A Placement Replaced, with Placemat Optional
Posted by Ken on November 05, 1997 at 10:55:48:
In response to The place of ... (rather long), written by Tilde on November 05, 1997 at 04:06:42
] If I seem harsh, please forgive me. . . . please subscribe it to my not having english as a first language.
Naught to forgive, what? Your English is certainly better than my Danish. Even my cheese Danish (-:
] ] And any differences between what place other characters imagine her to occupy and her "real" place have to be resolved by novel's end for there to *be* an end.
] Now, Ken. This is tooooo much :-)
] You cannot state something as monumental as that, with the blithe assumption that this is the case and without argument.
Sure I can--the question is whether I can get away with it or not (-: Still, take it literally: you can't have a JA novel with loose ends. You can't have a comedy w/o a marriage & w/o "order" being restored--at least until the 20th century. True, this is a dramaturgical convention. But it also operates in narrative at this time. And the dissonance between what place she is supposed by all to have and what place she really has will tear up the ending of the well-made novel if they aren't resolved. You can get away with an ending like that in =Tristram Shandy=, but not in JA!
] To be sure. There is the country/city problem, but that is inherent in every JA novel, where (elegant) country life will always win, hands down, over the city.
London is a neutral agent in P&P: it's Wickham's refuge, but it's also Gracechurch Street.
] The city (any city, even Bath) is, in the JA mythography "bad" and likewise the country (any country, as long as it is "elegant") is always good.
] Nothing particular to MP in that.
Because it goes further than that. It isn't simply country, good; city, bad. Mr. Rushworth is silliness personified, plus he wants to tear up a perfectly good country estate to "improve" what does not want improving. It's a particular set of values, morals, and intelligence associated particularly with MP, vs. another set associated with, well, non-MP.
] ] Those who leave it [MP] because it can't accomodate them and vice versa end badly, within the terms the novel sets out. Henry and Maria, obviously, but Mary as well, and Mrs. Norris, just to round things out.
] The only person here who does not fit into the city-country dichotomy is Mrs Norris (and perhaps the miss Bertrams). And she is unchangingly "bad" through the book.
Not at all--the summing up in chapter 48 shows that everyone has taken a bit of a tumble by the end of the novel. The ones that adhere most closely to MP-values fare the best & recover with renewed wisdom. The ones that do not really do so fare badly. It is explicitly *not* a matter of one's origins or Fanny herself would come to nothing. It *is* possible to become a Mansfieldite w/o being born to it, and being born there does not assure one's character. But the *form* in which these values play out is tied to geographical place, at least symbolically.
] Both Henry and Mary Crawford are substantially (morally) improved by their intercourse with country-values, and in like manner, Maria Bertram/Mrs. Rushworth is substantially (morally) depraved by her intercourse with city-values.
Henry, not so. He is a freak of vanity, and remains so. Maria is wanting even before her encounter with city-values; her education has been lacking. Mary, now that I find MP online & re-read #48, is more problematic, as JA asserts that her taste has been changed by MP. But it doesn't really talk to her morals or character--and she is still resolved not to attach herself to a younger son. So what really has changed? The mental picture I get here is of someone looking through the window at a happy scene of family life, but not understanding what makes it a happy family.
] ] I think JA cuts down Mary throughout the course of the novel in various subtle ways and intends Fanny for Edmund from the very start....
] I think not.
No charge for thinkin', obviously (-: Seriously: e-text isn't good enough for close-text work. But, briefly, she's only interested in Fanny as a sounding board for her feelings about Edmund most of the time; she doesn't even begin to look at her as a person until Henry starts to flirt with her, and she rather cavalierly consigns Fanny to Henry's initial designs of making her infatuated. Her action with regard to Henry's present & correspondence is indelicate at best. And all this is rather late in her MP career! There's no "bottom" in this butterfly. If she were a serious contender for Edmund, I have to think that these episodes would play out much differently than they did.
] ] Yes. But she *also* establishes the city as undesirable, and those adhering to it as, well, not of the best.
] Yes, but she also shows, that it can turn out "good", as in Mrs. Grant and Lady Bertram.
Ooooh--don't make Lady Bertram carry so great a weight; I assure you, it is more than her shoulders are accustomed to bearing (-: Mrs. Grant is a neutral. She can fit in anywhere, but she isn't going to lead a charge for goodness.
] I think JA could have used MP to show, that a woman can be happy outside her own circle, as long as her husband helps her to find her feet in the new life.
JA did, but with Fanny, and not Mary. That is one of the most important structural reasons for the return to Portsmouth: to show that Fanny can't go home again (sorry, Thomas Wolfe!), that MP is now her home, not Portsmouth.
] & that it is bound to come out in the end. As it does, it happens.
] No. What happens is that her brother blows up the whole construction.
Cf. her parting interview with Edmund & her last letters to Fanny. That's her real character showing, and it's not one to inspire confidence in Mary.
] (again chapter 48)
] "Henry Crawford, ruined by early independence and bad domestic example, indulged in the freaks of a cold-blooded vanity a little too long. Once it had, by an opening undesigned and unmerited, led him into the way of happiness. ... WOuld he have deserved more, there can be no doubt that more would have been obtainedM especially when that marriage had taken place, which would have given him the assistance of her conscience in subduing her first inclination, and brought them very often togeher. Would he have persevered, and uprightly, Fanny must have been his reward - and a reward very voluntarily bestowed - within a reasonable period from Edmund's marrying Mary".
] So, the scenario is clear. The other outcome would have been possible. With Fanny-Henry and Edmund-Mary living happily ever after in close communion, along the lines of the Bingleys and the Darcys in P&P, or between Barton and Delaford in S&S etc. Mary being guided by her loving husband into becoming what he envisages her to be, and Henry becoming a solid country-gentleman under the gentle influence of Fanny.
Uh, no (-: Let's tease it apart to see why not. "Ruined by early independence", "indulged in. . . cold-blooded vanity", "an opening undesigned and unmerited": damning indictments in JA. However close he comes to happiness, his character pulls him down before he reaches it. "Would [emphasis mine] he have deserved more", ie, he didn't deserve more & didn't get it. "Would he have persevered, and uprightly" [again, emphasis mine]--uprightly is not Henry. The best he would have gotten, were he of better character, is Fanny's surrender, not her love: "the assistance of her conscience in subduing her first inclination", ie, it would be unconscionable to love Edmund after he is actually married; "a reward very voluntarily bestowed"--problematic, but at least a possible reading as meaning self-denial. A modern audience might say that he gets her on the rebound & nod knowingly about the lack of foundation for such relationships.
] So, I cannot agree that it is a novel of "place", it is rather a novel where JA wrestles with the problem of how people with the same ( family-, social and geographical) background can turn out so very different.
That's certainly another aspect of it. I won't disagree that it plays a part, and that one can work out a good treatment of the novel in these terms. I just don't think it explains enough of what is going on in this one, though. The subtext is considerable in MP, more I think than in any of the other novels, although to be fair, Emma is a character study & doesn't need the apparatus to work its magic.
] If we have to have one central theme, I would suggest the theme of obedience as being far more important than that of "place". Those who obey their betters (parents, conscience, God etc) live happily ever after, those who work against their own good moral principles become "outcasts" (litteraly or metaphorcally).
But, of course, Fanny does not obey Sir Thomas! Mrs. Norris doesn't disobey anyone that I can tell. Julia disobeys by implication, but turns out happier than she has a right to be. And so on. I don't think I can accept obedience as the central problem here, although it follows from some of the characters', er, character (-:
A novel does not have to have one central theme, nor even one central problem. But most of them do.
] Sorry about the length.
Well, I didn't mind (-: And Fanny-haters almost certainly have bypassed this (-:
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