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|This is serious indeed
Written by KatharineW
(9/25/2010 8:50 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Sotherton: The Serious Side, penned by BarbaraB
Poor stupid Mr. Rushworth who is loved by no one but his mama, inviting a group of people he believes to be his friends to his home. While touring the house, the author's groupings of her characters leads to all manner of foot-in-mouth disease. Mary Crawford blithely relates her low regard for the clergy to the man she is beginning to find an object of affection.
Mr. Rushworth's fiancee is in love with the idea of one day being mistress of Sotherton. She does not appear to be in love with her future husband. Henry Crawford, the man Julia Bertram wants to call hers, seems determined to pay court to her sister instead.
The rapacious Mrs. Norris is cringe-making in her anticipatory invocation of Uriah Heep all the while finding way to get as many "freebies" from Sotherton that she possibly can. Mrs. Rushworth ushers everyone through her home, little realizing the duplicitous nature of most of her guests.
What's so funny in all of this? Jane Austen skillfully allows the tension to build until the crucial scene with the locked gate. Thank you, BarbaraB for your wonderful post. I had forgotten the symbolism attributed to the locked garden. (As an art historian this absence of mind is inexcusable. I do not know how many depictions of Mary and the angel Gabriel I have examined where she is given the news while in an enclosed garden.)
The characters are all trapped starlings. Everyone is complaining of the heat. Austen seems to be draining the air away, suffocating her characters. Fanny is trapped by her devotion to people who do not think as much of her as she does of them. The Crawfords are trapped by their lack of morals and determined avoidance of anything that is not directly related to their personal pleasure.
Julia was literally trapped by her disinclination to rudeness into suffering the company of Mrs. Rushworth and the despicable Mrs. Norris. Everything seems heated and airless and I can never read this scene without fearing an explosion.
Yes, Mr. Rushworth is a brainless booby, but he does not deserve to have his feelings hurt by the one person who is supposed to be the most solicitous of his well-being. "I should not have had to follow her [Maria Bertram] if she had staid." I always read this line with pain. It is not pleasant being ditched, even if you are an idiot.
Once again, Jane Austen has seen into the depths of the human soul and found a sufficiency of the Hells we can create for ourselves and our acquaintences through ignorance and a "selfish disdain for the feelings of others."
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