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|Dashwood Sisters (Chapter 42 to 50) Long
Written by Robbin
(10/26/2006 9:56 a.m.)
But when the second moment had passed -- when she found every doubt, every solicitude removed -- compared her situation with what so lately it had been -- saw him honourably released from his former engagement, saw him instantly profiting by the release, to address herself and declare an affection as tender, as constant as she had ever supposed it to be -- she was oppressed, she was overcome by her own felicity; and happily disposed as is the human mind to be easily familiarized with any change for the better, it required several hours to give sedateness to her spirits, or any degree of tranquillity to her heart. (Chapter 49)
In Elinor and Marianne’s relationship, three items of interest caught my eye in this week’s chapters. One was Marianne’s illness—it tests Elinor’s strength and the second is that Marianne learns to govern her sensibilities more so that hopefully they will not completely incapacitate her in the future—Marianne finishes her transformation from insensitive incapacitating sensibilities to mostly sensitive sensible behavior. Elinor finally looses her emotional control over the revelation that Edward is not married showing her uncontrolled emotional side for a change, it makes her more human to my eyes. After being strong for so long I am not surprised at her breakdown at this moment for it must be overwhelming to have your future secured so pleasantly at nearly a moment’s notice but also that your impossible dream has come true. I think Elinor does deserve her happiness.
In such moments of precious, of invaluable misery, she rejoiced in tears of agony to be at Cleveland; and as she returned by a different circuit to the house, feeling all the happy privilege of country liberty, of wandering from place to place in free and luxurious solitude, she resolved to spend almost every hour of every day while she remained with the Palmers, in the indulgence of such solitary rambles. (Chapter 42)
Marianne’s sensibilities live again at Cleveland and later at Barton to a less extreme outcome but her invaluable misery at Cleveland leads to her illness which tests Elinor’s strength as well as hers. I think Elinor’s devotion to Marianne is wonderful but she, not unjustifiably, displays some of the behaviors which weakened Marianne’s health—not sleeping and eating although still maintaining emotional control on the outside while inside she is filled with cruel anxiety, hopelessness and even hope itself at some points becomes a burden she is afraid to carry. Just when the crisis is over Willoughby shows up to redeem himself and although I have wondered at how Elinor can be so forgiving towards him I believe she listens to him not for his sake but for Marianne’s. Elinor, IMO, takes in his story in the hopes she will be able to inform her sister that Willoughby is not as bad as they thought. All along Elinor has believed that what hurt Marianne the most was that she was fooled in his character, his merit.
Marianne could speak her happiness only by tears. Comparisons would occur, regrets would arise; and her joy, though sincere as her love for her sister, was of a kind to give her neither spirits nor language. (Chapter 49)
Marianne finally comes around to Elinor’s way of thinking—at least in how to treat people—she comes to appreciate her neighbors and the Dear Colonel. She realizes that her behavior of enhancing her grief only makes it that much more unbearable and also forces it on others while grief kept in check, such as Elinor’s, although unexpressed can be just as devastating. I am glad to say that Marianne is still enthusiastic and good hearted and opinionated but she has also learned tolerance. Elinor does explain to Marianne about Willoughby’s confession and even accepts Elinor’s judgment that he is selfish. I find Elinor's happiness in Marianne’s recovery and Marianne’s happiness for Elinor when Edward is freed to be vastly satisfying. I think at the end of the novel they actually have a closer relationship than they had at the beginning.
…and among the merits and the happiness of Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or producing coolness between their husbands. (Chapter 50)
Jan asked by a previous post if I found anything surprising about sister relationships in S&S—I am more than happy to oblige—thoughts on other sister surprises appear on other posts, in this one I will keep to the Dashwoods. First I have to say that despite reading S&S several times in the past few years I have been heavily influenced by S&S2 because it was my first exposure to JA in any form. Specifically in S&S2 I was drawn by the relationship of Elinor and Marianne so some of my surprises might have been a direct result of bias for that adaptation.
One of the things I found surprising was that Elinor so easily reconciled that the lock of hair in Edward’s ring was hers despite never giving him any. Her reasoning is so much like Marianne’s enthusiasm and leaps of faith that it is almost as if they discussed it until I considered that Elinor in her strong quite way had just as much faith in Edward’s constancy as Marianne comes to have in Willoughby’s in spite of his sudden disappearance from their lives. This leads me to another surprise and that is Elinor and Marianne are not so different at heart, basically they are both intelligent, accomplished, warm feeling and affectionate creatures; their obvious differences come about from their approach to life—one to all the unreasonableness and insensitivity of unrepressed sensibilities and the other all the sensitive and practicality of guarded emotions. From these misunderstandings arise but never inconstancy of affection IMO—in that I was not surprised. I was also surprised that Willoughby’s hold over Marianne draws the sisters apart as well as encouraging Marianne to be wild and that Elinor’s guarded sentiments for Edward would also drive a wedge between their understandings. I think the biggest surprise, however, was that their relationship as sisters is comprised by Elinor’s increasing responsibility to look after Marianne’s behavior in a more parental manner as Mrs. Dashwood is hardly less emotional than Marianne. The conservations on Marianne’s visit to Allenham and the acceptance of Queen Mab seem particularly the purview of Mrs. Dashwood to me. I think the most satisfying surprise was the number of times each pull themselves out of their grief to cheer for their sister’s good fortune—they are on a virtual rollercoaster of emotions from the death of their farther till Edward’s reveal that he is not married—sometimes I think all that keeps Elinor from becoming ill is her ability to care for herself despite her misery because these kind of emotional upheavals are difficult bear and exhausting even without Marianne’s over-the-top sensibilities. (;D)
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