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|The first two weeks from FW's POV
Written by Jenny Allan
(10/3/2005 12:57 p.m.)
When I first read Persuasion, I took all of Anne's judgements of FW at face value and assumed that they were the same as the things (the very few things) which the narrator told us about FW.
Yet it is becoming clear to me on this GR that Anne really sells herself short and in doing so has prejudiced and colored her view of FW's actions. I do not blame Anne for this, she has been living with such constant neglect and her one friend fundamentaly misunderstands her.
In the early chapters here is what we know of FW since the breakup:
He made almost an immediate success (which he attributes to luck) after the break up. He never met any woman (despite shipboard balls and other social activities) to equal Anne. He has a rather absurdly high opinion of what comforts women ought to have, despite the example of her his sister who lives happily on board a ship. He is confident and sanguine, loyal and takes friendships very seriously and deeply. He is almost willfully allowing his vanity to be stroked by the Musgrove girls.
Now, I've put myself in FW's shoes for a moment. What must it be like to find yourself returning to stay in the house, where you had your heartbroken 8 years earlier? I should think every sight, smell and sound should be pure torture. To walk into a room and be suddenly reminded of a pleasant tete a tete, long ago, or to walk in the park and perhaps be reminded of his last meeting with her. I think that is the reason that he must walk to Uppercross every day just to get away from that place. To make it even more painful, the complete happiness of his sister and brother in law in that very haunted place...No wonder he throws himself into an an aquaintance with Musgroves who must distract him from those memories.
What the Admiral describes as "chasing them" (meaning Henrietta and Louisa) might merely be FW running as fast as can away from the past. I think most of FW's actions since the break up have been in part "answering" the convictions of Lady Russell. To prove himself worthy, loyal, dependable...all the things he was not seen to be. At least subconciously, and on a concsious level he admits that he was very keen to have something to do.
FW must have seen Anne's ploy to avoid the dinner party for exactly what it was, an attempt to avoid him. He might have felt mortified that she thought he would renew their aquaintance or he might have been met the action with same mixture of dread and curiousity that Anne seemed to have.
Their first meeting was a shock. His phrase, "wretchedly altered" to me suggests that though Anne has "lost her bloom" is now timid and frail, that perhaps he had been seeing a very different woman in his head all the while he was at sea. The mind tends to fix a person at a certain age and appearance and even a separation of a few months can be a shock when the other person has altered at all. Add to this the fact that he had no picture for reference and many months of isolation seeing no women at all, that FW may have put Anne on an impssible pedestal of all that what womanly perfection.
Skipping ahead to the next time we see FW, at the dinner party, he makes many comments blatantly designed to zing Anne. It's clear that he's angry at least at first, and since he cannot communicate any other way, he doesn't waste an opportunity to show that he was hurt. But he seems to soften during the dancing and his eye wanders to her. Does he notice her crying? It's true that he may enquire simply to steel himself against the inevitability of having to dance with her, but I think it's possible that he wants to dance with her. Anne sees it as his natural good breeding and politeness kicking in that he wants to give up his chair for her, but what if he's desparate for any chance to talk at least to clear the air a little or maybe even to confront her.
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