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|Yes, EXCELLENT post! :-) + Mrs. Smith, friend or foe?
Written by Line
(10/24/2005 7:46 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Mrs. Smith, penned by Deborah Y
Congratulations, Deborah - you've actually raised my sympathy for Mrs. Smith a few more notches! The first time I read Persuasion, my unequivocal reaction was "With friends like her, who needs enemies?" Several people have said this about Lady Russell, but IMO, LR has nothing on Mrs. Smith.
Consider what she's been doing. This was not an age where Anne could get a divorce if things didn't work out. She'd be tied to Mr. Elliot (and in his power) for the rest of her life, no matter what. Pre-marriage (including during the engagement) was the *only* time someone could intervene to prevent a horrible mistake, and as far as Mrs. Smith knew, the engagement wasn't even official yet! Not only has she kept quiet about Mr. Elliot's true character, but she's been actively pushing him on Anne. A separate, if smaller irritation for me ;-) is her attitude in ch.21 that you should never trust any woman's negative opinion of an attractive man (a pet peeve of mine).
Two things that made me feel *slightly* more sympathetic towards Mrs. Smith this time around was her claim that she didn't know what to do, and also that if Mr. Elliot was going to treat any woman right, it would be Anne. I quite agree that JA didn't condemn Mrs. Smith for her ruthlessness, which still puzzles me. Thanks for pointing out that Mrs. Smith, despite her minor role, is a complex character, and for showing how desperate she probably is. I still don't like her at all (and if I were Anne, I would be extremely careful about taking her advice on *anything* in future!), but you've reminded me again that she doesn't live in a comfortable ivory tower somewhere, but with her back to the wall.
Also, thanks for pointing out the extraordinary coincidence of Mrs. Smith not only knowing Mr. Elliot's true character, but having written proof of it. (We were talking about coincidences in JA's writing in another thread.)
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