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.
1. Have you ever enjoyed being sad, in a way?
2. Do you share Marianne's passion for dead leaves?