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|Ch.10: The power of gossip
Written by Line
(10/18/2008 9:42 p.m.)
Among her other knowledge and talents, I'm convinced that JA perfectly understood the ins and outs of how gossip works, in a way that many of her modern readers, living in big cities, don't anymore. I mentioned this example during our last GR of "Persuasion", but each time I'm re-impressed by JA's subtlety, so I'll bring it up again.
In ch.10, Louisa tells Captain Wentworth that Charles proposed to Anne before Mary, and that the senior Musgroves are convinced that it was Lady Russell who convinced Anne to turn him down. Now, this fits perfectly with CW's own ideas about Lady Russell, but back in ch.4, the Omniscient Narrator clearly informed us that at the time, LR was all in favour of Anne *accepting* Charles Musgrove. Now, why did JA do things this way? It would have been much simpler just to have the Musgroves jump to the *right* conclusion, and less confusing for the reader.
JA made it clear that the Musgroves thought as they did for their own reasons - perhaps they were a bit intimidated by LR, a literate woman who actually read for pleasure(!) and concluded that she looked down on them out of their own insecurities. The Musgroves' conclusion confirms CW's own prejudices against LR, and if he were the type to talk about this subject (which I really don't think he is), I can just see LR's reputation being cemented for reasons she had absolutely no control over or even knowledge of. And JA threw in this information so subtly, in passing, leaving her readers to draw their own conclusions!
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