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|Fanny's extremes of emotion
Written by Rachel G
(10/4/2010 7:18 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, There's something about Fanny - ch26 - chuckling through the pity, penned by Tom P2
Marianne Dashwood in S&S is another hyper-emotional character. Her feelings are real but she is ramping up her emotions and acting out her ideal of sensibility. When JA makes fun of Marianne I think it is the acting out she is laughing at, not the emotions themselves.
Fanny is very different - I haven't noticed anything which suggests that her emotions are not totally genuine, but they are so extreme that I sometimes want to shout "Fanny, get a grip!" Then I think of the unreasonable demands that are made on her and that she lays on herself, and I feel sorry for her again. She tries so hard to be good and to do what is morally right, and it is hard to fault her for that, but the result just doesn't seem healthy.
Are such rapid fluctuations between extremes of emotion realistic? I really don't know. Perhaps JA is indeed exaggerating for gently comic effect. It certainly looks that way to me when I read lines like the following:
“I come from Dr. Grant’s,” said Edmund presently. “You may guess my errand there, Fanny.” And he looked so conscious, that Fanny could think but of one errand, which turned her too sick for speech. “I wished to engage Miss Crawford for the two first dances,” was the explanation that followed, and brought Fanny to life again, enabling her, as she found she was expected to speak, to utter something like an inquiry as to the result.
So why might JA make fun of such an emotionally vulnerable and deeply moral character? Perhaps she felt ambivalent about her, or wanted the reader to. It is interesting to compare Fanny with the behviour which is approved of in conduct manuals for young women such as Dr Gregory's "A Fathers Legacy to his Daughters." Fanny ticks most of the boxes (while Mary transgresses many of them). I can't find the reference just now, but I'm sure I have read that JA was rather pleased with this particular book, but she also satirises some of it's precepts, for example the line in NA about how a young lady ought not to think of a man until she is sure he is thinking of her.
So I'm coming round to the idea that Austen gave Fanny such extremes of emotion as gentle satire, either because she intended her readers to feel a little ambivalent about Fanny, or perhaps because she wanted to make her readers *think*.
BTW, thank you Tom P2 for your Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh analogy - I have found myself smiling at it many times since you posted it. ;-D
|Gregory - "A Father's Legacy to his Daughters.|
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