It strikes me as a little... ironic? funny? that Colonel Brandon is basically turning into the epitome of a Romantic hero, pining away for an unattainable love and making himself a bit despondent in the process... and Marianne can't see it. Sigh.
Okay, something I learned from my annotated edition this time around, regarding shaking hands. It says that men and women would only shake hands with someone of the opposite sex who was closely connected to them by blood or marriage, or impending marriage. So Marianne wanting to shake hands with Willoughby shows that she basically considers herself to be engaged with him, whereas his refusal to shake hands with her is basically his rejecting any such close connection. Which people in Austen's day would totally have understood, since this was the common rule of propriety at the time, but we don't really get, so I'm glad the book mentioned it, and I'm passing that along.
It's so interesting that Elinor feels that her own situation, of never being able to marry Edward, is now better and/or more comfortable than Marianne's, because at least she doesn't have to feel ashamed of him for doing the right thing by standing by his previous promises to Lucy Steele. Whereas, Willoughby has dropped Marianne like a hot potato, and you just can't think well of a guy who'll do that. It's a very small bit of comfort, but comfort nonetheless.
1. How do you think this would have all proceeded if Elinor had stayed home? Would Marianne have behaved any differently?
2. Do you think better of Lady Middleton now, because she was willing to abandon her own pursuit of entertainment to take Marianne and Elinor home early from the party? Was this kindness, or only good manners?