suffer.  However, discussing furniture with her and talking about refurnishing the rooms to Marianne's taste is basically Willoughby saying, "When we get married, this will be your home and you can change things to suit yourself."  Nobody is going to understand anything different from that.  Which is why Elinor is starting to wonder very strongly about why Marianne and Willoughby have not announced their engagement to their family and friends.  They have no reason to keep it a secret, and the longer they delay in announcing it, the more people are going to notice and wonder if there is something untoward going on.

Still, chapter 14 ends happily, with Willoughby's actions in particular "declar[ing] at once his affection and happiness."  Good place to stop for the day, eh?

Discussion Questions:

1.  Jane Austen is obviously of the opinion that feelings should not be trusted more than good sense.  Can you think of any characters in her other books who also illustrate the dangers of following your feelings rather than your sense or your conscience?

2.  Do you find it rude that Willoughby says he would rather that Mrs. Dashwood remain poor forever rather than be allowed to improve her home?  What does this tell us about him?

19 comments:

  1. Hey! Your whole paragraph about young people not knowing about illegitimate children and how they're "made" was very close to my upbringing, many years later. It's probably because I'm almost 70, but also because I was raised in the midwest in a very strict religious family (Dutch) My mom and dad would never have talked about anything like that in front of us kids!!!

    Ref. question 2 = I thought Willoughby was quite rude in the conversation about changing the Dashwood's cottage. To me it showed his considerable selfishness in wanting things his way or no way. He doesn't really seem to think of others very much at all.

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    1. Mom, yup, you're just lucky Mrs. Jennings didn't live around you, eh?

      I think he's really rude there too, although I suppose he could be kind of teasing and joking -- Mrs. Dashwood seems to laugh him off. But it's still got a streak of selfishness to it.

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  2. I think that conscience and feelings can at least in some show things to be morally wrong, I think in this instance Elinor mentions other viewing something as wrong (gossip and slander) as well as Marianne actually doing something wrong (she does get this latter point to Marianne's conscience) of going over someone else's property as if it were already her own.

    1.  Jane Austen is obviously of the opinion that feelings should not be trusted more than good sense.  Can you think of any characters in her other books who also illustrate the dangers of following your feelings rather than your sense or your conscience?
    Catherine Morland lets her imagination and connected emotions control her mind. Captain Wentworth let his resentment control his actions. Lizzie let her prejudice cloud her judgement and Darcy his pride, his. Jane Bennet let her desire to only see good blind her to Bingley's horrid sisters. I think we could go on and on.

    2.  Do you find it rude that Willoughby says he would rather that Mrs. Dashwood remain poor forever rather than be allowed to improve her home?  What does this tell us about him?
    That he's exaggerative and demonstrative, I don't think he meant is seriously, I think he was talking for effect, too much talk and too much effect.

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    1. Livia, I think Elinor/Austen is trying to get across the idea that emotional feelings and conscience are not the same thing. Certainly, we all have a moral guide within us that accuses or defends us, depending on our behavior -- but that's not the same thing as assuming something is right because it makes you feel happy, which is what Marianne says.

      I definitely agree with all your examples! I hadn't thought of Jane Bennet, and I'm not sure she quite fits, as her following her conscience to think better of people than they deserve doesn't really get her into trouble?

      Maybe what we learn here about Willoughby is that he doesn't know when to be serious, or what things are kind of mean to joke about?

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  3. 1.  Jane Austen is obviously of the opinion that feelings should not be trusted more than good sense.  Can you think of any characters in her other books who also illustrate the dangers of following your feelings rather than your sense or your conscience?

    - Lydia Bennet was the first person I thought of followed by Emma Woodhouse.


    2.  Do you find it rude that Willoughby says he would rather that Mrs. Dashwood remain poor forever rather than be allowed to improve her home?  What does this tell us about him?

    - Not just rude, but condescending and entitled as well. He's really revealing himself to be slumming it with the poorer country folk and adhere to their charms for his own benefit. To insist that a woman not make any changes to her own home just so he can be happy suggests that he is severely clueless as to the actual hardships of others.

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    1. Ivy Miranda, Emma definitely came to mind! Emma is a good one too.

      Oh, I could not have put that better -- "condescending and entitled" is exactly how Willoughby is acting there, even if he's only joking around.

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  4. My thoughts through Chapter 13: What is Mrs. Jennings thinking? What was Marianne thinking? What was Willoughby thinking?
    My thoughts through Chapter 14: Does Mrs. Jennings think at all? What is wrong with Willoughby? Why does he care if they improve Barton cottage? Ew, he's creepy with how he manipulates Marianne's feelings.

    Marianne and Willoughby clearly acting as if they are engaged when even Elinor is beginning to suspect they are not. This cannot possibly end well. What is Marianne THINKING? Does ANYone in this novel think?

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    1. AnneMarie: I don't think Willoughby is manipulating Marianne, I think of them as being much alike. Plus, I'm wondering if we are all hating on Willoughby because we know what he had done and will do later.

      Have a lovely day.

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    2. Perhaps I am the only one, but I have not read this book before, so I do not know Willoughby's backstory or what he will do later in the book. But I am suspicious of him because of how he adapts to always hold whatever view that Marianne will most like.

      In chapter 14, I was especially uncomfortable with his comments about his prescience of his future happiness at the cottage, and how he addressed those comments specifically to Marianne. It definitely seemed to me like he was manipulating her feelings with those comments. Perhaps it is simply because I cannot imagine anyone saying those things in innocence or sincerity, so I assume there is a manipulative motive behind the statements.

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    3. And perhaps I have finally gotten my name to show up properly on Blogger? Hooray!

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    4. Roxann: I hope I didn't spoil anything for you and I'm sorry if I did.

      You do make a point about Willoughby. I guess I'm already too judgmental about him since I already know what he have done. But I still think he's sincere in his willingness to please Marianne even if it's a bit motive-driven.

      Have a lovely day.

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    5. AnnMarie/Roxann -- huzzah! Your name is working at last!

      I'm so amused by your reaction. "What are they thinking?!" is a legit question, for sure. It's definitely showing the pitfalls of acting without thinking your actions and their consequences through.

      I'm not sure I've ever thought of Willoughby as being consciously manipulative. Like Lissa, I think he's a lot like Marianne -- in love with his feelings. Right now, he's feeling all romantic and charming, so that's how he's acting. And since he's feeling all that toward Marianne, he's trying to please her as much as he can. Which is pretty normal when you're in the first stages of love, right? You want to make the object of your affections like you more and more. It's pretty natural.

      Of course, Austen is showing us a little of Willoughby's true colors coming through so that later things will not blindside us.

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  5. 2). I find Willoughby rude, condescending and thoughtless in his remarks about not changing a thing in Mrs. Dashwood's cottage. He talks without thinking of other people's feelings.

    Mrs Jennings: I can't believe her nosiness concerning Colonel Brandon's news that he has to leave at once.

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    1. Sandra: I don't think Willoughby is being serious about the cottage - it's one of those scenes where people talk nostalgically even when they know things will change.

      Have a lovely day.

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    2. Sandra, I think you're right that Willoughby is thoughtless. I don't think he's intentionally mean, and he might even be joking, like Lissa suggests. But it could be heard as a mean or hurtful thing to say, which means he's not thinking of his hearers, he's just saying what HE wants to say.

      And yeah, Mrs. Jennings is ridiculously nosy. Sigh.

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  6. I love how protective you are over Colonel Brandon.
    I find Willoughby rude all the time.

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    1. Skye, um, yeah, I get this way about my favorites.

      I don't find him rude all the time -- but I do find him rude at times, and definitely here.

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  7. Poor Colonel Brandon! I want to slap Marianne and Willoughby and Mrs. Jenning for their mindless guesses about the reason for his departure.

    2. I bet that Marianne finds his sentiments thoroughly “romantic” about holding on to the past and talking about things with great feeling, while I was rolling my eyes and thinking that it’s not a house that makes a home, but the people within it!

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What do you think?

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