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|A few points
Written by Deborah Y
(10/31/2008 7:26 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Does passion justify bad behavior?, penned by Robbin
1. JA doesn't actually tell us what Anne said, just how he reacted to it. But given the conventions of the time, I think (though the historically learned should correct me here, if need be) that it was not available to her to say "I still want to marry you, I just think we'll have to wait" or "come back and ask me again when you can support me" or even "let's keep in touch." Once they are no longer engaged, she can't write to him, she can't tell him she loves him, she can't expect him to stay committed to her, and she can't promise to stay committed to him. It's "the misery of a parting, a final parting" (ch. 4). If I were on the receiving end of that from someone I loved, I'd feel that my heart had been ripped out. I don't think he is responsible for his own misery here: it's just a miserable situation for them both.
2. I'm not saying that Frederick necessarily assumed that Anne had never loved him -- just that her reasons for breaking it off would perforce (as Rae has pointed out) seem flimsy to him, because he's coming from such a different world. So at best he's thinking that even if she loved him, her love wasn't strong enough to stand up to even the most negligible (in his view) obstacles, and therefore wasn't much worth having. They really don't know each other all that well, remember: "A few months had seen the beginning and the end of their acquaintance." He figures he got her wrong from the beginning.
3. The thing he does that prolongs their mutual misery is to not ask her again in the year '08. That's his terrible mistake, committed (as he admits) out of pride. I wouldn't call that "poor behavior," though, or even a case of emotion trumping intellect -- I'd call it a case of letting your fears get the better of your hopes, out of misguided self-protection. She's responsible for their initial estrangement; he's responsible for its length. Call it even.
4. I still don't think he behaves especially badly in the opening chapters. He's not warm and friendly, that's for sure, but we have no reason to believe that he behaves that way with the intention of causing Anne pain, or that he even realizes he is causing her pain. He does what he does (ignoring Anne, flirting with Louisa) to prove something, not to Anne, but to himself: "I'm SO over her." He doesn't have a clue what Anne feels about him any more -- it's only because JA locks us into her head that we think Anne's feelings should be obvious. But, in fact, no one in their circle seems to pick up on anything between these two. Yes, because she loves him, every tiniest slight is a knife in her heart, but if she weren't in love with him any more -- if, in fact, she'd never loved him all that much to begin with (see #2) -- then she wouldn't particularly care that he was avoiding her. (In fact, as we discussed several weeks ago, he may well think she's avoiding him.) I think only a saint, or a guy who was no longer in love, would behave any differently toward her.
At least, that's what the bylaws of the Wentworth Defense League are going to say.
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