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|Introducing Fanny & the novel's title theme.
Written by Rachel G
(9/5/2009 9:20 a.m.)
Fanny is introduced calmly enough as “narrow-minded and selfish. We then see “.. with how little attention to the comfort of other people she could act when occasion required it” as she turns up at Norland immediately after the funeral without even telling Mrs Dashwood she is coming.
Mrs Dashwood's response to Fanny's crassly insensitive behaviour is described in very vigorous terms - “immoveable disgust” ...”so earnestly did she despise her daughter-in-law” ...”would have quitted the house forever”. Mrs D's response may be understandable, but is she over-reacting? She is is evidently given to extremes of emotion.
In the following paragraphs Elinor's coolness of judgement, strength of understanding, and forbearance are described approvingly, and contrasted with Mrs D and Marianne's “excess of sensibility” and the way they feed their grief and seek to increase their wretchedness. I find myself agreeing, and respecting Elinor, who is grieving just as much, for her self-command in difficult circumstances.
Then in Ch.2 we are treated to an extended insight into the ugly workings of Fanny Dashwood's mind. After this, the words “disgust .. despise.. contempt” scarcely seem adequate as an appropriate response to the sheer awfulness of the woman.
I admire the seamless way JA does all this, and hooks us into the question of “sense” versus “sensibility” by engaging our emotional response to the vileness of Fanny Dashwood. “Sense” makes sense, but here “sensibility” makes perfect sense too.
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