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|Steele Sisters (Chapter 42 to 50)
Written by Robbin
(10/26/2006 3:25 a.m.)
Not a soul suspected anything of the matter, not even Nancy, who, poor soul! came crying to me the day after, in a great fright for fear of Mrs. Ferrars, as well as not knowing how to get to Plymouth; for Lucy, it seems, borrowed all her money before she went off to be married, on purpose, we suppose, to make a shew with, and poor Nancy had not seven shillings in the world; -- so I was very glad to give her five guineas to take her down to Exeter, where she thinks of staying three or four weeks with Mrs. Burgess, in hopes, as I tell her, to fall in with the doctor again. And I must say that Lucy's crossness not to take her along with them in the chaise, is worse than all. (Chapter 49)
I agree with Mrs. Jennings! As if her ungrateful betrayal of Edward was not enough to convince us, I think Lucy’s abandonment of Nancy in London and even steeling her money so she is essentially stranded leaves Lucy quite irredeemable IMO—this and the happiness of cutting many relations and old acquaintance on their honeymoon (Chapter 50) only cements her mean and selfish character.
She saw them in an instant in their parsonage-house; saw in Lucy, the active, contriving manager, uniting at once a desire of smart appearance with the utmost frugality, and ashamed to be suspected of half her economical practices; -- pursuing her own interest in every thought, courting the favour of Colonel Brandon, of Mrs. Jennings, and of every wealthy friend. (Chapter 48)
I think Lucy’s reasons for leaving Nancy must be that she has always been embarrassed by her manner and actions. I think pride looms large in Lucy’s character. She has enough pride to try to appear more educated than she is, she was also too proud to write to Edward to find out the status of her engagement when he left town for three days after the engagement was revealed, Mrs. Jennings thinks Lucy took Nancy’s money “to make a shew” with and Elinor suspected that Lucy would be ashamed of living on a small income—which makes transfer of her affections to the brother with a good fortune that much more predictable. Lucy often looked ashamed when correcting Nancy’s little blunders and I am sure she does not look forward to doing so again in the future in her new sphere. Nancy will not fit into Robert’s social circle as it must be overflowing with individuals as foolish and elitist as he is—can they twist their heads around in a bow as well as Robert? I cannot say but Lucy deserves to be surrounded by flocks of these awkward smirking chattering young men who she is willing to sacrifice her sister for. Despite everything turning out to Lucy’s advantage it is also not inconceivable that she also wishes to get some revenge on Nancy for her mistakes.
They settled in town, received very liberal assistance from Mrs. Ferrars, were on the best terms imaginable with the Dashwoods, and setting aside the jealousies and ill-will continually subsisting between Fanny and Lucy, in which their husbands of course took a part, as well as the frequent domestic disagreements between Robert and Lucy themselves, nothing could exceed the harmony in which they all lived together. (Chapter 50)
It is hard to think of any relationship being left between the sisters in other but name but I imagine that Nancy is not too proud to flatter and be useful to her elevated sister if she ever got the chance. The question is will she ever get the chance. I do not think she will. I think there is such a confederacy of minds between Lucy and Ferrars and John and Fanny Dashwood that she will adopt a similar attitude to that of John and Fanny towards his sisters. There is no mention of Nancy in the equation of their settling in town or in the harmony in which they all live together. “All” does not appear to include Nancy. Poor Nancy, in the end, she is completely left out in the cold—hopefully Mrs. Jennings will still act kindly towards her, probably with the approbation of Robert and Lucy—for who else should do it but Mrs. Jennings—who is some sort of cousin to Nancy after all.
The manner in which Miss Steele had spoken of Edward, increased her curiosity; for it struck her, as being rather ill-natured, and suggested the suspicion of that lady's knowing, or fancying herself to know, something to his disadvantage. (Chapter 21)
It was suggested by Kara M that Nancy finds out about Lucy’s engagement by eavesdropping and it would explain why Nancy is in possession of such a powder keg of information since Lucy does not seem foolish enough to confide in Nancy. It could be that Lucy just needed someone to talk with about her secret but eavesdropping just adds a little more stress, a little more deviousness to their already unequal and strained relationship. It also makes sense with Elinor’s observation in Chapter 21 that Nancy is ill natured in seeming to have information not to Edward’s advantage. I think ill natured in this instance might be that Elinor perceives that Nancy likes to make herself appear smarter by hinting that she has knowledge unknown to others—perhaps there is a hint of “Oh, what I could do with this information” kind of attitude about Nancy in these instances. I think this is in line with the sort of thinly veiled hints that Nancy throws out every now and then.
I found several surprising items when looking at the Steele sisters over the group read. One is that Lucy is very prideful and it does have an impact on what she does; second is that Nancy although quite foolish is an active participant in trying to find out Elinor’s feelings for Edward, third is their spying on each other—I think that shows a particularly poor relationship. There is no evidence that this is the kind of spying that is aimed at a third person so they can laugh at them together later but actual spying on each other. Nancy and Lucy seem to be formed by JA to be unable to support each other in any significant way other than as conspirators ingratiating themselves with useful connections. She gives Lucy a tremendous secret and a sister who cannot keep one so trust is most certainly an issue between them. Nancy is mostly good-hearted but very foolish and in need of a protector which Lucy is unwilling to be. Lucy is selfish and ruthless able to shed unusable people (Edward and Nancy) like a snake shedding her old skin. Their relationship in the end is almost poisonous in that Nancy exposes her sister and Lucy abandons hers. (;D)
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