Posted by Barbara on May 04, 1997 at 22:46:09:
I posted this same thing to Austen-L today, so those of you who get the list, I am only plaigarizing myself! This is a bit long, but I'd like to hear what you all think!
At the beginning of Ch 5 there is a rather revealing conversation between Mary Crawford and her sister Mrs. Grant.
Mary says (of their brother Henry)
"We must leave him to himself, I believe. Talking does no good. He will be taken in at last."
"But I would not have him *taken in*. I would not have him duped; I would have it all fair and hounourable."
"Oh dear! Let him stand his chance and be taken in. It will do just as well. Everybody is taken in at some period or other."
"Not always in marriage, dear Mary."
"In marriage especially. With all due respect to such of the present company as chance to be married, my dear Mrs. Grant, there is not one in a hundred of either sex who is not taken in when they marry."....(Mary contines a paragraph later)"...from my own observation, it is a manoeuvring business. I know so many who have married in the full expectation and confidence of some one particular advantage in the connection, or accomplishment, or good quality in the person, who have found themselves entirely decieved, and been obliged to put up with exactly the reverse. What is this but a take in?"
When I read this passage, little buzzers started going off in my head, because that is exactly what has happened to so many of the Austen characters who we might consider to be in a less than ideal marriage. Mrs. Grant evidently does not agree with Mary, but we already see evidence of this going on in MP. Certainly we could say that Sir Thomas was "taken in" by Lady Bertram. Maria is "taking in" Mr. Rushworth. ("Miss Bertram *seemed* , by her amiable qualities and accomplishments, the best adapted to make him happy... Maria was indeed the pride and delight of them all--perfectly faultless--an angel;") And only a few pages after the conversation with Mrs. Grant, it appears that Mary is beginning to take Edmund in. She genuinely likes him, it seems, but he is blinded by his infatuation for her to see her as something she is not. ("(Fanny)was a little surprised that he could spend so many hours with Miss Crawford, and not see more of the sort of fault which he had already observed...")
In P&P, we see more examples of this. Mr. Bennet certainly had his head turned by a pretty face in his youth. He says to Elizabeth, "My child, let me not have the grief of seeing *you* unable to resepect your partner in life." Being taken in is exactly what Mr. Darcy wishes to avoid ("disguise of every sort is my abhorrence"), and yet exactly what Lady C. accuses Elizabeth of doing ("But *your* arts and allurements may, in a moment of infatuation, have made him forget what he owes to himself and to all his family. You may have drawn him in.")
Charlotte Lucas offers a slightly different philosophy than Mary Crawford's, "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties were ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible fo the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life." And, so she will not be "taken in" by Mr. Collins--she goes into her marriage with her eyes wide open, or should I say firmly and deliberatlely closed?
Other couples where one partner has been "taken in": Charles and Mary Musgrove, Sir Walter and poor Lady Elliot, Edward Ferrars narrowly misses this fate with Lucy Steele, but his brother Robert is taken in instead. Marianne is nearly taken in by Willoughby. Captain Wentworth nearly falls for charms that Louisa Musgrove does not actually possess, and Anne Elliot escapes being taken in by her cousin.
So is Mary Crawford right, or is Charlotte Lucas? JA often gives unsympathetic characters points of view which are unpopular, unsympathetic, or against her own views. Some of us may blame Charlotte for marrying Mr. Collins, but on the whole, she is far more sympathetic and likeable than Mary. However, all the Austen couples which we would assume or are told will have a happy union, have, for the most part, overcome any danger of one or the other being taken in. In fact, we probably believe they will be happy *because* they have learned a truth about themselves and about their future partner's true character. This includes Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Emma and Mr. Knightley, Marianne and Col. Brandon, and Elinor and Edward Ferrars. We might even include Edmund and Fanny here. Yet, if Charlotte Lucas is right, the chances of any of these couples being unhappy is just as likely an outcome. Do we see then an unpopular character telling us something that Austen actually believes herself? Are the truly happy couples the one couple in a hundred who have managed to get together without being taken in?
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