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|Sir Thomas' tirade - a less charitable view.
Written by Rachel G
(10/5/2010 11:56 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Ch 32, to me, is one of Miss Austen's smaller masterpieces, penned by jeffrey
Perhaps this is a minor masterpiece - the writing is certainly effective, so much so that I think it one of the most disturbing scenes in JA's works. BarbaraB said - "The words feel almost physical". Just so! I find Sir Thomas' tirade quite distressing to read. It begins:
Sir Thomas came towards the table where she sat in trembling wretchedness, and with a good deal of cold sternness, said......
So we start with a girl whom Sir Thomas knows to be timid, in a state of trembling wretchedness.
Does Sir Thomas give any consideration to the idea that Fanny might have a right to her own opinion on such a matter or that she might refuse to marry a man she does not like? Does he feel any remorse at causing her such distress? Not a bit of it! He watches her weeping, reflects that with a bit more pressure he may still get the outcome he wants. This cheers him up, and only then does he speak to her in tones of less anger!
Sir Thomas may be behaving as a gentleman in that he does not yell or threaten physical violence, but his cold control and detachment as he reduces a timid young woman to such wretchedness is chilling. It is every bit as unkind as Mrs Norris' worst scoldings, and more frightening because he has more power.
Two aspects of what Sir Thomas says in this passage make me very angry. He berates Fanny for daring to think for herself, as if she has no right to independent thought. He also seems to think that she has no right to refuse an offer of marriage simply because she does not like the man and knows she would be miserable. To me these ideas are offensive and disgusting beyond all common offence. Sir Thomas, reflecting the assumptions of his society, demonstrates here what is fundamentally wrong with patriarchy!
I'm seething as I type this, and my keyboard is emitting smoke!
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