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|How does Willoughby get away with it? (long)
Written by Delories
(10/24/2006 6:16 a.m.)
My focus this GR has been just that: How does Willoughby get away with it? How is it that this young man gets away with deceptively charming everyone, and even charming Elinor (of all people) into forgiving him against her reason -- this young man, who is arguably the most evil of all JA villains. In terms of the impact of his actions, at any rate: ruins the life of Eliza II, comes perilously close to doing the same for Marianne, gets into a duel with our beloved Col. B which could've ended fatally if they hadn't been so careful, marries a woman exclusively for her money and doesn't seem to care who knows it, deceives everyone, including himself...
When we first meet him, the ON presents him as the ultimate Romantic hero: striding out of the storm to lift the injured Marianne into his strong arms and bear her home to safety. He obviously oozes sex appeal and good breeding, sending Mrs Dashwood, as well as Marianne, into a flurry of twitterpation when he shows up the next day all decked out and charming as ever...
Then we get Sir John's version. As pointed out in a thread below, Sir J gives us information on his connections, level of wealth, and expectations of future wealth, but—as Marianne is irritated to note—he tells them nothing about what W is _like_. One Pemberleyan set forth the theory that perhaps Sir J was reluctant to “talk up” W, perhaps out of respect for his friend Col. B. In any case, the info makes him even more appealing to Mrs Dashwood, and the stage is set for W’s seduction of Marianne, which is (mercifully) cut off by his being suddenly called away (because I, for one, believe that he would’ve done the same thing to Marianne as he did to Eliza II, given the chance).
But before he disappears from the scene for awhile (reappearing as betrothed to Miss Grey in that agonizing scene culminating in “Good God, Willoughby, will you not shake hands with me!”), what we see of him is not pretty. The ugly scene in which he says all manner of gratuitously nasty things about Col. B, and eggs on Marianne to do the same, is especially icky in retrospect, when we know that he has, at that time, ALREADY ruined the Colonel’s ward, Eliza II. Just think about that for a moment. The man is a sociopath.
Not to make this too long, I’ll end here, for the moment. Just wanted to get the ball rolling on this theme >;-]
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