Posted by Valerie McKnight on January 01, 1998 at 16:37:02:
In response to Further demurrer, written by Stolzi on January 01, 1998 at 12:42:14
] This can't be quite right, for Austen and her family engaged in amateur theatricals. If it was totally improper, would Mrs. Grant, a clergyman's wife, consent to participate? You find in the book different objections: the play chosen, the fact that outsiders are involved, the fact that Sir Thomas may be in danger at this time -- and that he can be expected to disapprove.
But recall what Edmund says to Tom (something like), "Our father wished us as schoolboys to speak well, but he would not want to see his grown-up daughters acting in plays." And acting is the only form of pleasure that anyone expects him to disapprove of - Maria and Julia go out to balls and parties, everybody rides and walks and visits as usual.
Mrs. Grant's participation in the scheme reflects her understanding of the whole situation. She is a very good affectionate sort of woman, but she is not perceptive and she cannot see the danger either of the theater or of her nephew's carrying-on.
The Austens did act; but remember that the moral conflicts in a novel of this sort are more starkly drawn, more black and white, than real life. JA's novels reflect the conflict between the ideals of simple, religious people and "the world" of danger and frivolity. Edmund says at the end that it was "the world" that ruined Mary Crawford. She was actually by our standards a virtuous woman - but her delicacy had been blunted by continued contact with pleasure-seeking, shallow people.
Of course JA's real life would have been inconsistent with her highest ideals - who can keep the world entirely away? Who would want to? That is the constant tension of morality.
] Yes, I said that if she had participated, she too would have been at fault. I just thought it would have made her a more interesting character.
Ah, but she is interesting - just not in the way we are accustomed to. She isn't a "heroine" in the usual sense, but a "camera-eye" in the midst of a cast of characters, all participating in both the metaphorical theater plot and their real lives. (MP's structure is easier to appreciate after you've thorougly analyzed EMMA. It is subtle, delicate and not quite what you expect, like all JA's work.)
] A good discussion would be why Anne Elliot in Persuasion is also very much of a passive observer, yet we love and sympathize with her as few readers do with Fanny. CS Lewis attributes it to the facts that 1) her love is deeper and more complex and 2) her lover is a more attractive man.
Hmmm... those are both good points. Anne's love is more complex, and so is her lover, because they are older and more experienced. I imagine that Anne at 19 was closer to Fanny - gentle, retiring, and easily guided.
If you look closely at Anne's activity, you see how limited she was by the strict behavior expected of a lady. To encourage Wentworth she can move to the end of a bench, warmly thank Mrs. Musgrove for an invitation, talk generally about love with a friend...She's balancing on a tightrope between her desires and her respectability. So is Fanny, but she is still young and in an even more dependent position than Anne. All she can do is refuse Crawford, and her stark desperate courage in standing up to Sir Thomas is more than I think many young women in her situation could have mustered.
They had such limited lives...
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