Lies? A villain?
Posted by Barbara on April 16, 1998 at 17:15:02:
In response to A sneaking admiration for Lucy, written by Marsha on April 14, 1998 at 01:05:49
] I just thought that it is Lucy, and not Willoughby who is the real villain of S&S. Willoughby is forced not to propose to Marianne by circumstances. Lucy knows what she is doing every step of the way and uses Edward's strict sense of honor to win herself a husband by cheating. I think she is the most effective villain in JA. Unlike Willoughby & Crawford, who are complex men and fall through the weaknesses in their characters, not their intent to do evil, or Wickham and Elliot who are remarkably bumbling.
] Lucy is the queen of them all. Unlike Wickham whose lies are exposed, Lucy's have effect on both Edward and Robert, and unlike Wickham, whose elopement plans come to nothing and whose heiress-hunting ways fail, as do Mr Elliot's plans for Anne, Lucy gets her man.
] A fascinating mix of spite and efficiency
Let me preface this by saying that I have zero liking or admiration for Lucy Steele, and consider her to be among the most cruel and spiteful of JA's characters, but I cannot think of her as either a villain or a liar.
To begin with, Edward did ask her to marry him because he fancied her, thought her pretty and was bored. I don't think she tricked him into asking her, and I believe she had genuine feelings for him as a person, in addition to his money. And when it turns out that her fiancé, who has kept her dangling for something like five years, is suddenly interested in another woman, Lucy wants to protect her interests! Who wouldn't? It would seem that she has come to the realization that Edward is interested in Elinor because, during his most recent visit to Plymouth, he has such praise of Miss Dashwood. If the situations were reversed, and Elinor found that her fiancé was interested in Miss Lucy Steele, would Elinor be a villain for letting her know he was "taken"?
In fact, although she was very cruel about it, Lucy did Elinor a favor in the long run, because it would have been even more humiliating for Elinor to have found out that Edward was engaged to Lucy when everyone else did. It was still a blow, but Elinor had time to stell herself and prepare for the inevitable.
Lucy's message to Elinor was: "Hands off--he's mine!" And, while we may not like how she went about delivering this message, it's hard to argue that Lucy was unjustified in this, or that any other young woman might not have done the same. I think I find Lucy's reaction more believable than that of another young woman involved in a secret engagement who sees her man interested in someone else---Jane Fairfax/Frank Churchill/Emma.
As for switching her affections to someone else, that was more than a little mercenary, but I still can't see it as being an act of villainy. She knew Edward didn't love her anyhow. Why marry him and have them both be poor and miserable? I'm not suggesting that Lucy was acting nobly or selflessly in going after Robert, not at all, but who did she really hurt in the long run? Robert was equally guilty for taking up with his own brother's fiancée.
Also, I can't really think of any lies she tells? True, she deliberately allows Elinor to think that she has married Edward by sending the "Mrs. Ferrars" message, but that's not really a lie, is it?
- Did she really love Edward? Arnessa 11:14:51 4/17/98 (2)
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