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|Mrs. Clay's "Fine Mind" vs. Ann's - Long
Written by Tessa
(10/24/2008 8:43 p.m.)
In the narrow world of Sir Walter and Elizabeth, the titled, good-looking and wealthy are to be admired and flattered. Elizabeth flatters Sir Walter and they both flatter Lady Dalrymple. The fact that Mrs. Clay flatters both of them and joins them in their flattery is, to their way of thinking proof of her good sense. That she expresses consciousness of her inferior place, "Now that she is here I can't think myself wanted" and expresses a disgust for "unequal marriages" to Elizabeth, reinforces their perceptions.
In their view, this shows an excellent understanding and delicate of sensibilities. That she parrots back their attitudes and agrees with them, makes them see her as a worthwhile companion. They can completely understand the motives of someone who only seeks to follow and bask in the splendor of her superiors. After all, that is what they do. They don't see any ulterior motives because hey, what more could she possibly want?
Ann can soften grievances, excuse people to one and other and make large allowances for Sir Walter and Elizabeth, but she never flatters. When tossed an opportunity to complement Sir Walter and Elizabeth on being so missed in the Kellynch neighborhood, she fails to pick it up. Really! What is wrong with that girl? ;-)
Still, to Sir Walter and Elizabeth, Ann does have one value over Mrs. Clay - novelty (could some of Mrs. Clay's flattery be becoming stale, unvarying?). Ann is very good at sitting and listening without appearing to judge. She is a new audience to hear about all their great doings in Bath. They can give her the chance to thrill at the superiority of their style of living. To hear of the fantastic change in the attitude of Mr. Elliot, due, of course to their fabulous attractiveness, and to be blessed with the honor of hearing all the details of his appearance and gentlemanly behavior. To top it off, she'll make the table look better by being a fourth at dinner.
In Sir Walter's eyes, her worth has increased because she is looking so well. Mrs. Clay may be improving in looks due to Sir Walter's advice, but Ann is undeniably prettier. Both reflect well on his prestige.
I noticed when he asked about Mary, he didn't has how she WAS, he asked HOW SHE LOOKED. Instead of sending her the hat and coat to encourage her to go outside and get some exercise as opposed to sitting inside and dwelling on her troubles, he manages to quash that generous impulse on the grounds that it might affect her looks. I wonder just how often that has happened before? Maybe we can begin to see how Mary's grasping outlook on life evolved if she has to fight for any recognition from her family.
But it's too late for Ann to go back into the squirrel cage of Sir Walter and Elizabeth's claustrophobic world. She's been out too long. Her trip to Uppercross and Lyme allowed her to get some oxygen and to get her head on straight. She has seen the view of the Elliot Troubles from the outside and no one else really cares that much about them. She has had stimulating conversations and a sense of real usefulness and value to people she likes and/or respects. She was able to make her peace with Frederick. He might be about to marry someone else, but they are friends again and she has won back his respect.
When she returns to Kellynch, it is to the happy home of the lodge where she is loved and valued. She can see the hall in the hands of good people who are taking better care of it than Sir Walter and Elizabeth.
When she finally makes it to Bath, everything that seemed so dire when anticipated, suddenly isn't so pressing. Her father is no longer digging himself into debt, leaving her family home isn't so bad once she's gotten use to it. Elizabeth is still hanging out with a flatterer that Ann doesn't trust as far as she can throw her, but Mr. Elliot may provide Elizabeth with an escape from the mortification of losing her role as mistress of Kellynch. If worse comes to worst and her father does marry Mrs. Clay, which is by no means certain, Ann has just come from the life that she can expect with Lady Russel and it is one she can live with. Ann has an out and she can even hope for one for Elizabeth.
Ann has breathed the free air. She is so much more relaxed and happy. If the story ended here, it would still be a pretty good one.
I can't help compare her mental freedom and perspective with Mrs. Clay, who has spent four and a half endless months trying to burrow deeper into the suffocating bubble-world of Sir Walter and Elizabeth. Four and a half months of listening to their endless prattle - trying to stay on the ball enough to judge the right moment to throw out those fatuous little comments and complements that they gobble up like lap dogs.
And now here is Ann on the scene, who is no dummy, who's presence may even force her to reel back on some of her more overt flattery. Talk about the long game. Is she any closer to her goal? Will she ever be Lady Elliot? If she is as clever as she is made out to be, she must feel at times like her brain is about to explode.
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