|GR: Honour for men and women
Written by JaneGS
(11/13/2003 10:32 p.m.)
I'm still back in ch2, but I found an idea that struck so hard that I had to think on it for awhile. I apologize if the group has discussed this already, though I didn't come across it whilst looking at the comments below.
...the different meaning of honour for men and women. A gentlewoman's honour lay in the public recognition of her virtue, a gentlemen's in the reliability of his word. p. 54
I think this idea is central to many of JA's plots, and certainly her heroes and heroines.
S&S: it's been debated endlessly whether Edward is a hero, but with this idea in mind, he clearly is honourable, and courageous in maintaining that honour. The reliability of his word is the only thing that he can really control in his life, dependent as he is on his mother, and so his promise to Lucy is sacred. Likewise, Elinor frets about Marianne's reputation and scolds her to be more careful of it, trying to show/tell her that rampant sensibility can undercut her honour--in the end, her reputation does matter. Geez, I sound like Mary Bennet!
Emma: I think Jane's secret engagement casts a shade on her honour, and Frank's failure to visit his father's bride as promised justifies Mr. Knightley's view that Frank isn't an honourable man.
MP: I think this idea of public recognition of virtue explains Fanny's motivation with regards to her reluctance to take part in the play; she's not a stick in the mud...well, she is but she is also striving to be honourable. And like Edward Ferrars, maintaining her honour is virtually the only card she has so she isn't going to throw it away.
I think you can look at honour as the glue that holds this society together--a man's word and a woman's reputation. I supposed the woman's reputation was important so that, from an inheritance pov, you were sure that the sons (and daughters) who inherited were legitimate. I suppose the man's word has to do with law and covenant.
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