Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|A woman of spirit.
Written by Rachel G
(10/6/2010 9:34 p.m.)
During this GR I have been trying to understand Mary's character better, in particular by trying to see things from her point of view. The most telling passage I have found in this week's chapters is in ch.25 when they are playing cards and Henry has been proposing extensive alterations to Thornton Lacey. Edmund says says he hopes that a few minor improvements to Thornton Lacey will suffice for all who care about him:
Miss Crawford, a little suspicious and resentful of a certain tone of voice, and a certain half–look attending the last expression of his hope, made a hasty finish of her dealings with William Price; and securing his knave at an exorbitant rate, exclaimed, “There, I will stake my last like a woman of spirit. No cold prudence for me. I am not born to sit still and do nothing. If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it.”
The game was hers, and only did not pay her for what she had given to secure it. (25)
I think that Mary's statement (in bold) is a metaphor for her efforts to dissuade Edmund from ordination, and that this is how she herself thinks of her campaign.
I think it is quite normal for people to have an idealised self-image, by which I mean an image of what we wish to be and how we like to think of ourselves. Many of our actions and choices are driven by the urge to attain or confirm our idealised self-image. If we believe we have failed or fallen short of this ideal we feel very uncomfortable. This idealised self may be pretty close to reality or wildly at variance with it.
Fanny's idealised self image is of a good, morally virtuous person, so when she believes she has erred, has been selfish, is accused of ingratitude, or catches herself thinking uncharitable thoughts (such as her relief when Sir Thomas leaves for Antigua) she suffers agonies of guilt and remorse, and strives to do better.
Mary's idealised self-image is very different. Her sense of identity is tied to the idea of herself as a wealthy, high-status woman, beautiful ("the simplest claims of conscious beauty" - ch.12), witty, charming, popular. If my hypothesis is right, the idea of herself as a woman of spirit, a woman of action, willing to take risks in the hope of winning the game and attaining her goals is also improtant to her . Perhaps the metaphor of "winning the game can be taken further - maybe Mary sees life and relationships as essentially competitive, and the idea of herself as a "winner" is also important to her.
Unlike Fanny, Mary is not a reflective person, so if the ideas I've outlined here are what drive her they are probably Mary's way she blames others not herself - she feels "resentment" and "anger" when Edmund fails to do as she wishes, and she feels "ill will" towards Sir Thomas when he speaks with approval of Edmund's intention live full-time at Thornton Lacey.
To the reader, Mary's persistent efforts to change Edmund's mind about ordination appear bone-headedly stubborn and unreasonable, but Mary would not be able to see it in this way. Her desires and objectives look perfectly reasonable to her, and if asked, she would describe her way of striving for her goal in a way which enables her to think well of herself - a woman of spirit who stakes her all in the hope of winning the game.
She wants Edmund's family to like her so she pays them carefully chosen compliments, and she carries on her escalating campaign to get Edmund to see the clergy as she does. This culminates in what almost becomes a stand-up row in public at the ball, the evening before he goes off to be ordained. When Edmund stays away longer than expected, Mary regrets speaking so strongly. She has staked her all, but now fears that she has over-played her hand, driven him away, and lost the game.
The passage I quoted above ends with Mary winning the game but it "did not pay her what she had given to secure it". Is this a hint from JA that if Mary were to 'win the game' with Edmund the outcome would not make her happy?
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.