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Written by Stephanie
(10/31/2012 12:16 p.m.)
Marianne's story is over now, and we can form a sort of a 'picturesque' (ha!) hindsight of it all.
We are shown in great detail Marianne's start as a feeling, intelligent young lady, who is capable of great growth, but seemingly has not reason to attempt any such lesson. She is brought further into selfish emotionalism, as opposed to her former, somewhat generous views, by someone who accents her worst traits by his example and encouragement. Remember in the beginning, when she makes allowances for Col. Brandon? They are condescending, but they still show that she is willing to see some good in those who are not up to her state of frenzied 'taste.' Then, when she is upset on his behalf at Mrs. Jennings' wit? None of her outrage is directed at an insult to herself: she is defensive of a man she sees as elderly being unjustly targeted by a supposed friend.
When Willoughby comes along, though, he accents what Col. Brandon's lacks, and Marianne no longer has any sympathy for him. She is as cutting as she knows how to be (although Willoughby's insults are all dog-in-the-manger-ish, about Col. Brandon's supposed wealth, while Marianne's dwell on his lack of spirit, feeling and taste). Even her beloved sister speaking for Brandon does not make Marianne reconsider. Her humanity, where one sympathizes with anyone unfortunate, or injured, is stifled and ignored, because Willoughby, who can only think of others as they relate to himself, has no empathy for the Colonel.
Willoughby also denigrates good-hearted people like Mrs. Jennings and Sir John -- while taking their hospitality. This so imbues Marianne's views of them, that even her everlasting gratitude to Mrs. Jennings for taking her to London disappears the day they arrive and she can't resist a snide aside about her hostess in the first note she sends Willoughby.
Then Willoughby casts Marianne off; not honourably, forthrightly, to her face, but with skulking avoidance. Marianne still keeps to her disdain (taught by her abandoner) until each prejudice is proven wrong. Marianne learns the truth of Col. Brandon's past, and Willoughby's unprincipled tastes; Col. Brandon gets her good will and pardon. When Marianne hears finally of Elinor's injuries, she has a momentary insight into her own ungenerous attitudes, but then she backslides and the overly emotional cloud settles on her again.
Mrs. Jennings only receives her due when Marianne is faced with an illness that almost leads to her grave, and Mrs. Jennings shows more plainly the worth and heart that Elinor had been trying to convince Marianne of for weeks.
Eventually, as we know, Marianne manages to leaven her deep emotions with the compassion for others that she always had the capacity for, but which got swept away in the wild roller coaster ride that she and Willoughby set up for her. Had the novel's-first-chapters Marianne married Col. Brandon (do not ask me how that could come about -- I am not Author Austen!) without the revelation of the plot as we know it, she would have made an horrible wife to him. He would have catered to her, she would have felt herself entitled to continue in her over-the-top emotional displays…she would have been complacent, vain, useless.
Elinor, near the end, cannot agree with Mrs. Dashwood that if Willoughby had been honourable he could never have made Marianne as happy as Col. Brandon can. I disagree: Elinor should know the difference between the sweet, fulfilling satisfaction (that she just experienced, as Marianne's fever broke), and the exhausting, but shallow, pleasure that Willoughby offered. Elinor herself, when Edward comes to her, finally free, feels the intensity that the situation brings, but she is not comfortable until the tranquility of his fulfilling her instant hopes that he intended to propose to her.
When Marianne learned to live for others, she is in a way to be FAR happier than when she is only moving from one self-absorbed, indulgent happening to another. I am sincerely happy for her and Col. Brandon.
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