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|GR focus wrap up: Captain Wentworth
Written by JennyAllan
(11/1/2005 12:51 p.m.)
Looking back this GR has really changed my vision of Captain Wentworth. His feelings had been a mystery to me. But now, using clues from the end of the novel, going back you can see alot of his behavior is explained.
1) What is Captain Wentworth thinking when he first comes into company with Anne? His first reaction to seeing her again is uncharitable to say the least. He was upset and ungaurded when he thought "wretchedly altered." And yet, he must have been under the same anxiety and sets of apprehensions as Anne was leading up to the first meeting. He throws himself into amusing Louisa and Henrietta, these are the efforts of "anger and resentment" as well as all his veiled messages about the year six to Anne which are designed to make her feel bad.
2) Why does Wentworth begin to change in his attitude toward Anne, to be kinder and more solicitious (securing for her the ride in the gig, take little Walter off of her)? His softening I think is partly the dissipation of his anger and partly getting used to the idea of being around her again. I think Little Walter is a somewhat automatic response. He is a man of action and he simply fixes a problem without thinking about it. I think his reaction is meant to conceal not only his embarassment, but his attraction to Anne. He is suddenly very close to her and when he realizes it, he is again caught off gaurd. Perhaps he goes out of his way to hand her into the carraige (to my mind, he plans it deliberately in order to be able to be the one to lift her into the carraige) in order to prove to himself that he can master that attraction. And remember he's been catching Louisa down from stiles all day. Perhaps he feels nothing being in such close physical contact with her and wants to verify that Anne still has that effect on him? He is beginning to wake up to Anne's superiority again.
3) The threat of other men being attracted to Anne has a profound effect on the way he views her. He admits to being roused by Mr. Elliot's attention, but I would not be suprised if he hadn't noted Benwick's attentions to her as well. The fact that Benwick's visit is cancelled to Uppercross because Wentworth convinces him to come along with him, makes me think that CW is truly scheming in order to keep Anne and Benwick apart. Also, I wonder if Benwick is aware of Frederick and Anne's engagement? I think there's a possiblity that he is. It's all speculation, but I imagine they had some rather deep conversations on the Grappler. These are questions I still haven't answered and probably will never be able to answer for myself satisfactorily.
4) Why does Captain Wentworth freeze up so badly after Louisa's accident? It goes against his character. Throughout the book he is the "go to" guy for tricky situations. He is certainly combat experienced. Is JA having a little dig at the Navy and men in general or is there something deeper? Is it possible that he suffering a bit of a flashback or shellshock at that moment. Again, I haven't answered this question to my satisfaction. One clue though from the end of the book, "I was only beginning to feel alive again..." Captain Wentworth feels like a dead man during that horrible time in Lyme from the accident to when Louisa begins to recover. This is probably the effect of deep guilt. He feels soley responsible for Louisa's accident, and perhaps guilty that he is safe and sound while her recovery is so precarious.
5) When Wentworth realizes that he has led Louisa's family and friends to believe they are mutually attached and nearly engaged he tries the "fair means" of leaving her for his brother's house. I had always seen this as Wentworth trying to send her a message, in the same way that he made all those coded messages to Anne at Uppercross, that he wasn't interested. But thinking about this more and re-reading the ending this morning, the phrase "if her sentiments for him were what the Harvilles supposed" made me think that Wentworth wasn't entirely sure of the depth or Louisa's feelings for him. And until she was recovered, he could not expect to be able to figure this out without further adding to the belief that he was attached to her. So he left thinking "time will tell."
I think from his return to Bath onward, Wentworth's behavior is fairly transparent. We are given a good account of his feelings during the major incidents at Bath which match up with what I would imagine he would be thinking.
Overall, I think that by dwelling on what Wentworth was thinking and feeling during the novel, I feel like he is less of a shadowy character to me. It also adds depth to Anne's character as well. Anne never fails to assess what Wentworth thinks and feels about almost everything in the novel except herself. She begins to see his opinion of her clearly only in Bath, after her bloom has been regained, her confidence renewed. She could have, at any time at Uppercross, put herself forward in the same way she did at Mullins or at the concert. Then the novel would have ended quickly. But she didn't believe that he loved her anymore and she imagined her presence was every second mortifying or at the most only that of a trusted old friend.
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