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Written by Rae
(10/15/2008 5:26 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Subconscious..., penned by Moni
I think 'relentless singling her out' is a bit harsh! I agree he is behaving badly in that he is being thoughtless and his thoughtless behaviour is hurting her, a lot. I am also convinced (by Julie, who usually does convince me!) that Anne could not have taken the initiative in setting the tone for their relationship now - even for appearing friendly before he did. However, let's look at what he actually does.
I made a case earlier that he is quite tactful and sensitive about that first meeting. They are both taken aback by it, in my view - he perhaps hides it better at the time but his shock comes out in the remark about how altered she is. I think it is fair to say that that was not a deliberate barb, and not something he thought she would hear. We and she only hear a third hand version of it anyway.
At the evening party, he mentions the year '06 a few times. Are these deliberate barbs, or an indication perhaps of his hypersensitivity, with her present, to the significance of that date? We do not know - the narrator leaves it open. Anne assumes the date causes him less pain that it does her, but who knows? Maybe it is like being drawn to a painful tooth - he cannot help mentioning it?
Most of the time he is engaged in banter with the rest of the company, showing his sequins, as he is entitled to do. I think the fact that he dwells more on his material successes than on his martial ones shows that there is an element of displaying that he had had the success and won the riches he had said he would - and I do think that the comments about Harville and wives are a bit low. So yes, in some of this he is not behaving very well and is rubbing it in a bit. I do not think he consciously thought 'I will show Anne Elliot what she missed', though. I think it may all be pretty raw for him still and so he talks like this. Not gentlemanly, not kind, not pretty. Behaving badly and painful to Anne. But I am not sure it is deliberate cruelty. This is perhaps the nearest to 'relentless singling her out', and I would not accept it is that.
So what else does he do that evening - well, he moves off pretty quickly to cut short what is obviously an old routine between himself and the Admiral about marriage. One interpretation of that is that he does it because he is sitting right there on the sofa with Anne and he knows how uncomfortable the jesting might make her, so he gets up and moves off. Is that kind or cruel?
Finally, there is that dreadful 'madam'. Yes that is appalling, and I cannot acquit him of that one. He could have taken the opportunity to invite her to join them and to include her in the conversation.
But we see the whole evening through her eyes, and her thoughts. We feel how upset she is by it all. But we do not really know why he does any of the things he does. He does some bad things, but he does some good things too. And who knows - perhaps he was wondering whether to ask her to dance, and was told she had quite given up dancing.
After that evening, however, I cannot find any particular instances that could be regarded as 'relentless singling her out'. It's rather more that he does not single her out - they behave with common civility and politeness, but no more. When he walks into the drawing room at the Cottage and finds himself alone with her, he is as thrown as she is. She does not make conversation, she does not even invite him to sit down, as she does to Charles Hayter a few minutes later.
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