Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|The balm of sisterly consolation (long)
Written by Robbin
(10/14/2005 3:42 a.m.)
“…she…envied them nothing but that seemingly perfect good understanding and agreement together, that good humored mutual affection, of which she had known so little herself with either of her sisters.” (Chapter 5)
The balm of sisterly consolation is nonexistent for Anne. I have always wondered what exactly is behind Elizabeth’s dislike of Anne. JA does not tell us why Elizabeth acts the way she does towards Anne. So besides examining Sir Walter’s influence and listing all of the mean things Elizabeth does to Anne, all I can do is speculate on feminine relationships, sisters and otherwise, for some likely reasons. Elizabeth’s attitude has always puzzled me and in my reading so far as I can find no reason for it, such as some sort of betrayal by Anne.
“A few years before, Anne Elliot had been a very pretty girl, but her bloom had vanished early; and as even in its height, her father had found little to admire in her (so totally different were her delicate features and mild dark eyes from his own), there could be nothing in them, now that she was faded and thin, to excite his esteem. He had never indulged much hope, he had now none, of ever reading her name in any other page of his favourite work.” (Chapter 1)
Sir Walter’s indifference to Anne seems to be based solely on the fact that he does not consider her beautiful and he believes she will never be able to glorify him through some elevating marriage, but as “Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation.” (Chapter 1) I suppose that I must accept this of Sir Walter, it certainly does not go against his character. I have to wonder about Sir Walter’s feelings for his wife also because if he had been fond of her or in love with her, hard to imagine I know, it would stand to reason that Anne would benefit for according to Lady Russell, “it was only in Anne that she could fancy the mother to revive again.” (Chapter 1) Of course Lady Russell may be referring to Anne’s state of mind and not her physical appearance so much.
“Anne did not share these feelings. She persisted in a very determined, though very silent disinclination for Bath; caught the first dim view of the extensive buildings, smoking in rain, without any wish of seeing them better; felt their progress through the streets to be, however disagreeable, yet too rapid; for who would be glad to see her when she arrived? And looked back with fond regret to the bustles of Uppercross and the seclusion of Kellynch.” (Chapter 14)
That the cold treatment Anne receives from father and sister has been a way of life is fairly obvious but the fact that the reception she receives in Camden Place in Chapter 15 is more than she expects and actually does her good is very sad, first because for that to cheer, Anne must have been in very low sprits indeed and second because it shows the continuing rejection of Anne as a valuable individual and that she has learned to accept it. The reception is also based solely on what entertainment and comforts they can derive from her presence, but it is even worse than that when I think that Mary would also be acceptable for all that they ask. Mary is just as capable and would probably enjoy looking upon Elizabeth’s elegant arrangements and offering what praise she is capable of making and can easily make a fourth for dinner and cards perhaps.
“Anne entered it with a sinking heart, anticipating an imprisonment of many months, and anxiously saying to herself, "Oh! when shall I leave you again?" A degree of unexpected cordiality, however, in the welcome she received, did her good. Her father and sister were glad to see her, for the sake of shewing her the house and furniture, and met her with kindness. Her making a fourth, when they sat down to dinner, was noticed as an advantage.” (Chapter 15)
Elizabeth follows her father’s lead in the treatment of Anne, as she does in everything else but she goes further than indifference, she takes every opportunity to disregard Anne, even to dishonor her and if she can create an opportunity to hurt her, I think she will. “I think there are three components to Elizabeth’s treatment of Anne and they are selfishness, jealousy, maliciousness.
“For thirteen years had she been doing the honours, and laying down the domestic law at home, and leading the way to the chaise-and-four; walking immediately after Lady Russell out of all the drawing-rooms and dining-rooms in the country. Thirteen winters' revolving frosts had seen her opening every ball of credit which a scanty neighbourhood afforded, and thirteen springs shewn their blossoms, as she travelled up to London with her father, for a few weeks annual enjoyment of the great world. ” (Chapter 1)
I would say that Elizabeth’s selfishness is not only for money but also of her situation. Something learned from Sir Walter, no doubt. She would not be willing share any honors or power she has with Anne. Elizabeth’s power is in the management of her father’s home and in being his favorite so that by his leave “Nothing could be done without a reference to Elizabeth.” (Chapter 3) I think the reason that Elizabeth does not allow Anne to be useful at home or in selecting a house in Bath is because she would be giving some of her power away. In Chapter 1 we are told “(Anne) was nobody with either father or sister: her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way—she was only Anne.” Both Sir Walter and Elizabeth would probably find it very annoying if someone told them that Anne might have a preference for which city she lives in or in what house that she resides. To let Anne have more responsibility at home would be to put Anne and Elizabeth in a situation where they could be compared with each other. We all know who would compare most favorably but does Elizabeth also? I think the tasks Anne completes at Kellynch after the departure of Elizabeth are the most boring and tedious of tasks and Elizabeth will not be there to be compared with Anne while she is doing them. I can imagine that the servants and tenants would all prefer to deal with Anne rather than Elizabeth if they could and if Anne was allowed to be of use while Elizabeth was in residence I can easily see a mass exodus to Anne.
I think there are two instances in which Elizabeth finds herself jealous of Anne although she may not recognize it as such. First, they have both had disappointment in proposed marriages but they are of very unequal value. Anne has been loved and wanted and ended the engagement herself. Elizabeth was fooled and avoided and had the mortification of knowing she was not wanted. Anne has also had a second offer of marriage of which she has turned down and as far as we know Elizabeth has had none—this must be as humiliating for Elizabeth as it was when Mary was wed before her and it shows in Chapter 4, “Young and gentle as she was, it might yet have been possible to withstand her father’s ill will, though unsoftened by one kind word or look on the part of her sister.” Second, Elizabeth is jealous of Anne herself. I know this seems to contradict the idea that for the most part, when not being actively mean to her, she treats Anne with indifference. However, although she is incapable of appreciating Anne, Elizabeth must see that others prefer Anne to herself and that must be an appalling notion. Her father’s friend and her mother’s great friend Lady Russell obviously prefers Anne.
“She (LR to Elizabeth) had been repeatedly very earnest in trying to get Anne included in the visit to London, sensibly open to all the injustice and all the discredit of the selfish arrangement which shut her (Anne) out” (Chapter 2)
If Lady Russell has always had and shown this preference by pleading Anne’s injustices then Elizabeth may very well not like her at all for it and it might increase her dislike for Anne. I do not think it is uncommon for a person to dislike someone but still be jealous of a variety of things including just being a good person when you may be conscious that you are not—but that does not sound like Elizabeth does it? There are other things to be jealous of Anne about however. Elizabeth, if not actually preventing Anne from taking the annual trip to London she is definitely not promoting it either. I would venture that neither Elizabeth nor Sir Walter want to spend extra money on Anne to fit her up for London but more than that, again I would think she would not wish to be compared to Anne by their acquaintance. Anne far outshines Elizabeth in manner and intelligence and I am not disposed to say that she is really inferior in beauty because she has already received two offers of marriage which I think is testament enough to her ability to attract gentlemen.
I pondered for a while whether Elizabeth is truly mean to Anne or is she just indifferent like Sir Walter and I finally came to give weight to meanness every now and again from some of what JA tells us of Elizabeth’s thoughts and her speech. In Chapter 1, distressed for money Elizabeth ponders how they can retrench and after coming up with no real solutions “…she afterwards added the happy thought of their taking no present down to Anne, as had been the usual yearly custom.” Elizabeth considers it a “happy” thought to not take a present to Anne. I always assumed that the word “happy” was being used with the usual meaning of “merry” but I decided to consider other slightly different meanings. I considered that “happy” was being used in place of the word “good” meaning this would be a good way to save some money or “pleased” but the fact that she would be “pleased” as in “contented” is not really much better than “happy” so I really think it is just a straight forward use of the word happy with the regular meaning of merry. When Elizabeth talks about Anne going to Uppercross instead of going directly to Bath in Chapter 5, “I cannot possibly do without Anne,” was Mary’s reasoning; and Elizabeth’s reply was, “Then I am sure Anne had better stay, for nobody will want her in Bath.” I think this statement is designed to be hurtful for actually Elizabeth really does not need to say anything, does she? Is it not for Anne to decide whether she will go or are we to understand that Elizabeth is deciding that Anne will stay or hinting for Anne to stay with this statement? Anne’s next statement says that she “agreed” to stay: “To be claimed as a good, though in an improper style, is at least better than being rejected as no good at all; and Anne, glad to be thought of some use, glad to have any thing marked out as a duty, and certainly not sorry to have the scene of it in the country, and her own dear country, readily agreed to stay.” I am not sure that if Anne had wanted to go to Bath that she would be allowed to but I am sure that it was mean for Elizabeth to label Anne as unwanted.
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.