Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|Hers in honor if she wished it
Written by Deborah Y
(10/26/2005 4:30 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, 15 paragraphs to tell Wentworth's side of the story (long), penned by Jenny Allan
I must say, the Wentworth/Louisa thing is one of those places in JA where I feel most keenly the cultural differences between her time and our own. Here we have a man whose entire relationship with a young woman has consisted of public flirting. They have barely spent any time alone together; they have never (as far as we know) exchanged a single word that could not have been overheard by anyone else without embarrassment; they have certainly never discussed love or marriage in any personal context; and of course they have never had any kind of physical/sexual contact. Now he realizes that he's still in love with another woman. But simply because his attentions may have aroused *expectations* in her, he feels that he is required to spend a lifetime in a loveless marriage, if that's what she wants.
There are a couple of weird things here, to me. First of all, given that he and Louisa have absolutely no concrete understanding, how is she supposed to convey these wishes of hers? Poor Anne is barely able to convince him that she still loves him, and he's hanging around in Bath watching like a hawk for every sign. How's poor sick Louisa supposed to get this message across? After all, she can't propose to him.
But the really weird thing to me is this: why does FW seem to feel -- like Edward Ferrars, in a similar situation in S&S -- that he'll be doing *Louisa* a favor if he grimly does the honorable thing and consigns her to a lifetime of marriage with a man who is pining for someone else? Why doesn't it seem to occur to him that *she* might be better off married to someone who actually loves her -- say, a Byron-reading naval captain with a thing for sickly young ladies? In the S&S movie, Emma Thompson's script glosses the issue as a matter of "keeping your promises," which is OK as far as it goes, but surely an agreement to marry is THE example of a promise that necessarily becomes void when one of the parties no longer wants to keep it.
Perhaps someone with a better historical understanding of these conventions can explain all this to me. I find it a bit of a puzzlement, given that JA is hardly unaware of the importance of love and respect in marriage. I've sometimes wondered if these doing-the-honorable-thing situations reflect a (perhaps historically older?) view of marriage as more a legal contract than an emotional commitment -- thus, Edward and FW are like people who've signed a lease on a one-bedroom apartment and then realize there's a cheaper two-bedroom available somewhere across town. Too bad -- should have shopped around before you put down that deposit. . .
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.