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|John and Fanny and Goneril and Regan
Written by Barbara
(9/16/2006 11:57 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, True, and I would add that..., penned by Julianne E.
In his book Jane Austen's Novels: The Art of Clarity, Roger Gard has a chapter entitled "Implications of the Second Chapter of Sense and Sensibility".
The scene where Fanny talks John from giving his sisters £1000 each down to nothing is one of only two departures in the novel from the action being seen through Elinor and filtered through her consciousness.
Gard writes that this "piece of bravura comedy" is "hardly surpassed anywhere in literature for its ruthlessness" and that readers remember the specific scene in Ch. 2 long after "they have forgotten all the limpid and delicate pros and cons about prudence and feeling, reason and romanticism." He says that people connect it to the title and theme of the novel as "a delicious preliminary negative definition of what, if overdone, being sensible may become."
But, he says the scene also has a "comical/awful logic" and "lethal rationality" nearly identical to this scene from Act II, scene iv of King Lear:
Gard goes on to say:
The real charm of this slightly insane logic (of John and Fanny's) is that there is nothing really wicked about it. It resembles that of Lear's daughters in having its own internal consistency and reductive drive.
John's "lukewarm goodwill" is realistic and a kind of "respectable baseness".
The importance of this, Gard goes on to say, is that "the vein he initiates in chapter two is of mean, slightly timourous, pompous, self-deceiving self-serving--the depiction of which lies near the heart of the book."
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