Posted by Janette K on May 30, 1998 at 16:02:07:
In response to If I may butt in..., written by Constanza on May 15, 1998 at 10:55:38
] If you were to ask Mary and Henry what their own defects are, what do you think their answer would be? Do you think that they are conscious of what their vices are or that they have any vices? They lack moral standards against which to compare their or other's conduct, they cannot tell right from wrong (though in the case of Mary she can do that as applied to social behavior). It's a couple of years since I last read MP, but I believe Mary's aunt had moral principles, so education could not account for Mary's lack thereof.
] As regards education, I believe JA's idea would be that it may enhance or subdue what it is in one's nature (whether virtues or vices) but ultimately it is oneself who determines change. I don't think she aimed at criticizing education so much as society's habit of judging on appearances. Everybody is guilty of that crime but Fanny.
] To sum it up, I agree that Mary and Henry have the potential to become "moral" people and that that is one of the reasons they are attracted to Edmund and Henry, but I think that the blame for not realizing such qualities lies with them, and it is not the result of their education.
I think JA would agree that Mary and Henry are responsible for their own choices. If you think of Mr. Knightley's comments on Frank Churchill in Emma, he says that Frank's neglect of his father could be blamed on his adoptive parents only as long as Frank was a child, but once he became a man he should have done his duty. (Mr. Knightly is often a voice of reason.) So I think that JA would deplore the Crawfords' upbringing, but not excuse their behavior on account of it.
Edmund's failing is that he is so enamoured of a pretty face and charming manner that he overlooks what he really knows are serious character flaws; this is in line with your remark about judging by appearences, Constanza. JA quite often brings a couple into her story where the man is married to a silly woman because of "some unaccountable bias in favor of beauty" (I forget where a line like that occurs). Mr. Palmer in S&S apparantly married Mrs. Palmer because she was pretty, and somewhere in P&P it is mentioned the Mr. Bennet married Mrs. Bennet because she was attractive and had an "appearence" of good nature.
I think JA is dealing in a light-handed way with what she considers a very serious matter, which is to choose your life partner on the basis of quality of character. In her day, divorce was extremely rare, and the whole course of your life could be ruined forever by a wrong choice of marriage partner. Yet perhaps she observed people choosing their spouses for superficial qualities and was sounding a warning.
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.