Posted by Janette K on February 21, 1998 at 03:16:58:
In response to Displaying one's affections, written by Constanza on February 19, 1998 at 20:43:42
] In Austen's time, it seems as any open display of affection was forbidden, and this was carried into Victorian times (except maybe for engaged, avowed lovers).
] It surprises me that there seems to be so little physical contact between [JA's] characters... And you know, I haven't even realized that until I took to reading Trollope and was astonished to find "lovers"(in the old sense)holding hands, or actually kissing! (And Trollope was victorian, wasn't him?)
It is interesting that JA, who wrote before the "prudish" Victorian Age was less forthcoming about physical affection. I don't think it's prudishness for JA, though. I think it's just reserve, and a sense of privacy. She even respects her own characters' privacy.
Trollope's lovers are sentimental. They are never the characters of real interest in the book; they're just a standard, formulaic plot device, giving him an arena to bring on the really interesting characters. Their kisses are just part of the sentimental tableau.
JA's lovers are also interesting people, whose characters she studies. JA is not sickly sentimental, like the Victorians. She's showing the fun, interesting part of their lives for our entertainment, but I think she feels their physical interplay is none of our business.
Also, I think she is silent out of reserve on matters of greatest import. She herself was a sincere Christian, and she assumes Christianity on the part of her characters (Elizabeth Bennet acknowledges that Mr. Darcy was never irreligious, and Anne Elliot is troubled that "Sunday travel" was a part of Mr. Elliot's unsavory past, and of course the whole clergyman motif of MP) but she never records any of their deep religious experiences. I think she thought you just didn't talk about those things -- they were not for public consumption -- and I think she felt the same about physical intimacy.
JA is before the Victorian sentimental, prudish, woman-on-a-pedastel age, and Forster is after it. He is damaged by it and that's why a kiss can turn over his apple cart. JA is balanced and doesn't feel the need to talk about it.
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