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|confidence and the meaning of "friend"
Written by Jenny Allan
(10/24/2005 2:22 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Her Excellent Friend, penned by Robbin
I agree that Lady Russell is essentially trying to fill a godmother role to Anne. She is not a friend in the modern way, of providing a confidante or looking out for Anne's own wishes, only perhaps her material interests.
Anne really has no one who fulfills this role and I might add that a quick check back on Austen heroines, I would say that there is more reserve when it comes to confiding matters of the heart with friends than we would probably require for ourselves. Elizabeth and Jane are as close as two sisters can be, they confide nearly everything, except Elizabeth never tells Jane that her feelings for Darcy have changed, until after they are engaged. Emma confides much to her "friend" Miss Taylor, but does not reveal her true feelings about Frank Churchill or Mr. Knightley until she is required to do so. Fanny Price never tells anyone that she is in love with Edmund. Elinor never confides her feelings to Marianne and she never breaks her confidence with Lucy Steele. In fact this forced confidence with Lucy Steele, points us in the direction of thinking that JA did not really approve of such things. I would put Catherine Morland's relationship with Isabella Thorpe and Emma's relationship with Harriet Smith as pointing out the dangers of confiding too much in "friendship."
"I do not think LR has the ability to see the situation from Anne’s point of view or ask herself is this the type of person who makes Anne happy."
When it comes to Mr. Elliot, Anne does stick to her guns and continues to insist that they will not suit. She must have had to do the same when Charles Musgrove proposed. I think it's pretty clear that Lady Russell is in denial that Anne is still very much in love with Captain Wentworth. And yet, since Anne has never confided this to her, LR can have no way of knowing how much Anne dwells on him. Nor are we given any indication by JA, that Anne should confide this in anyone.
I think LR acts as a "friend" in that she is an advocate, using her best (though flawed) judgement to advise her. This may be the same sense that Mr. Knightley calls Robert Martin "his friend" in Emma, though he may not exactly pal around with him or ask him for advice in turn. The meaning of the word has evolved over time and as others have said of Lady Russell, "with 'friends' like that, who needs enemies."
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