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|GR Exerting oneself
Written by Barbara
(8/31/2003 10:41 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, GR: Marianne vs. Elinor, penned by Line
] "Elinor grieves over the "impropriety" and "imprudence" that have led to [Marianne's] suffering, and urges her sister to "exert herself". She is *desperate* [my emphasis] for Marianne to regain control, for she cannot bear the sight of such abandoning of the self to unrestrained grief. (snip)Elinor veers more to the "pull-yourself-together" school of thinking (snip)Powerful, undisguised emotion is selfish
I had flagged the 'Exert yourself' comment by Elinor in Ch. 29, thinking to start a thread about it, but perhaps it will fit as well here.
Elinor does urge Marianne to exert herself, but in this case it is not so much for the sake of propriety and social appearances. Instead it is urged for their mother's sake, with the idea of sparing her the grief she would surely suffer to see Marianne like this.
The reply is a typical Marianne-ism: "How easy for those who have no sorrow of their own to talk of exertion!" And a little farther on in the chapter, more of the same: "...misery such as mine has no pride. I care not who knows that I am wretched. The triumph of seeing me so may be open to all the world. Elinor, Elinor, they who suffer little may be proud and independent as they like -- may resist insult, or return mortification -- but I cannot. I must feel -- I must be wretched."
Admittedly, this made me feel a bit less sorry for Marianne than her 'desperate calmness' had done, and it is a particularly insensitive thing to say to Elinor, of all people. Elinor certainly knows whereof she speaks.
One of the first things we learned about Marianne in the novel, even before we knew her name, was that the knowledge of how to govern strong feelings was something she 'had resolved never to be taught'. And Marianne has been so focused on herself and her own woes, that she has not seen others around her doing exactly what it is she declares to be impossible.
We have already witnessed Elinor, Edward, Colonel Brandon and even Willoughby 'exerting' themselves to master their feelings and not do exactly what Marianne is doing right now.
Way back in Ch. 1, we saw Elinor, dealing with her father's death: "Elinor, too, was deeply afflicted; but still she could struggle, she could exert herself."
Then there was this particularly striking part of Ch. 22, when she learned about Edward and Lucy: "...for a few moments, she was almost overcome -- her heart sunk within her, and she could hardly stand; but exertion was indispensably necessary, and she struggled so resolutely against the oppression of her feelings, that her success was speedy, and for the time complete."
Even Willoughby manages it, although he is very much playing the game here. A description of Willoughby at the ill-fated party: "During all this time he was evidently struggling for composure. Elinor watched his countenance and saw its expression becoming more tranquil. After a moment's pause, he spoke with calmness."
Colonel Brandon, especially, is struggling greatly with his feelings for Marianne and what he should or should not say. Although I believe his effort at 'exertion' (to govern his feelings) is at least as great as Elinor's, he is still overpowered at times and admonishes himself for saying too much to Elinor.
Perhaps Marianne's inability to realize that others with sorrow of their own are managing to exert themselves nevertheless is keeping her from realizing how many other people *do* have feelings quite as profound as her own.
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