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|The real reason for Willoughby's trip is even creepier
Written by Barbara
(10/12/2009 12:08 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Willoughby v Wickham, penned by Anselm
So, if he thought Marianne would be dead or about to die, why did he come? The death of a character like Marianne, after being horribly used, publically humiliated and cast aside by someone like Willoughby would be what would be expected in the literature at that time.
We have some clues at what Willoughby really intended. Ch. 44 is full of references to Willoughby's vanity, both by himself and in Elinor's thoughts. Willoughby admits more than once that Marianne's behaviour towards him elevated his vanity, and this 'deathbed scene' he hoped to play out was yet another example of his vanity where Marianne is concerned.
Even some of his lines sound 'scripted', like what he planned or imagine he would say. For example "Had they told me," he cried with vehemence, "that Mr. Palmer and all his relations were at the devil, it would not have turned me from the door."
For example, in the novel Clarissa, which Jane Austen certainly read, and which featured a heroine who died after being seduced by the villain Lovelace, this same Lovelace writes, following her death "Let me know, if the d——d mother be yet the subject of the devil’s own vengeance—if the old wretch be dead or alive? Some exemplary mischief I must yet do. My revenge shall sweep away that devil, and all my opposers of the cruel Harlowe family, from the face of the earth."
Here, he tells Elinor he was envisioning this deathbed scene as he travelled to Cleveland:
"I had seen Marianne's sweet face as white as death. That was the last, last look I ever had of her; -- the last manner in which she appeared to me. It was a horrid sight! Yet when I thought of her to-day as really dying, it was a kind of comfort to me to imagine that I knew exactly how she would appear to those who saw her last in this world. She was before me, constantly before me, as I travelled, in the same look and hue."
And this is the part that shows that Willoughby, in his vanity, really thought that Marianne's final thoughts in this world would be of him, that she would literally die with him on her mind:
"What I felt on hearing that your sister was dying -- and dying, too, believing me the greatest villain upon earth, scorning, hating me in her latest moments -- for how could I tell what horrid projects might not have been imputed? -- One person I was sure would represent me as capable of anything. What I felt was dreadful!"
As he travelled, he had this whole scene in his head that Marianne would die or had died, thinking of him in her final thoughts and that he would sweep in and either see her there, all white as he had imagined her, or hear her in those last moments forgiving him, but still with him on her mind.
Finding out at the door that she was probably not going to die ruined his plan, but since he was there he decided to talk to Elinor and shift as much of the blame off himself and onto Mrs. Smith, Eliza, Colonel Brandon, etc. as he could. He also seems to be fishing to find out if maybe Marianne has sworn off other men and never intends to marry or something similar, or maybe would be willing to wait around until his wife dies, which would still serve the purpose of elevating his vanity, but in a different way.
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