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|Not beating you... :-)
Written by Rae
(10/31/2008 5:49 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, He might have..., penned by Moni
and I do feel for Anne. But I also think that it is perhaps easy to underestimate Wentworth's pain. To me the very idea that he could have possibly approached either Sir Walter or Lady Russell is incredible, and this is why. There was an earlier post about how Wentworth and Lady Russell represent two incompatible worlds. Anne and Wentworth also come from different worlds. I think this is absolutely key.
Wentworth is the most 'modern' of JA's men. By that I mean that he is an individual who has no hinterland of wealth, rank, land, formality or family. The Royal Navy at this time represented the idea of a meritocratic society. Now of course that was in reality very limited. As we have discussed before connections and patronage were still very important, and if anything became more significant in the last decade of the Wars which is when Wentworth is making his career. But it still had that symbolic value and, in practice, was more meritocratic than other parts of Georgian society (as we know from Sir Walter's comments in Chapter 3). And he does succeed, on merit, and in a role where that was realistic, historically. The role he succeeds in, frigate captain, is one in which an individual has to be able to act autonomously, make decisions without reference to others. It suits, and probably hardens, those traits in his character.
I know he is being humorous when he says in Chapter 23: I have been used to the gratification of believing myself to earn every blessing that I enjoyed. I have valued myself on honourable toils and just rewards. But there is a huge truth lurking there.
Given that he has 'made' himself in this way - created the individual that is Frederick Wentworth - we have to take him on those terms. When Anne first accepted his proposal, she did this. She believed in him and she, as an individual, accepted him. What he was not prepared for was that she did have that hinterland - her family, her 'duty' to listen to her godmother etc.
When she listens to all of that and goes back on the word she gave him - to his mind gave him freely, as an individual - he can only understand this in his terms. To him it is weakness, something he did not expect to find in her, and is a rejection of everything he stands for. I really do think that - he did not see it as a setback in some kind of formal game and that there might be other routes he could use to gain her. She, Anne, has rejected him, Frederick, and that is is that as far as he can understand. Even in Chapter 23 when he says he thought about writing in 1808 it is to her, not to her family.
And even if he had thought of writing to her father, what would he say? Sir Walter did not withhold consent, he just said he would do 'nothing for his daughter'. What is Wentworth going to ask him for, different to that? To intercede with his daughter? Does he now want her persuaded to marry him, just as she was persuaded to reject him?
And what would he say to Lady Russell: 'I know you thought I was a worthless fellow two years ago, but I now have X thousand pounds and promotion'? Wouldn't that be to accept the valuation Lady Russell held of him previously? None of these things would have been possible to Frederick Wentworth.
Of course he is wrong in his assessment of Anne's options and the reasons for her behaviour. He is a young man and he has a lot to learn. But I think we have to try and understand him in the same way we try to understand Anne. The depth of his anger, with her personally, reflects the depth of the pain caused by her rejection. So does the depth of his pride, which holds him back in 1808.
I think that Persuasion is so poignant because neither Anne or Wentworth is anything but true to their character and nature, and they are both 'good' people, but they cause each other so much pain. But by the end, he has softened enough to see what damage his approach has done, and she has freed herself of the encumbrances that are so stifling in her life.
And to do Lady Russell credit, she also learns that she has been wrong and is willing to start again.
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