Thursday, March 11, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 9 & 10

Here we go, then!  We've started clicking up the first hill of the rollercoaster.  In other words, Willoughby has arrived on the scene and captured Marianne's affections by being exactly the sort of Romantic hero she was convinced she would never find.

And he really does make a romantic-with-a-small-r entrance, it's true, swooping to the rescue through the storm at exactly the right moment.  Ignoring propriety in the interest of getting Marianne safely home.  Carrying her around in his manly arms like a superhero.  Is it any wonder she's overcome with pleased embarrassment?

I sometimes think Sir John is a little dim to not know more about Willoughby than what kind of rider and hunter he is, though of course, those are his own primary interests.  But when we see Willoughby sort of morph, chameleon-like, to suit Marianne's exact tastes, I cease to wonder at Sir John because I bet Willoughby has done the same thing with him.  Sir John is super enthusiastic about hunting and other sportsman-like pursuits, so when Willioughby hangs out with him, that's what he's into too.

Anyway, we once again end with people making insulting remarks about Colonel Brandon, so we once again end with me frowning mightily.  Grr.

Random small thing that used to confuse me, so I thought I'd explain it in case it confuses some of you too, and that's the use of names in regards to unmarried ladies.  The eldest unmarried daughter gets called "Miss" and her last name.  The younger daughters then get called "Miss" and their first name.  If the eldest gets married, then the next-oldest advances to being called "Miss" plus the last name.  So Elinor is properly called (by those who are not family) "Miss Dashwood," but her sisters are "Miss Marianne" and "Miss Margaret."  If Elinor was to get married, then Marianne would be called "Miss Dashwood" instead.  Now, Willoughby refers to Marianne as "Miss Dashwood" when he first brings her to the house and says he will call again the next day to see how she is, but that's because he doesn't know the family and doesn't know she's not the older sister, plus he also doesn't know her first name anyway.  Once he knows that Elinor is the eldest, and what Marianne's first name is, he is free to address her as "Miss Marianne" within all bounds of propriety.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Mrs. Dashwood is wise to avoid taking Sir John up on his offer of letting the Dashwoods borrow his carriage to travel around getting to know people in the area?

2.  Do you enjoy spending time with people who, like Willoughby, "acquiesced in all her decisions, caught all her enthusiasm" (p. 90)?

23 comments:

  1. 2. Do you enjoy spending time with people who, like Willoughby, "acquiesced in all her decisions, caught all her enthusiasm" (p. 90)?
    - I've known people like that who seem too eager to please. I guess at first I was a bit flattered and actually believed that they had the same interests as mine, but then I realized that they were just being extra nice, perhaps to get something out of me.

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    1. Mom, yeah, sometimes it's very hard to tell if you've found someone who has an exciting number of similar tastes to you or just someone trying to get in your good graces. Very frustrating.

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  2. I've known a lot of guys who are a bit like Willoughby and I tend to avoid them. I hate when people morph their interests into yours or agree with you on everything. It feels like they can't think for themselves.
    Poor Colonel Brandon.

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    1. Skye, yeah, I watched a roommate change all her tastes to suit her boyfriend and it was kind of scary. It made me resolve not to date someone who would expect me to do that, or who would do that to try to match me either.

      Poor Colonel Brandon. I mean, at least he's not there to hear the mean things, I guess?

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  3. I love your observation that Willoughby is potentially morphing his tastes to Sir John as well!

    1. Perhaps Mrs. Dashwood would feel bad borrowing someone else's carriage since she could have kept her own, but sold it as Elinor advised. I imagine she wants to remain as independent as possible as well.

    2. I would rather have people just be themselves and be honest with me than have a false enthusiasm for my interests. You couldn't maintain a long term relationship with that false enthusiasm either.

    Indeed, Marianne and Willoughby are pretty awful regarding Colonel Brandon! People making fun of other people is one of my biggest pet peeves!

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    1. Thanks, Becky!

      You're probably right that Mrs. Dashwood is trying to remain independent. I was thinking maybe she also is worried that Sir John will get tired of being super kind and helpful if she accepts everything he offers?

      False enthusiasm definitely can fizzle pretty quickly.

      Marianne and Willoughby here remind me of the picnic in Box Hill in Emma, only Marianne has no Mr. Knightley to scold her into reconsidering her behavior.

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  4. 1. Do you think Mrs. Dashwood is wise to avoid taking Sir John up on his offer of letting the Dashwoods borrow his carriage to travel around getting to know people in the area?
    No, she is hardly more mature than Marianne and is too self-satisfied, she needs other people to challenge her complacency.

    2. Do you enjoy spending time with people who, like Willoughby, "acquiesced in all her decisions, caught all her enthusiasm"
    Its shallowly flattering, but ultimately condescending or worse (and as in Willoughby's case, can be snake like)

    It's interesting, I never thought about that with him doing that to Sir john, we certainly see him do it toward Elinor a bit, when answering her for sense. I do think Sir John is not exactly the brightest but I think this has as much to do with his mania for his interests and disinclination to try intellectual things.

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    1. Livia, interesting take on question one. I think if she was self-satisfied and complacent she would not turn down an offer of something so agreeable as a carriage that would be a really huge convenience. Imagine moving out into the country today and not having a car, and someone says, "Hey, if you need a car to run errands, you can borrow mine." Saying no means you (or, in this case, her servants) will have to walk to the village market basically every day to get food. Any time you want to go to church, to town to shop, to visit a friend, to meet new people, to attend a dance, you have to walk. A carriage loan would be a huge convenience, and I think she's rather foolish to turn it down completely, but I don't think she does it because she thinks her life is going to be fine without it. I think it's more of a reluctance to allow Sir John to do everything for them, possibly out of fear that he'll tire of that eventually and begrudge them their home and the things he's already promised to do, or that it will make them increasingly beholden to him.

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    2. I was thinking in regards to her attitude towards society, she and Marianne are more snobby and narrow than Elinor

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    3. Hmm. I guess I can see that, Livia, if you mean Marianne's turning up her nose at Col. Brandon for being old and boring, and avoiding Mrs. Jennings because she's gossipy and nosy? Whereas Elinor kindly listens to both of them?

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  5. 1.  Do you think Mrs. Dashwood is wise to avoid taking Sir John up on his offer of letting the Dashwoods borrow his carriage to travel around getting to know people in the area?

    - Probably so people didn't get the idea that they were completely dependent on Sir John's hospitality. They may have wanted a chance go know people independently and not always count on Sir John and appear as his charity cases.

    2.  Do you enjoy spending time with people who, like Willoughby, "acquiesced in all her decisions, caught all her enthusiasm" (p. 90)?

    - Absolutely. It's easier to get to know people when you have the sane tastes.

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    1. Ivy, that's a possibility too! I hadn't thought of them not wanting other people to see how dependent they are on his kindness.

      I think Willoughby and Marianne share many interests, but his tastes matching hers so exactly sounds like he's just flattering her, to me. Austen even tells us that whenever they differed on something, he switches his position and declares she's right as he's wrong. So he's just changing his mind on things to please her.

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  6. 1. I have no comment to make on Mrs. Dashwood not taking up Sir John's offer to borrow his carriage. She possibly wants to retain a certain amount of independance.

    2. Willoughby is 'too good to be true' in my mind. I don't think that I would trust him.

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    1. Sandra, I think that independence is definitely a big part of it.

      I like to think that, at 17, I wouldn't have trusted a guy who was handsome, romantic, and happily changed his tastes to suit mine so we never had to disagree... but I really don't know if I would have. I had a couple of friends who would have gobbled him up, tbh.

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  7. 1. It's fine for Mrs. Dashwood to retain some independence, but I suspect it would have been beneficial for her to visit some of the neighbors. You get a much better idea of who is in the neighborhood by seeing them through several different sets of eyes.

    2. I do enjoy spending time with people who have similar interests, however I do not enjoy spending time with people who have ALL of the same interests and viewpoints as I do. Variety is fun, and it's hard to have interesting conversations in an echo chamber. And certainly the discussions become shallow and insipid when there is only agreement.

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    1. AnnMarie, yes, I think Mrs. Dashwood should have accepted the offer and then availed herself of it only extremely rarely. That way she would have the option, but she wouldn't be imposing on Sir John too much.

      I have very varied tastes in books and movies, so I can usually find something in common with most people I meet (except this one woman who only watched reality TV, and we just had nothing to talk about). But I've never met anyone whose tastes matched mine exactly, and I think that would get boring.

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  8. Okay. Now I want to get a chameleon so I can name it Willoughby.

    But I shall forevermore think of this character as "Willoughby the chameleon." I definitely noticed his tendency to adapt to his surroundings and was mistrustful of it, but I hadn't gotten quite as far as referring to it as a chameleon, but it is an accurate description.

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    1. AnnMarie, haha! That would be a really fun pet. :-D

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  9. I cannot read these chapters without picturing the 1995 movie! I was loving how witty Jane is in these chapters and actually read parts to my sister over the phone because we both have read and loved it! I love how she defied usual standards as though she described the personalities of our main characters in the first chapter, she didn't tell us what they looked like until here with Marianne. As a writer I have a hard time describing how a character physically looks even though that is what people want to know for the start. I know my characters on the inside and I don't want it to be focused on other things. Therefore, I really appreciated us getting to know Marianne's personality first, as that is the priority!

    Great observation of Willoughby changing his opinion and likes to go with whoever he's talking to! There is a fine line there and he has crossed over into too much! It's just kind of creepy, you know? Elinor walks that line perfectly!

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    1. MC, yeah, I kind of mentally flip between the 1995 and 2008 versions from scene to scene, and kind of moment to moment.

      How fun that you read parts of this aloud to your sister over the phone! Cool idea.

      Austen is VERY sparse with her physical descriptions of characters, houses, scenery, clothing, everything. Which is why I get annoyed sometimes with people who say such-and-such actor or actress "doesn't look enough like the character to play them." Um, if you read the books, you'll discover you can kind of make up whatever you like. I also don't tend to provide lots of physical descriptions when I write, and always have to go back during rewrites and provide some because I know that many readers do value them. That's part of why my second drafts are generally longer than my first drafts.

      It IS a little creepy to change your opinions to match whoever you're talking to. Elinor is different, in that she listens willingly to people talk about things she herself doesn't actually take an interest in. There's a difference between that and Willoughby saying he's interested or he agrees even when he first said he wasn't.

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  10. I think Mrs Dashwood was wise in refusing the carriage, though perhaps stretching the point a tad far. I could see now and then being fine, but that's a hard door to shut. The narrative says it was because of her desire for independence, which I take to mean not getting too tied up in favors/feeling they had to acquiesce every time the Middletons wanted to take them anywhere round the neighborhood.

    I always love how Elinor actually shows she can be witty in Chapter 10 when defending Colonel Brandon. I also noticed how interesting it is that Colonel Brandon (I don't think) has said one line of dialogue thus far. So in that respect very similar to how Edward was treated in the opening chapters.

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    1. Heidi, I do think it's understandable that she wouldn't want to become too dependent on Sir John's hospitable tendencies, because what if he... died? Or they had a fight? Or he moved away?

      Yes, Elinor has a good, sharp wit, she just tends not to let it fly very often.

      I don't have my copy here at the moment, but I think you're right, that Brandon doesn't have much to say for a long time, really. And he and Edward both are not chatty fellows.

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What do you think?

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