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Written by Barb JA
(10/13/2010 9:42 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, A different view of Henry - a challenge., penned by Rachel G
I will not dwell on personality traits, because actually I think there's a lot that is annoying in his personality.
Apparently I couldn't help dwelling on personality traits for a moment. Since this is supposed to be what is good in Henry I guess I better turn to the subject.
I believe that Henry had a true spirit of generosity in helping William get made Lieutenant. I don't believe he did it to create a sense of obligation in Fanny. Though I do think there was some self interest in his feeling good for once for having done something kind for someone else.
What is unclear I think, is whether he proposed immediately after relaying the news as manipulation or just was seizing the opportunity of having her alone to make his proposals.
On more shaky ground, I think it's possible that his initial impulse to give Fanny a necklace for William's cross could have been generosity. The problem was in the execution. For him to take credit as it was done destroys any generosity. But this is shaky, it would still take trickery to get a necklace to her with no knowledge of his hand in it.
As for soft spots, I will speak only of my own previous soft spot for Henry (and Mary too) which has hardened more with each reading. It is all about contrasts. Henry is appreciating and falling in love with Fanny while thick-headed Edmund is taxing Fanny with his his love for Mary. Why can't Edmund appreciate this wonderful woman right in front of him?
I mention Mary too, because Mary is the one who recognizes injustice and acts to help Fanny in her distress(the Norris insult after the pressure to act). Again it is a contrast to all her family who sit around and let it happen.
Austen weaves a wonderful tale, where you think Mary and Henry can change, and one always hopes that people are capable of change. Fanny is treated so badly, that we are grateful for any acts of kindness. By contrasting them against the Mansfield family, it encourages us to gloss over the clues to what is very wrong in Mary and Henry. The Mary clues are subtle and steady, while the Henry clues, though steady, start with such despicable behavior to Maria and Julia, he requires a stronger contrast such as how hard he falls for Fanny and his impulses of generosity. With each reading you pay more attention to the clues, and that is why my heart hardens against them over time.
It's almost like Austen is setting the reader up to be Edmund. We are the ones who gloss over the bad and try to only see the good. Why, I think I may need a SUTH. :)
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