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|Willoughby's Guilt - What was JA's intention?
Written by Rachel G
(10/16/2009 1:14 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Once Elinor gains some perspective..., penned by Barbara
In response, Elinor "related simply and honestly the chief points on which Willoughby grounded his apology; did justice to his repentance, and softened only his protestations of present regard."
In Ch.47, Elinor tells her Mother:
Reflection had given calmness to [Elinor's], and sobered her own opinion of Willoughby's deserts; she wished, therefore, to declare only the simple truth, and lay open such facts as were really due to his character,
"Mrs. Dashwood did not hear unmoved the vindication of her former favourite. She rejoiced in his being cleared from some part of his imputed guilt; she was sorry for him; she wished him happy. .....
Later in the same chapter Elinor speaks of Willoughby's selfishness, and says:
"At present, ...he regrets what he has done. And why does he regret it? Because he finds it has not answered towards himself. It has not made him happy.
"One observation may, I think, be fairly drawn from the whole of the story -- that all Willoughby's difficulties have arisen from the first offence against virtue, in his behaviour to Eliza Williams. That crime has been the origin of every lesser one, and of all his present discontents."
I think the line's I've quoted sum up the conclusions JA intended her readers to draw about Willoughby. We are meant to accept that Willoughby came to have real affection for Marianne, and that he genuinely wished to marry her rather than treat her as he did Eliza. His overarching selfishness and the guilt of his crime against Eliza remain.
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