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|Dead leaves & dirty bottoms.
Written by nan duval
(9/17/2009 9:16 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, The use of seasons to set the tone, penned by JoAnn
In Chapter 16, when Edward comes to Barton, having been at Norland "about a month ago," & Marianne asks "And how does dear, dear Norland look?" to which Elinor replies that it "probably looks much as it usually does at this time of year. the woods and walks thickly covered with dead leaves." Marianne, as we know goes off on one of her transports to an out of body experience & Elinor then responds "It is not every one...who has your passion for dead leaves." I felt here a similar sense to the scene in Persuasion when they are all out for the long walk.
A few lines later Marianne challenges Edward to avoid an out of body experience himself while contemplating the beauty of Barton valley. Not only does he manage to remain in his skin, he finds the most salient feature the bottoms which "must be dirty in winter."
Some readers have attributed these two perspectives of Edward & Elinor to their sense (as in common sense) as opposed to Marianne's sensibility. I think there are other layers. First I think they might both be deliberately trying to exasperate Marianne's exaggerated appreciation of the grand scenery in a gentle teasing way. But more deeply I think Elinor's choice of dead leaves & all they signal for the end of the hopes & life of summer is a metaphor for her hopes as they stand at this point in the story. Edward's focus on the dirty lanes is not simply practical, it is the murmur of a person too oppressed to attend to the beauties of the hills & whose vision stays limited to the low lands.
The dirty bottoms appeared earlier in this week's chapters as well. In Chapter 9: "The whole country about them abounded in beautiful walks. The high downs which invited them from almost every window of the cottage to seek the exquisite enjoyment of air on their summits were an happy alternative when the dirt of the valleys beneath shut up their superior beauties; and toward one of these hills did Marianne and Margaret one memorable morning direct their steps,..."
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