Thursday, March 18, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 15 & 16

Turbulent times, eh?  Willoughby takes leave of everyone in an uncharacteristically constrained way, Marianne is thoroughly enjoying (in a backwards sort of way) being as miserable as possible, and now here comes Edward on a completely unexpected visit, but he's not acting particularly happy to see the family either.  Oh my goodness, so much emotional turmoil!

Notice how Willoughby's farewell is all about sparing himself pain as much as possible.  First he says, "I am suffering under a very heavy disappointment" (p. 144), but says nothing about what's caused Marianne to run weeping from the room.  Then he ends by saying, "I will not torment myself any longer by remaining among friends whose society it is impossible for me now to enjoy" (p. 146), but never mentions that staying there might be a comfort for/cause pain to Marianne.   (All emphasis mine.)  Wow.  Self-absorbed much at the moment, Willoughby?  (Also, wow, Austen is so good at subtle nuances like this that illuminate characters if we notice them!)  

Contrast his behavior with that of Marianne when Edward arrives, when "she dispersed her tears to smile on him, and in her sister's happiness forgot for a time her own disappointment" (p. 164).  Marianne may frustrate me sometimes, but she is not selfish or unfeeling toward all those around her.  In fact, she often tries to promote the happiness of others instead of focusing steadily on herself.

I do get irritated with her here, though.  She's so insistent on being miserable.  In fact, she's continually nourishing her grief.  Feeding it and coddling it and making sure it keeps on making her miserable.  I have seen people do this, and I think it's unwise at best and dangerous at worst.  It's like picking at a scab so your wound won't heal and will continue to hurt.  Healing is good.  Healing is necessary.  Let it happen.  Feel your pain, don't deny that this hurts, but don't force it to hurt more and more, longer and longer.

By the way, my annotated edition points out that Willoughby and Marianne have now known each other for about a month.  And have been acting as if they were engaged to be married for about two weeks.  In the history of whirlwind courtships, this must rank awfully high.  I'm with Elinor here (as I generally am, I freely admit) -- Marianne and Willoughby are so free and open with their expressions of their affection that if they are concealing an engagement, their secrecy is awfully suspicious.

And here's my favorite part of this whole chapter.  Elinor says, "I will not raise objections against any one's conduct on so illiberal a foundation, as a difference in judgment from myself, or a deviation from what I may think right and consistent" (p. 155-6).  In other words, she is not going to condemn something someone does simply because they think differently than she does or act differently than she does.  We need more of that kind of thinking in this world right now, y'all.  Immediately.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Have you ever enjoyed being sad, in a way?

2.  Do you share Marianne's passion for dead leaves?


  1. Willoughby is a tool, and Marianne... *SIGH*

    Well, learning about Enneagram 4s taught me a lot more about Marianne. ;)

    "As heart types, they base their decisions more on how they feel and their shifting moods than on the facts. They remember the tone and innuendos of conversations (especially if they perceived an unspoken insult) more than the words they shared. This constant shifting emotional mist makes them feel alive, so they increase their inner intensity by “overreacting” to everything to prolong the passion of the moment. They believe the highs and lows of their emotional life are on a deeper level than most other people experience. Because they react with so much more intensity, they feel like a deep, mysterious outsider, different and strange, but to give up these intense feelings to fit in would mean sacrificing the sense of being special that drama creates. They refuse to settle for a pedestrian life."


    Marianne is one of those heroines I want to slap most of the time, because she's ignoring Brandon (a terrific guy) and because she's such a drip that she mopes herself almost into her grave. I rather think Jane Austen didn't like highly emotional people much. ;)

    And yeah, enough with the censorship, the banning, the Cancel Culture, and the removal of freedom of speech, y'all. I'm sick of it.

    1. Charity, that's very interesting! That's a really good description of the ideal Romantic behavior, from what I've read.

      I don't want to slap Marianne, usually, I just want to scold her. She's misguided and naive and foolish, but I tend to only want to slap people who are deliberately hurting others. So I'll slap Willoughby later in the book, with glee. But Marianne, I'd rather scold. Possibly shake a little to see if it would make her see sense.

  2. 1. Have you ever enjoyed being sad, in a way?

    - Thinking on sad things for writing inspiration, then I suppose. However, I tend to be more angry a lot, well more like frustrated then sad.

    2. Do you share Marianne's passion for dead leaves?

    - If they're pretty.

    1. Ivy Miranda, interesting!

      I love dead leaves in a way, because they're fun to crunch, and to pile up and jump in. And some of them are so pretty.

  3. 2. I don't know if I would use the word "passion" regarding how I feel about dead leaves, but I do love the crunch of the dead leaves on an autumn hike in the woods.

    I just want to add that I LOVE the dialogue between Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor in Ch. 15. I can't really pinpoint why exactly...just lots of really good lines that made me again realize how good Jane Austen's writing is.

    I do feel a bit sorry for Mrs. Dashwood...I feel like she's working a bit hard to convince herself that nothing is wrong with Willoughby and Marianne's relationship. Also I like that, although Elinor is very suspicious that something is not right, when her conversation with her mother ends with Margaret's entering, she doesn't write off her mother's thoughts, but is respectful and acknowledges that her suppositions might be right.

    1. Becky, yeah, I'm the same -- I love crunching leaves and jumping in leaves, but I'm not passionate about them.

      Austen really has a way with dialog that not only sounds realistic, but also advances our understanding of characters as well as pushing the plot forward. That is super tricky to do, and she's great at it.

      I agree that Mrs. Dashwood is deliberately trying to convince herself everything is okay with Marianne and Willoughby. Which frustrates me, because that's not good parenting, but at the same time... she's just lost her husband, she's just had to move away from her home, and she has only Elinor to confide in and advise her now. She was probably used to her husband doing most of the decision-making. So I try not to cut her some slack. I'm glad Elinor is there to take things seriously.

  4. 1. Have you ever enjoyed being sad, in a way?
    No, I do depressed and angry and no that is not enjoyable. I do/have let it fester/feed on it, I'm like Marianne in my emotionalism, but not I think for dramatic effect, I never felt or considered until the last several years, that there was any other way.

    2. Do you share Marianne's passion for dead leaves?

    Marianne is not as selfish as Willoughby, but she is pretty selfish, it shows more later on. I can't really forgive her calling Elinor unfeeling when Elinor has more reason to suffer, she never going to get Edward (she believes and it seems), she is worried about Marianne, she has to be the adult their mother won't, she being tormented by Lucy and to a lesser extent their in-laws. And she is to some extended burdened with Colonel Brandon's hurts (not that he means it that way).

    A month?! I thought it was a least several, but I couldn't tell. That is worse than I thought.

    Marianne is 17, I think she deserves a LOT of grace about Colonel Brandon, just because other people like a man and he likes her doesn't mean she has to like him, especially since he is older. I have to say, that is one of the least if not the least satisfactory match. I don't really buy it at the end. She's just worn herself, gives him respect, and gives in.

    1. Livia Rachelle, it sounds like you definitely have good self-awareness going on there :-)

      Yup, only about a month. Which is pretty ridiculous, when stated that way.

      I don't think that Marianne is ready yet to be interested in Colonel Brandon as a suitor, so I don't fault her for not seeing him that way at this point. I only fault her for making fun of him and mocking him. That's unkind. I do like them together at the end, though.

  5. 1. No, I have never enjoyed being sad. I do not wallow in sadness.
    2. No, I don't have 'a passion' for dead leaves.
    The most important part of Chapters 15 and 16 are Willoughby's departure with the information that he does not think of returning saying: "My visits to Mrs. Smith are never repeated within the twelvemonth." No wonder Marianne is upset and both Elinor and Mrs. Dashwood totally perplexed. Elinor says, in referring to Willoughby: "Gone too without intending to return!!"

    Edward's visit was a surprise, but an important event which will be understood more clearly later in the book.

    1. Sandra, yes, there doesn't seem to be a lot of reason to expect to see Willoughby again in the near future.

      We'll definitely learn later why Edward is in the area!

  6. Marianne is just so dramatic but she's basically a teenager so I can understand her ways, sort of. But it's unhealthy to perpetually nourishing your misery but perhaps this her way of releasing her grief or maybe she's still hopeful of Willoughby's return. But if we consider her as a modern teenager, this is actually kind of normal, a bit excessive but normal.

    Have a lovely day.

    1. Lissa, yes, Marianne definitely has that full-blown teenage angst thing going on. As you say, this is very unhealthy for her, or for anyone. I've definitely known people who fed their sorrow or their anger or other harmful emotions, to make them last longer, and it can be very damaging. Poor Marianne.

  7. I think I did at one point enjoy being sad. Not now though, being miserable is awful.

    Willoughby is so dramatic and self-centered.

    I LOVE dead leaves. That part made me laugh quite a bit, Elinor just like not everyone does you know.

    Elinor is by far my favorite so far. I love how she handles things.

    1. Skye, I definitely can think of times when I was upset or sad and I kind of felt like, "I have a legitimate reason to be sad and I am not going to let go of this." Much more so when I was younger. I have seen my kids do this too -- our pet fish recently died, and my 9-yr-old kept making herself sad over its death by deliberately walking where she would see the empty fishbowl and then crying over again. I think it's something we can kind of grow through and out of, but some people never do.

      Dead leaves are very fun :-D

      Elinor has a lot of aplomb, and I admire that. Glad you like her too!

  8. I certainly have moped and wallowed in my sadness. But I did that sort of thing a lot more as a teen, and outgrew it.

    I do not love dead leaves. I have to rake them up.

    Mrs. Dashwood had me grinding my teeth in frustration. "Yes they are engaged! I just know, I don't need proof." "I can't ask her if she is engaged! What if she isn't?" That's the problem with following your feelings. They just lead you in circles.

    1. Roxann, I think it's pretty common for teens to do that. Especially if they don't have good guidance from parents or other respected counselor sorts of figures. Marianne's trouble is that her mother has a similar tendency, and so she's lacking good guidance here. She only has Elinor to tell her this is unhealthy, and Elinor is only her sister. Not the same.

      Good point on Mrs. Dashwood letting her feelings lead her astray with this whole Willoughby thing! She's doing exaclty what Elinor cautioned Marianne against: she's assuming because she feels like Willoughby is nice and good and honorable, he must be all those things. I keep thinking about how this is probably the first time in her life that Mrs. Dashwood has had to make big decisions for herself, as an adult. I'm betting her husband did most of the hard parenting, and now she's lost him and doesn't know what to do. She has no one to advise her, either, except her own daughter Elinor. She's just lost her husband, so she's still grieving, and she's had to uproot herself and her daughters and move to a new place to live among strangers, and that is incredibly hard. Most of the worst decisions I've ever made have been when in the process of moving or having just moved. It's so horribly stressful. And I wasn't grieving at those times. So, yeah, I get really frustrated by Mrs. Dashwood, but I also can see how she'd be in this sort of hopeless and unhelpful state at this point.

      Anyway... I do like dead leaves, and I don't even mind raking them. But my mom hates raking, so I know my liking is not universal -)


What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)