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|The decline of a 'fallen woman'
Written by Barbara
(10/12/2006 2:09 a.m.)
In a chapter in Jane Austen: Women, Politics and the Novel, Claudia L. Johnson makes a similar point in "Sense and Sensibility: Opinions Too Common and Too Dangerous". (This essay is reprinted in part in the Norton Critical Edition). Johnson says the tale of the second Eliza is redundant.
Both these critics argue, however, that the point of the earlier Eliza and her romantic involvement with Colonel Brandon and her forced marriage to his brother is to make the point of what was expected to happen to 'fallen' women in those times. A woman who had been imprudent in affairs of the heart or who had lost her innocence and virtue was expected to fall into a decline. The earlier Eliza did. The title heroine of Richardson's Clarissa did, and there are numerous other literary examples from that time.
Already we see hints of this happening to Marianne. In Ch. 29 she was not eating, not sleeping, ill, forlorn, despariing, and deathly pale. Elinor admonishes her " "Exert yourself, dear Marianne, if you would not kill yourself and all who love you. "
This is Brandon's fear too. He tells Elinor "Their [Eliza I and Marianne's] fates, their fortunes cannot be the same; and had the natural sweet disposition of the one been guarded by a firmer mind, or an happier marriage, she might have been all that you will live to see the other be."
I'm not sure if he really believes that at this point, or just wants that to be true.
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