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|His sturdy spirit.
Written by Rachel G
(10/10/2010 6:56 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, A Mind led Astray & Bewildered, penned by Robbin
I don't fundamentally disagree with Robbin's interpretation of this speech of Mary's, but I see it with a different emphasis.
Robbin interprets the line quoted above as Mary being suddenly inspired into a triumph on overcoming Edmund's scruples against acting. I'm not sure that "triumph" is quite the right word to describe Mary's feelings, either when Edmund decided to act after all, or now in retrospect.
Back in ch.17 when Edmund has changed his mind, Mary is described as smiling and cheerful, whereas the feelings of triumph clearly belong to Tom and Maria:
It was, indeed, a triumphant day to Mr. Bertram and Maria. Such a victory over Edmundís discretion had been beyond their hopes, and was most delightful.
Now in Mary's reverie she recalls the event as "sweet beyond expression". That sounds tender to me, not triumphant.
In Mary's experience there have probably not been many occasions when a man has done something he doesn't want to do just to make her happy or look after her interests. Consider the men she grew up with. The Admiral was so considerate of his wife that he not only kept a mistress but probably made no attempt to conceal the fact - certainly they were often quarrelling. When his wife dies he is so considerate of Mary's needs that he promptly moves his mistress into Hill Street, effectively rendering Mary homeless.
Henry is little better. He refuses to compromise his freedom of action by having her live with him at Everingham, so she has to leave all her friends and go and bury herself with near strangers in a country parsonage. Of course Henry is obliging enough to say he will to "fetch her away again at half-an-hour's notice", but the reality would be that he would come when it suited him. Mary had planned to leave Mansfield while Edmund was away being ordained, and the only reason she is still there when he belatedly returns is that it has suited Henry to hang around because he wants to carry on "courting" (harassing?) Fanny.
So I believe that the "sweetness" of Edmund's capitulation over acting could be a reflection of Mary's experience of the men she is reliant on being selfish and inconsiderate.
I also find Mary's description of Edmund's spirit as "sturdy" quite telling. When he finally refused to change his mind about ordination Mary was very angry with him, but when he is away she misses him "almost every hour", and could not help thinking of him continually when absent, dwelling on his merit and affection. We are not told precisely what "merit" of Edmund's she is dwelling on, but I have a hunch that the sturdiness of his spirit may be part of it.
Mary has spoken with approval of men who love to distinguish themselves - not generally the meek and biddable types I would have thought. Despite the sweetness of Edmund's capitulation over acting would Mary really admire a man who was grovelling at her feet and falling over himself to fulfil her every whim? I rather suspect not.
It's just a thought.
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