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|Anne's faults & failings. (long)
Written by Rachel G
(10/29/2011 5:34 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Anne's fault? fastidiousness?, penned by Nikki N
I partly agree with Nikki N about Anne's intellectual snobbery, because I'm not entirely uncomfortable with elitist viewpoints generally. Is a taste for Bach partitas 'superior' to a taste for the Blues? - I'm not convinced of it.
Having said that, if a person had a thorough education in subjects such as music and poetry, and who's formative influences placed a high value on developing a discriminating taste in these fields, it would be very natural for them to feel superior in that respect to people who never read a book and had cloth ears. It would certainly be lonely to be surrounded by such people and to have no one who shared your interests.
I have been wondering about Anne's flaws and failings all through this GR. It has been suggested that Anne might be saved from being a 'picture of perfection' by her capacity for thinking catty thoughts. The example given was in ch.15 when Anne hopes that Mr Elliott is not too perceptive about Elizabeth's character before he marries her. There's another one at the end of ch.12 on the way back from Lyme, when she is wondering if Frederick might now reconsider the wisdom of his opinion about firmness of character. I really cannot consider this 'cattiness' a fault; in fact I like her much better for it. These touches of rather Elinor Dashwood-like acerbity are like a dash of pungent flavour enlivening a simple dish.
I have several issues with Anne's behaviour:
I think she need not have deferred so completely to Lady Russell's opposition to the engagement in 1806. I know that duty to parents (LR is a substitute parent here) was very important in that society, but Anne did not have to be so yielding. Elizabeth Bennet defied her mother's order to marry Mr Collins, and she knew her father would be made unhappy by her engagement to Darcy but she went ahead anyway. Her failure to defer to her parents attracts no criticism. IMO Anne had plenty of scope for finding a compromise, but if she had done so we would not have had this novel, so I forgive her.
Anne's failure to make any effort at all to find someone else to love is exasperating to me. When Frederick failed to return after a few years when he had made some money, it would have been rational to conclude that he really wasn't that into her any more. IMO Anne should have done what she could to help herself move on, then cut her losses, disregarded her dislike of Bath and gone looking for someone else to love. It may seem very romantic to cling to the memory of a lost love when hope is gone, but the romantic ideal of only loving once seems nonsensical to me. Realistically, Anne clinging to Kellynch risked condemning herself to a life of loneliness and regret. I would think differently if her life at Kellynch had been happy and fulfilled, but it was not. Life is not a rehearsal, and I cannot think it right to waste the time we are given.
In a similar vein, I don't approve of Anne's obsessive following of Frederick's career during the years he was away. I don't suppose Sir Walter or Elizabeth would have thought the Navy List a publication worth buying, so I assume Anne was buying it for herself. What a great way of making sure she never got over Frederick!
Finally, when Frederick arrived at Kellynch and Uppercross I think Anne's reluctance to meet him shows a lack of gumption. Instead of avoiding him and hiding away at Uppercross Cottage, the self-respecting thing to do would have been to make the best of her appearance, and hope to see him as soon as possible rather than winding herself up into such a state that she couldn't look at him or say a word. When they did meet, if she had had a bit of gumption she would have ignored the butterflies inside her, taken a deep breath, looked him straight in the eye, and said something like "I'm very glad to see you again" or "It's been a long time". She might even have managed a smile.
Are these really faults and failings, or do they just reflect ways in which Anne and I are different? Despite them I find myself loving Anne very much. Austen makes me identify with Anne and feel her emotions through the course of the narrative. That JA can cause me to care so much and think so well about a character who is so unlike me is, I think, a triumph of her art.
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