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|More on Elinor's reaction (long)
Written by Delories
(9/14/2003 11:58 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, GR: Elinor's reaction to Willoughby's confession, penned by Delories
Of course I ran back to re-re-reread Chapt. 44/47 as a result of this thread, and here's another interesting bit, from Chapt. 47, on Elinor's thoughts after she tells her version of Willoughby's confession to her mum and her sis: "Had Mrs Dashwood, like her daughter, hear W's story from himself--had she witnessed his distress, and been under the influence of his countenance and his manner, it is probable that her [i.e. Mrs D's] would have been greater. But it was neither in E's power, nor in her wish, to rouse such feelings in another...as had at first been called forth in herself [when he told her his sad tale in person]."
In other words, E is aware of the danger of W's good looks and charm casting a spell that makes people forget that he is, quite frankly, evil.
As Elinor says to Marianne latter in the same chapter, "The whole of his behaviour, from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been grounded on selfishness... His own enjoyment, or his own ease was, in every particular, his ruling principe." She continues: "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."
Now, go back, if you will, and take a look at W's confession scene again, as Elinor has no doubt been doing in her mind again and again. She realises, as will the reader, that it's all "me, me, me". Once he's ascertained that Marianne isn't going to die, he just goes on about how much _he_ has suffered. Even his parting words to Elinor in Chapt. 44 are about how the worst thing that could happen to _him_ would be for Marianne to be happily married to Col. Brandon (all the more reason for her to do it, sez I)!
But the absolute creepiest line, imo, is when W tells Elinor that, on the fateful evening of "Good God, Willoughby!", he actually got pleasure out of seeing "Marianne's sweet face as white as death [because] when I thought of her today as really dying, it was a kind of comfort to me" (there's that word again!) "to imagine that I knew exactly how she would appear to those who saw her last in this world."
Here is where JA's treatment of the excesses of Romanticism leaves the satiric and enters territory that can only be defined as borderline psychotic. It is Elinor's realisation that Willoughby is a dangerous narcisist that guides her behaviour in this area for the rest of the book.
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