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|Ch 17: Old vs New clash over Mr. Elliot's merits (LONG)
Written by jeffrey
(10/19/2011 5:10 p.m.)
The latter part of Ch 17 was such a study in contrasts between Lady Russell who I consider the major transitional character in Persuasion with one foot firmly planted in the ancient traditions of nobility and perhaps the other foot tentatively dipping into the future. Lady Russell looks at Mr. Elliot as the almost perfect match for her Anne with his claims to nobility, manners, and gentlemanly qualities.
The author has previously depicted Lady Russell as an excellent lady, although somewhat deficient in understanding and reading people. I give Lady Russell all the benefit of the doubt and feel absolutely no resentment or animosity about her. She is the mother-figure to Anne the surrogate daughter LR never had. She operates in the only sphere which she knows and is comfortable with. She doesn't read people like the very perceptive and analytical Anne does. To LR, Mr. Elliot is perfect; To Anne, there is something deficient with him!
Excerpts from Ch 17:
"....Lady Russell was now perfectly decided in her opinion of Mr. Elliot...." (He's the ONLY one worthy of Anne)
Whoa, but Anne..
"...."Mr. Elliot is an exceedingly agreeable man, and in many respects I think highly of him," said Anne; "but we should not suit....." (she intuitively knows something's not quite right with Mr. Elliot)
To which Lady Russell makes a powerful and seductive argument for Anne to become Lady Anne, be the rightful mistress of Kellynch, uphold the traditions of the titled family, yet not a word is spoken in this paragraph about Anne's craving for genuine love, affection, and partnership in the marriage! Poor Lady Russell is still in the past, considering marriage as more of an arrangement for stature instead of the primacy of love.
What telling information about Anne's emotions and sensibilities here!
"....The charm of Kellynch and of "Lady Elliot" all faded away. She never could accept him. And it was not only that her feelings were still adverse to any man save one; her judgment, on a serious consideration of the possibilities of such a case, was against Mr. Elliot...." (Anne has experienced true love at its deepest and cannot do without if and when she marries!)
The narrator then reveals what Anne considers Mr Elliot's deficiencies, that she is aware of at the time:
".... Mr. Elliot was rational, discreet, polished, but he was not open. There was never any burst of feeling, any warmth of indignation or delight, at the evil or good of others. This, to Anne, was a decided imperfection. Her early impressions were incurable. She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others. Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped...." (Anne is convinced right now, but wait, will there be more revealed about Mr. Elliot?)
Meanwhile, Lady Elliott, operating in the only realm she knows sees nothing against Mr. Elliot!
".....Lady Russell saw either less or more than her young friend, for she saw nothing to excite distrust. She could not imagine a man more exactly what he ought to be than Mr. Elliot; nor did she ever enjoy a sweeter feeling than the hope of seeing him receive the hand of her beloved Anne in Kellynch church, in the course of the following autumn.
So, what's my point? I cut Lady Russell all the slack and give her the benefit of the doubt. In spite of her shortcomings, she is the ONLY one who truly loves Anne as she deserves and respects/appreciates her remarkable qualities. I do NOT hold Lady Russell in contempt or blame her otherwise, even for breaking up the first engagement between Anne and Capt Wentworth. I love Lady Russell for the unconditional love that she lavishes on Anne that nobody else does, even in her immediate family! Paraphrasing a Biblical maxim: "Forgive her because she knows not what she does." Remember, Lady Russell operates mostly on historical inertia, unlike Anne, who operates on an open-minded balance between her heart and her intellect, having a vision of her ideals, her joy with a new class of friends, and watching the Croft's wonderful marriage.
The incurable romantic LOVES Lady Russell. Will she have the courage to take a step into Anne's future? I hope so....
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