|A man of feeling
Written by Barbara
(9/30/2009 3:05 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, If only Marianne could have looked past the superficial..., penned by Divya
I agree that Marianne has so far been blind to the fact that it is Colonel Brandon, and not Willoughby, who has sensibilities that are much more like her own. Colonel Brandon is a man of feeling. Willoughby is not.
Marianne does not think that feelings should be concealed, and yet we can see Willoughby deliberately throwing a mask over his feelings:
During all this time he was evidently struggling for composure. Elinor watched his countenance and saw its expression becoming more tranquil. After a moment's pause, he spoke with calmness.
"I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley Street last Tuesday, and very much regretted that I was not fortunate enough to find yourselves and Mrs. Jennings at home. My card was not lost, I hope."
"But have you not received my notes?" cried Marianne in the wildest anxiety. "Here is some mistake, I am sure -- some dreadful mistake. What can be the meaning of it? Tell me, Willoughby -- for heaven's sake, tell me, what is the matter?"
He made no reply; his complexion changed and all his embarrassment returned; but as if, on catching the eye of the young lady with whom he had been previously talking, he felt the necessity of instant exertion, he recovered himself again, and after saying, "Yes, I had the pleasure of receiving the information of your arrival in town, which you were so good as to send me," turned hastily away with a slight bow and joined his friend.
I found that rather chilling how Elinor saw him willing himself to be tranquil and show composure. He's clearly embarrassed and upset at the scene, but it's not necessarily due to any feelings he has for Marianne. In fact, considering how he behaved when he left her at Barton in November ("It is folly to linger in this manner. I will not torment myself any longer by remaining among friends whose society it is impossible for me now to enjoy."
), he's more worried about his own feelings than hers.
Colonel Brandon believes that Willoughby is devoid of feelings:
Little did Mr. Willoughby imagine, I suppose, when his looks censured me for incivility in breaking up the party, that I was called away to the relief of one, whom he had made poor and miserable; but had he known it, what would it have availed? Would he have been less gay or less happy in the smiles of your sister? No, he had already done that, which no man who can feel for another would do.
Colonel Brandon, on the other hand, cannot hide his feelings very well at all. His gravity, gloominess and low spirits are lingering from having lost his first love years ago, and deepened by having his ward go missing and more still by the circumstances in which he found her. He can't pretend happiness and gaiety any more than Marianne can.
This speech, which Elinor takes as a direct avowal of his love for Marianne, shows that the colonel has trouble hiding his feelings:
But still I might not have believed it, for where the mind is perhaps rather unwilling to be convinced, it will always find something to support its doubts, if I had not, when the servant let me in to-day, accidentally seen a letter in his hand, directed to Mr. Willoughby in your sister's writing. I came to inquire, but I was convinced before I could ask the question. Is everything finally settled? Is it impossible to -- ? But I have no right, and I could have no chance of succeeding. Excuse me, Miss Dashwood. I believe I have been wrong in saying so much, but I hardly know what to do, and on your prudence I have the strongest dependence. Tell me that it is all absolutely resolved on, that any attempt -- that in short concealment, if concealment be possible, is all that remains."
Also, he calls himself a 'very awkward narrator' but he is quite overcome by emotion more than once during his 'confession' to Elinor in Ch. 31. His disjointed speech at times also shows the depth of the feelings that he has.