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|generosity of feeling LONG
Written by Stephanie
(10/30/2012 11:09 p.m.)
The characters' selfishness or generosity is often shown through their words (and occasionally through the narrator's description of their attitudes). How often in ch. 31's reveal, does Col. Brandon stop in the middle of an explanation that holds a heavy emotional weight on him, to reassure Elinor, or, through Elinor, Marianne!
My object -- my wish -- my sole wish in desiring it -- I hope, I believe it is -- is to be a means of giving comfort; -- no, I must not say comfort -- not present comfort -- but conviction, lasting conviction to your sister's mind.
He saw her concern, and coming to her, took her hand, pressed it, and kissed it with grateful respect
What I endured in so beholding her -- but I have no right to wound your feelings by attempting to describe it -- I have pained you too much already.
"Your sister, I hope, cannot be offended," said he, "by the resemblance I have fancied between her and my poor disgraced relation. Their fates, their fortunes cannot be the same; and had the natural sweet disposition of the one been guarded by a firmer mind, or an happier marriage, she might have been all that you will live to see the other be.
…guess what I must have felt on seeing your sister as fond of him as ever, and on being assured that she was to marry him; guess what I must have felt for all your sakes.
To suffer you all to be so deceived; to see your sister -- but what could I do?
…however, she may now, and hereafter doubtless will , turn with gratitude towards her own condition,…
Surely this comparison must have its use with her. She will feel her own sufferings to be nothing.
…ending with ...
but had I not seriously and from my heart believed it might be of service, might lessen her regrets, I would not have suffered myself to trouble you with this account of my family afflictions, with a recital which may seem to have been intended to raise myself at the expense of others."
Compare this with Willoughby's expatiation at Cleveland in ch. 44. He seldom speaks of Marianne's feelings, but he repeats multiple times his own sufferings, and how he wants Elinor to pity and like him.
"I mean […] to make you hate me one degree less than you do now. (No mention of atonement, or of easing their sufferings with his side of things.)
Perhaps you will hardly think the better of me, (This will be of no value unless it ends in his appearing better in their eyes.)
But one thing may be said for me […] I did not know the extent of the injury I meditated, because I did not then know what it was to love. (He is justifying breaking with the propriety of the age, which he KNEW, because he had not FELT it, yet. I perhaps should not include this bit, because it has in it the only hint I see that he understands love, when he points out that sacrificing Marianne's feelings was a worse crime than sacrificing his own…)
The event has proved, that I was a cunning fool, providing with great circumspection for a possible opportunity of making myself contemptible and wretched for ever. (Marianne's, and her family's wretchedness is not mentioned.)
…a circumstance occurred -- an unlucky circumstance, to ruin all my resolution, and with it all my comfort. (His comfort is ruined, but he does not acknowledge any other. )
The whole paragraph where Willoughby explains that Eliza Williams held half the guilt for their mutual sins, is a hallmark of justification and sliminess. He knows that he acted wrongly, and seems to stop himself from continuing to cast blame on Eliza, only to begin again, by insinuating that Marianne's suffering (loss of esteem for Willoughby and no future with him) is worse than hers (unwed teenage pregnancy, loss of reputation, future permanent outcast state, etc.), because Marianne is worth more to him.
After furthering his selfishness by insisting that Eliza could have found him (how? and what would it have availed her? He knows about her child NOW, and is doing nothing for them), he uses the same justifying methods in describing the breach with Mrs. Smith. SHE doubted his morality before now (I would like to hear why, would not you?), SHE was vexed he spent so little time with her, SHE had lived too purely, too formally, too much out of the world, to understand his situation…
And then, he states, with no reason given, that marriage to Eliza can not ever be. Why? Because he seduced her, so her weak morality is not good enough for a wife? Because she was poorer than he needed, despite marriage to her reinstating him with Mrs. Smith? Because she was stupider than he likes, even though he implies with every mention that Sophia Grey is unpleasant company, and we are told that Eliza, at least, loves him and wishes to please him? We know that he is not stating it based on what Eliza wants, or needs, at least. Then he speaks of how dreadful it would be TO HIM to see Marianne when taking leave for London.
I could not bear to leave the country in a manner that might lead you, or the rest of the neighbourhood, to suspect any part of what had really passed… (Salvaging how he appears in their sight is his excuse.)
I cannot think of it -- it won't do. Then came your dear mother to torture me farther, with all her kindness and confidence. Thank Heaven! it did torture me. I was miserable. (His torture, his misery, is again his theme.)
my feelings were very, very painful.
…chusing to fancy that she too must have become indifferent to me…But this note made me know myself better. (Not knowing HER better…)
If you can pity me, Miss Dashwood, pity my situation as it was then. (Yes, forget that Marianne was in emotional agony, weak from the tension of her situation with him, and about to have her heart cut out by his breaking with her entirely, and pity WILLOUGHBY.)
[Marianne's face as white as death] 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. Her agony impacts him only as he must put up with the emotions they raise in himself, and he want to imagine that he shares something with the people that actually are with her in her need, rather than being there himself.)
And after all, what did it signify to my character in the opinion of Marianne and her friends, in what language my answer was couched? (Only his character is in question here -- not the effect it will have on Marianne, whose trust in him and affection for him he has already acknowledged.)
Her three notes -- unluckily they were all in my pocket-book, or I should have denied their existence, and hoarded them for ever; (Thereby putting Marianne in a horrible position, unable to blunt any of her own imprudence, dreading what Willoughby might do with those proofs of her past partiality…)
And now do you pity me, Miss Dashwood? or have I said all this to no purpose? Am I -- be it only one degree -- am I less guilty in your opinion than I was before? My intentions were not always wrong. Have I explained away any part of my guilt?" (Again, no with to change, or atone; only a wish to have opinions of himself lightened by words.)
Tell her of my misery and my penitence, tell her that my heart was never inconstant to her, and if you will, that at this moment she is dearer to me than ever. His penitence is in emotions only, not actions, and his constant heart, and Marianne's dearness to him, certainly had no effect on his behavior, nor his choices.)
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 -- (Not that Marianne might have been self-condemnatory, or that she might despair of ever trusting another, or that she might still love him, despite his marriage putting him beyond any hope…only her view of his character is important. He also ends this with a backhand at Col. Brandon, as if Col. Brandon would make things worse (how?) than they really were to blacken Willoughby's character.)
His ending is MUCH more selfish than Col. Brandon's: he wants them to think well of him, but he implies pretty strongly that he is not going to actually CHANGE to accomplish that goal, and then he says
I will not stay to rob myself of all your compassionate good-will, by showing that where I have most injured I can least forgive. (Like Marianne before her reform, he thinks that he can not overcome his antipathy for the man who is better than himself, so he is not going to even try, although his words show that he knows it to be wrong.)
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