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|For he had nothing to do and she had hardly any body to love
Written by Robbin
(10/18/2005 4:06 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Open-heartedness, penned by Line
“she was emboldened to go on; and feeling in herself the right of seniority of mind, she ventured to recommend a larger allowance of prose in his daily study; and on being requested to particularize, mentioned such works of our best moralists, such collections of the finest letters, such memoirs of characters of worth and suffering, as occurred to her at the moment as calculated to rouse and fortify the mind by the highest precepts, and the strongest examples of moral and religious endurances.” (Chapter 11)
I agree, Anne can be quite open-hearted and I think at Lyme, a place of metamorphosis, this is the first opportunity we have to see her open-heartedness in action. Captain Benwick is willing to listen and glad to hear and interact with Anne—no one up to now has given her an opportunity. Her and his situations are not exactly, but reminiscent of the first acquaintance of Anne and Captain Wentworth in Chapter 4, “for he had nothing to do, and she had hardly any body to love” so I do not think it is surprising that they get on so well, so quickly. I think their conservation must be very open and lively as they debate poets of the age and Anne is very open-hearted to develop such a concern for Captain Benwick in a matter of hours so that she decides to advise him in a most earnest manner. This is not pleasant flirting and the dispositions of them both lead, perhaps, to a more intimate conversation than either expected. Both Anne and Captain Benwick are affected by their encounter, in a way they are both reawakened to life.
Unfortunately, Anne has no one to confide in or be open-hearted with, not even Lady Russell. I feel that Lady Russell is much to blame for their loving but basically silent relationship—there is no true understanding between them. If she was truly aware of Anne’s nature and paid less attention to her own sensibilities, she might have done her young friend a good by letting her relieve her heart every now and again. Anne continually hides her true feelings from Lady Russell for fear of distressing her and Lady Russell purposely avoids sensitive subjects, supposedly not to upset Anne, but I feel the truth of it is that she is more comfortable not talking about them herself. For example, throughout the novel (chapters 4, 11, 13 & 19) Anne dreads when Lady Russell will come face to face with Captain Wentworth. When the moment finally comes in Chapter 19, not face to face, but across a crowded street, after obviously staring long and hard at him in front of Anne, Lady Russell pretends to not have seen him. It is then written, “Anne sighed, and blushed, and smiled, in pity and disdain, either at her friend or herself.” I believe, to not acknowledge the tumultuous feelings that Lady Russell must know Anne is experiencing at that moment is a betrayal; Anne is not allowed to speak once again.
This reminds me of the conversation between Emma and Mr. Knightly (Chapter 49 of Emma) when she is afraid to hear what he wants to tell her—this is the lack of resolve and feeling I see in Lady Russell’s friendship: Emma could not bear to give him pain. He was wishing to confide in her -- perhaps to consult her; -- cost her what it would, she would listen…relieve him from that state of indecision, which must be more intolerable than any alternative to such a mind as his.” Lady Russell, as a woman most correct in her conduct and strict in her notions of decorum (Chapter 2) perhaps feels unable to bear the intimate thoughts of a broken hearted young woman, but I cannot excuse her so easily for Anne has no one else, she is Anne’s best last hope for relief and she knows it. In separating Anne from Frederick and the ensuing years of silence, as if It never happened, Lady Russell was the unwitting architect when the girl of nineteen, “an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste, and feeling” of Chapter 4 is changed into the resigned young woman who is glad of the assistance “by that perfect indifference and apparent unconsciousness, among the only three of her own friends in the secret of the past, which seemed almost to deny any recollection of it” when leaving for Kellynch Lodge in Chapter 5.
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