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|Ch.35 - Edmund persuading Fanny.
Written by Rachel G
(10/11/2010 2:22 p.m.)
Throughout ch.35 Edmund believes he has Fanny's best interests at heart, and he is not unkind. I give him credit for that, but so much of what he says annoys me that I feel inclined to rant. Here are some notes instead; sorry it is rather long:
The conventional ideal, & Gratitude
Here are some lines which I find particularly irritating:
“So far your conduct has been faultless, ...... But .... Fanny, let him succeed at last. You have proved yourself upright and disinterested, prove yourself grateful and tender–hearted; and then you will be the perfect model of a woman which I have always believed you born for.”
“Oh! never, never, never! he never will succeed with me.”
.... “Never! Fanny!— so very determined and positive! This is not like yourself, your rational self.”
" I cannot suppose that you have not the wish to love him—the natural wish of gratitude. You must have some feeling of that sort. You must be sorry for your own indifference.”
All this talk of "gratitude" makes me wonder if Edmund has been reading his sisters'conduct manuals. Look at these quotes from Gregory's "A Father's Legacy to his Daughters" (p.80-84):
What is commonly called love among you is rather gratitude, and a partiality to the man who prefers you to the rest of your sex; and such a man you often marry, with little of either personal esteem or affection. Indeed, without an unusual share of natural sensibility, and very peculiar good fortune, a woman in this country has very little probability of marrying for love.
.... It is a maxim laid down among you, and a very prudent one it is, That love is not to begin on your part, but is entirely to be the consequence of our attachment to you...
..... As, therefore, Nature has not given you that unlimited range in your choice which we enjoy, she has wisely and benevolently assigned to you a greater flexibility of taste on this subject. Some agreeable qualities recommend a gentleman to your common good liking and friendship. In the course of his acquaintance, he contracts an attachment to you. When you perceive it, it excites your gratitude; this gratitude rises into a preference, and this preference perhaps at last advances to some degree of attachment, especially if it meets with crosses and difficulties; for these, and a state of suspense, are very great incitements to attachment, and are the food of love in both sexes. If attachment was not excited in your sex in this manner, there is not one of a million of you that could ever marry with any degree of love.
This is pretty dispiriting stuff, and outrageous from a modern point of view, but it does show that the assumptions made by Edmund (and Sir Thomas) are not eccentric, but are representative of the conventional attitudes of their time. Perhaps part of JA's purpose in MP was to illustrate the good points and shortcomings of this conventional ideal of female mature and behaviour.
Blame the women.
Mary, & a woman's right to her own preference.
“I should have thought,” said Fanny, after a pause of recollection and exertion, “that every woman must have felt the possibility of a man’s not being approved, not being loved by some one of her sex at least, let him be ever so generally agreeable. Let him have all the perfections in the world, I think it ought not to be set down as certain that a man must be acceptable to every woman he may happen to like himself.
Fanny goes on to explain why she cannot return Henry's affection as easily as Mary and Mrs Grant seem to expect. Edmund totally ignores what Fanny is saying in the passage I've quoted. He just seizes on the rest of what she says as evidence of Fanny's very proper modesty and delicacy - that conventional female ideal again.
In some ways Edmund in ch.35 reminds me of his advice when Fanny was to go and live with Mrs Norris. But then he was truly disinterested and had nothing to gain himself by persuading Fanny to see things his way. Here though, Edmund is not at all objective. He wants Fanny and Henry to marry partly because he hopes this would bring Mary closer, so his perspective is skewed. I assume he is unconscious of this bias.
In this chapter Edmund seems strikingly like his father - wedded to conventional ideas, seduced by his own logic, and full of a bone-headed conviction that he knows best. I do not find these characteristics attractive, so despite his good qualities I cannot really warm to Edmund and like him least of all JA's "heroes".
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