Ahem. Annnyway. Chapters three and four. Poor Mrs. Dashwood, putting so much trust in her step-son John and then discovering he's not the man his father was. I always assume John was probably fairly grown before his father remarried, and living on his own or off at some kind of school or something, and so he and his stepmother really don't know each other much. Saw each other at Christmas and so on, I expect.
Now, Mrs. Dashwood does have the good sense to see right through Fanny, right from "very early in their acquaintance," or at least to feel contempt for her. So it's not like Mrs. Dashwood isn't capable of seeing others are trying to act nicer than they really are. But of course, she'd want to think well of her husband's son. Until she just can't anymore.
However, it's really neat how she decided to put up with them as long as she can, for Elinor's sake. Of course, Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne are viewing Elinor through their own feelings-heightened lenses and assume she and Edward Ferrars must be attached to each other and contemplating marriage because they themselves would be doing the same if they'd spent that much time with one particular eligible man. I'm kind of annoyed how Marianne just pooh-poohs Elinor's insistence that there is no strong attachment. Can she not simply believe her sister? It reminds me a little of Mr. Collins' proposal in Pride and Prejudice where he insists that he's being refused just because Elizabeth is an elegant female who never says what she means, when the opposite is true. I don't get willfully misunderstanding someone that way. I'm usually the opposite extreme, and I take people at their word and then am surprised later to learn that they didn't mean what they were saying.
EDIT: We have a couple people with us now who haven't read the book OR seen a movie version, so I WILL be marking spoilers a bit. Then it can be up to the individual whether or not to read the paragraphs with the spoilers in them.
(This paragraph contains SPOILERS.) Anyway, so, those of us who have either read this book before or seen a movie version know why Edward is displaying a "dejection of mind" (p. 40) around her at times: he's stuck with this secret engagement to Lucy Steele. Being a reasonably honorable man, he's trying not to lead Elinor on unduly, or give anyone else the idea that he's trying to woo her. But I really think he should have divulged his ineligibility to Elinor. He wouldn't have had to give her particulars and break his promise to Lucy to keep it a secret, he would have just said, "Look, I'm not free, due to a youthful infatuation with another girl. Until I find out if she's still interested in me, I can't get involved with anyone else." BUT, of course, that would ruin a lot of the suspense of the story, so we can't have that.
We end with the happy prospect of moving away and making a new home in a cottage, which the Romantics thought were the Best Houses of All Time because they were Picturesque and Quaint. How happy Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood must be at the idea, in the midst of their continued grief!
1. Some people roll their eyes at this story because, basically, the Dashwoods are so upset because they're not rich anymore, and they have to move into a smaller house. They say this story is too fakey because that's not a real crisis, and they can't believe how much importance everyone is putting on their "poverty" when they aren't homeless or forced to go begging. What do you say to such critics?
2. "All [Edward Ferrars'] wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life" (p. 28). Do you think this is a personality thing, or is he sort of rebelling against his mother, sister, and brother, who are all obsessed with station and importance and public display?
(SPOILERS) 3. Do you think Edward is doing the right thing by concealing his secret engagement? Is there any right option for him in this very confusing situation? What should/could he have done instead?