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|Shades of Cruelty
Written by Robbin
(10/24/2010 8:19 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, A problem of definition, penned by Rachel G
I agree there are shades of cruelty and some people are crueler than others. It is in keeping with my view of Mary certainly for I was not trying to say she was primarily a cruel person or the cruelest person ever but that in the two situations I focused on her behavior was cruel. I hope you can agree Mary’s not perpetrating the cruelest imaginable acts does not mean some of her actions are not cruel to some degree. Just as there is more than one way to be kind there is more than one way to be cruel. I think setting-up Maria falls within these definitions of cruel from dictionary.com:
1 - Causing or inflicting pain without pity: a cruel teacher.
Without excusing Henry’s part, he did set out to gain Maria’s affection; I agree her emotions are in part of her own making. I also agree Mary’s philosophy is “very few young ladies have any affections worth caring for” (36) and that she feels Maria falls into this category. However, I fail to see how either fact gentles or excuses Mary’s manipulating the situation to squeeze a bit more amusement from Maria’s unrequited love for Henry. The act is not less cruel because Mary thinks Maria will not feel it greatly or deserves it for being foolishly attached to a man who has made his indifference plain.
I agree Mary probably thinks Fanny will enjoy hearing of Maria’s loss of composure but how does that make Mary’s enjoyment of her distress and then holding her up to ridicule by gossiping about it less than cruel? I do not see any reason to believe Mary’s maliciously stirring the situation to force Maria to meet with Henry is excusable because it is highly probable they would have met again eventually. How does that change Mary’s intent? It is wrong for Mary to manipulate the situation for her amusement. It is cruel because she knows it will distress Maria—it seems well within definitions one, two and three above.
I agree Mary and Lizzy see Maria’s and Caroline’s futile hopes as a legitimate target for amusement and I also agree with the descriptions of Mary being actively engaged while Lizzy is not. While the amusement is of a kind the ladies actions as a result of their amusement is not—I think there is a significant difference in Mary’s actively seeking amusement from Maria’s situation by setting her up and Lizzy’s silent amusement at unsolicited information brought forth in conversation with Wickham (P&P, 16). IMO Lizzy’s amusement is benign while Mary’s manipulation to increase her amusement enters the realm of cruel.
If Mary wished to avoid causing distress to Maria or Henry’s other conquests she need not ban Henry from every social gathering but merely refrain from purposely manipulating situations to cause others pain. (:D)
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