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|Looking for Margaret, the 'other' sister
Written by Barbara
(9/6/2009 12:50 p.m.)
We also know that both S&S0 (coming out on DVD later this month!) and S&S1 cut her right out of the adaptation, while S&S2 and S&S3 kept Margaret, but both adaptations made her younger and far more present in the story.
It's hard to find Margaret in this first part of the story and easy to wonder whether she matters much and why she is there.
The first reference to her seems almost an afterthought. One sentence, at the end of Ch. 1, describes her like this:
Margaret, the other sister, was a good-humoured, well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne's romance, without having much of her sense; she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of life.
What else do we learn about Margaret in this first section of the book (up to and including Ch. 8)?
She is only mentioned by name twice--in the quoted passage, and then later in Ch.7, when Margaret and Marianne agree that Colonel Brandon is "an absolute old bachelor". There is no direct speech from her yet in the novel and of course none of the cute 'Captain Margaret' climbing trees, hiding out under tables, and sword-fighting with Edward.
The only other mentions of her are that Henry Dashwood had three daughters, that all three of the girls got 1000 pounds (which, as Fanny points out, brings in 50 pounds a year),and that John includes her in calculations of what amount of money he might give his sisters, before he decides to do nothing.
What other role or purpose does Margaret have so far in the story? One thing that is important is that she makes Marianne the middle child, rather than the youngest of two. I think Marianne, being between the ages of two sisters, will sometimes act older or younger than the almost-17 she is. When she and Margarget determine that Colonel Brandon is 'an absolute old bachelor', that seems like immature behaviour, and Marianne has someone to go along with her in this.
Margaret means that the 500 pounds income must be stretched further. 500 pounds divided among four women is 125 pounds per year each, whereas without Margaret and her 50 pounds interest on 1000 pounds, they would have 450 pounds a year, which is proportionally more divided among only three women.
We can also surmise that when the family moved from Stanhill to Norland, Margaret would have been about two. The narrator tells us that she hasn't as much sense as her two elder sisters. Did they, perhaps, have more of an opportunity for the start of their education and to receive attention from their parents before life began to revolve around their old great-uncle and paying attention to him (for very small return on that investment!)
Finally, when Marianne is offended that the Barton Park family think Colonel Brandon is interested in her romantically, she makes a number of comments about how a 27-year-old woman such as "A woman of seven-and-twenty can never hope to feel or inspire affection again; and if her home be uncomfortable, or her fortune small, I can suppose that she might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse..."
The existance of Margaret, age 13, with a 40-year-old mother would indicate that Mrs. Dashwood was doing more than being a nurse to her husband at age 27! (Also, Mr. Dashwood would have been more than 35 years old at the time Margaret was born) This makes Marianne's comment all the more insulting and insensitive than it would be if there were no Margaret.
What do you think? From what we have seen so far, is Margaret expendable in the novel? Can you see any other role or purpose for her in the story yet?
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