Quick Index Board Index Home FAQ Site Map
|Willoughby v Wickham
Written by Anselm
(10/11/2009 9:38 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Grand Gesture, penned by Robbin
Who's worse? I submit that the most unfavourable possible reading of Willoughby's conduct throughout the novel must still leave a modicum of room for the genuineness of his feelings for Marianne. There can surely be no convincing justification for his 12-hour ride other than a desperation to explain his actions. His explanation, granted, is fuller of holes than a Swiss cheese, as has been pointed out by several recent posters.
True, he might have dropped in at Cleveland on his way to his business at Combe Magna, rather than making the dedicated, impromptu ride he represented his journey as being. His attitude to Col. Brandon is deeply offensive. All the fault has been Willoughby's, and the Colonel has only had the offense of it. Willoughby's explanation that "where I have most injured I can least forgive" is at the very best utterly inadequate, and at worst quite vicious. His attitude towards his wife certainly leaves something to be desired - we should remember that we only have his word for it that "She knew I had no regard for her when we married."
Nevertheless, that he made the attempt at all surely says something for him. The only possible way in which a completely adverse construction could be put on his ride is Robbin's suggestion that he expected to find two unprotected women at Cleveland.
But this doesn't ring true to me. A 12-hour ride across England to get to two women, one of whom is (to the best of his knowledge) dying, and the other of whom has no feelings for him whatsoever - what would be the point? What's he aiming to do - seduce Elinor? Rape Marianne on her deathbed? If he's after having his wicked way with someone, he wouldn't need to go to anything like the amount of trouble he did, certainly not to undertake a long, arduous ride to reach a house containing servants who could interfere or at least be witnesses of his actions. He's in London - there are thousands of potential victims practically at arm's length, as he's already found with Eliza in Bath.
No, in the case of Willougby v Wickham, where the former is suing the latter for slander, my judgment would be for the plaintiff. Wickham is the true totally unregenerate scoundrel, with not a good word to be said for him. Willoughby's depravity is, to a small degree, mitigated by genuineness, however inadequate that may be.
Groupread is maintained by Myretta with WebBBS 3.21.