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|Determination & Forgiveness
Written by Robbin
(10/9/2005 4:17 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Captain Wentworth and Persuasion, penned by Tracy W
“He had been most warmly attached to her, and had never seen a woman since whom he thought her equal…Anne Elliot was not out of his thoughts, when he more seriously described the woman he should wish to meet with. "A strong mind, with sweetness of manner," made the first and the last of the description.” (Chapter 7)
Your points are very interesting and set me on two new trains of thought, specifically, why is Captain Wentworth so firm in his opinion that a mind once persuaded is forever unreliable and why did he need the lesson of Louisa’s fall to be able to forgive Anne when he obviously has not forgotten her? This is what I wish to explore with a flitting glance at poor Dick to start.
“There was a momentary expression in Captain Wentworth's face at this speech, a certain glance of his bright eye, and curl of his handsome mouth, which convinced Anne, that instead of sharing in Mrs. Musgrove's kind wishes, as to her son, he had probably been at some pains to get rid of him;”
Captain Wentworth has good reason for expecting people to be firm, when you think about it and his opinion that a firm mind is best is not surprising because in his profession a person who cannot be depended upon would be considered a weak link indeed. I imagine that to sail the oceans and participate in combat, especially the hand-to-hand kind, you would wish all your fellows to be of firm mind and act without hesitation—perhaps Dick Musgrove was the opposite and that is why he was gotten rid of.
“He had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill, deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shewn a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity.” (Chapter 7)
Captain Wentworth is correct in the downsides of persuasion; it is just that he applies it universally instead of realizing that to be unretractable is not an asset in all situations. Perhaps he has had no illustration that a person who cannot be persuaded from folly is just as evil as the person who can be persuaded from a good and your point that he actually receives a life lesson from Louisa’s fall and his own part in it is a very good one. I think, up to this time, life has actually taught him the opposite lesson because “his own decided confident temper” has made him the successful man he is.
“All his sanguine expectations, all his confidence, had been justified. His genius and ardour had seemed to foresee and to command his prosperous path. He had, very soon after their engagement ceased, got employ: and all that he had told her would follow had taken place. He had distinguished himself, and early gained the other step in rank, and must now, by successive captures, have made a handsome fortune.” (Chapter 4)
Poor Anne, it is almost as if fate has proven all his notions and when he says to Lousia “Let those who would be happy be firm.” (Chapter 12) perhaps he is thinking more of Anne specifically (than Henrietta or Louisa) because she would have been happy had she kept to their engagement. As a leader, he would rightly expect all decisions and plans once made, to be acted upon without question and he could have felt the breaking of the engagement not only as a defeat of his plans for happiness but the ultimate act of betrayal by Anne: to let Lady Russell shake her faith in him, this is what hurt his pride.
"If one stays to assist Mrs. Harville, I think it need be only one. Mrs. Charles Musgrove will, of course, wish to get back to her children; but if Anne will stay, no one so proper, so capable as Anne." & "Don't talk of it, don't talk of it," he cried. "Oh God! That I had not given way to her at the fatal moment! Had I done as I ought! But so eager and so resolute! Dear, sweet Louisa!" (Chapter 12)
Captain Wentworth’s change of heart is obvious from these comments. Louisa’s fall shows Captain Wentworth the evil of an unpersuadable character and that the lesson enables him to forgive Anne is a wonderful insight. I always realized that he comes to see his previous opinion as wrong but I never saw that it also enables him to forgive. It also must make him realize he has been terribly unfair to Anne in his unwavering belief that to be persuaded is to be weak and timid. He must come to this conclusion as the actual experience of being unable to stop Louisa from being reckless must impress upon him that firmness of mind without reason is foolish and that Anne’s subsequent actions prove she is neither timid nor weak, but sensible and brave in a chaotic situation where even he was overwhelmed. In the moment of truth he is actually persuaded by Anne, whom everyone turns to for what is to be done.
"A surgeon!" said Anne. “He caught the word: it seemed to rouse him at once; and saying only -- "True, true, a surgeon this instant," was darting away, when Anne eagerly suggested --"Captain Benwick, would not it be better for Captain Benwick? He knows where a surgeon is to be found." Every one capable of thinking felt the advantage of the idea, and in a moment (it was all done in rapid moments) Captain Benwick had resigned the poor corpse-like figure entirely to the brother's care, and was off for the town with the utmost rapidity.” (Chapter 12)
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