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|Fanny has the headache.
Written by Rachel G
(10/20/2007 8:57 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Ch. 7 - Fanny on the sofa, penned by LaurieC
The description of Fanny's miserable afternoon being forced to pick roses in the heat and trudge back and forth between Mansfield and the Rectory on a hot day in bright sunshine makes me feel quite ill. I have suffered for most of my adult life from migraines,and strongly suspect that Fanny may be suffering from this complaint. The triggers for migraine and the features of an attack vary considerably from person to person, but a number of characteristics of Fanny's headache are horribly familiar to me:
- Edward says "I am sure you have the headache", rather than "... a headache." This makes it sound like a specific complaint different from more common stress or tension headaches.
He also disbelieves her when she says it is not very bad, and says "I know your looks too well." Migraine is often accompanied by marked facial pallor. People who know me well can sometimes tell by this that I have an attack beginning even before I am aware of it myself.
Bright light is a migraine trigger, and photo-sensitivity is characteristic of an attack. A bright sunny day is a threat for me, not a pleasure. I am struck by Edward's comment - "You have been promoting her comfort by preventing her from setting off half an hour sooner; clouds are now coming up, and she will not suffer from the heat as she would have done then." I think Fanny's appreciation of a shady avenue of mature trees is also relevant here.
Physical exertion in the heat is another trigger, particularly when ones physical state is less than robust.
Fanny is nothing if not diligent and yet she spends the evening curled up on the sofa, as isolated as possible, rather than getting on with the sewing. Needlework and similar activities would be quite impossible with a migraine, which is generally accompanied by visual disturbances.
Nausea is also characteristic of migraine. Fanny wishes to be able to decline the glass of Madeira which Edmund brings her.
Migraine is often described as feeling as if you are being torn in two. I have come to recognise that this reflects inner states of profound ambivalence of two distinct sorts. The first concerns diligence, trying to do one's duty, and a desire to pull one's weight and not to let others down. An attack will often occur when you are "soldiering on" doing what you are required to do, while your inner voice is howling for a respite. Eventually the body/mind says "Enough!" and a migraine forces you to stop.
The other sort of ambivalence is emotional, and can be broadly characterised as profound negative emotions, opposed by equally strong feelings that "I ought not/ do not have the right to feel this way. It seems to me that Fanny's agonies of jealousy over Edmund's attentions to Mary Crawford fit right into this pattern.
Both these ambivalent states are typically accompanied by intense feelings of worthlessness and self-hatred. This is psychologically undermining and can negatively affect ones outlook even when no migraine is present. Migraine also gives rise to physical debility, and can seriously undermine self confidence in ones physical capabilities.
I accept that none of this can be proved, and that Fanny's situation in chapter 7 would be enough to give anyone a bad headache. Please forgive the personal revelations, and understand that I am not posting this with the aim of saying "Poor me, look how I suffer"!
What I find most interesting about this theory that Fanny is a migraine sufferer is what it implies about her deep emotional states, and how it provides at least a partial explanation for her timidity and physical weakness , and for her lack of self confidence and low self esteem.
Migraine can be disabling and undermining , but is manageable with the help of modern medication, lifestyle adjustments and a good deal of self-nurturing. Poor Fanny has none of these luxuries available to her, and I think there is no point at which I feel quite such recognition and profound empathy with her as I do in chapter seven.
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