Posted by Mary Anne on August 23, 1998 at 20:26:13:
In response to Melodrama , thoughts on the confession and the effect on Elinor, written by Barbara on August 23, 1998 at 13:34:11
] I am not sure that I would call it melodramatic, but it is certainly unique in Austen, and it continues to be perplexing as well as the subject of much discussion. I mentioned in some other post a while back that poor Elinor has to listen to not one but TWO confessions in the novel, as she has also heard Brandon's which is just as shocking and dramatic in its own way. JA never again wrote a scene where such revelations were made face to face.
Not melodramatic by my definition. When I hear the term melodrama I tend to think of contrived and cliched emotional responses--and the confession scenes, while intense in the extreme, represent genuine emotional responses. As for JA never again having written such a scene: not the face-to-face scenario, no. But I can't help drawing parallels with P&P and Darcy's letter to Elizabeth in which he explains himself and shows her how mistaken her conclusions had been. Again, extreme emotion. JA was perhaps by this time a little more "polished" in her approach and used the device of the letter rather than the direct confrontation.
] I've been having two different thoughts on this confession scene. First, the effect on Elinor. One of the themes of the novel is, I suppose, that sense must be tempered by sensibilitiy and vice versa. Marianne learns some sense and Elinor learns to appreciate her sister's sensibility somewhat.
Beautifully demonstrated in the film, I thought, by that harrowing scene of "please do not leave me alone." Could be one of the reasons why ET found it unnecessary to include the W confession scene--Elinor's grasp of the finer points of sensibility had already been amply portrayed (and would be protrayed again in her tearful response to Edward's proposal at the end).
Would the Elinor at the start of the novel have reacted in the same way, or is she only capable of this reaction now, at the end of the novel, because of all she had been through.
I have noticed in some critics a bit of a tendency to regard Elinor as a more virtuous character because of her self-control and "sense." ("Dost think because thou art virtuous, there will be no more cakes and ale?" Etc. Thank you, Will Shakespeare)Some sniff at Marianne as if she were on her way to downfall simply because she is more warmly emotional and demonstrative. Elinor, I think, expands a little, learns a bit more compassion, because of "all she had been through," and I think W's confession plays a part in this. Elinor has no reason whatsoever to be kindly inclined toward him and no particular wish to hear what he has to say. Her response is an indicator of her widened perspective--but also of W's charm and force of personality. More on that in a moment
Things that happen in the story seem to have a counter balance. I wonder if this whole confession scene is to balance the scene we have had earlier with Brandon. Even the motivations for the two confessions are opposite: Brandon's motive is entirely (or almost entirely) unselfish, in the wish to ease Marianne's suffering, and in some ways he realizes that the confession casts an unfavourable light on himself. Willoughby, on the other hand, wants the Dashwoods to think better of him . . .
I'll go out on a limb here (quite far for a BBB/CCC!) and say that this may not entirely indicate selfishness. It is entirely possible to want to keep someone's good opinion out of regard for that person and not entirely for reasons of personal shame and embarrassment, etc. To his credit, W does have some sense of shame. Some. Perhaps he should have more.
does not adequately demonstrate remorse for what he did to Eliza Jr.
No argument here.
and while he may profess to care for Marianne, can he really imagine it would make her feel better to know "I loved you, but I married someone else anyhow"? His motives seem selfish to me.
Yes. This, I think, is why there is so much discussion of this scene and why "Willoughby insists on being heard." To me, he is so much more real than, say, a bounder like Wickham, who is two-dimensional by comparison. To me, Mr. W is like a real, living, suffering human being, a mixed bag of impulses, very faulty in his character but not gone entirely to the bad (yet) and with so much charm and capability of good humour (when things are going his way) that it is virtually impossible not to like him and enjoy his presence. Which is what makes people like him so dangerous when they ARE bad! Any human with his natural gifts--when they fall, the fall is terrible, from a great height. My response is always "What a waste." I can't read the confession scene without feeling a sense of regret and uneasiness over some real-life "Willoughbys" I've known. Perhaps the character for JA was like some of Shakespeare's--I think especially of Mercutio and Shylock--who were supposed to be secondary; however, the author seems to have become fascinated with them and gave them such dazzling individuality they threatened to take over the story!--with the result that Mercutio has to be killed off to re-focus our attention, and Shylock emerges as something more profound and moving than a cruel and greedy antagonist.
] WHEW! Thoughts, anyone?
I've "thought" quite enough for one post--I'll stand down and let someone else have a turn! Love these literary grapples . . . 8-)
- Will. being sensible Lindsay 10:13:17 8/24/98 (8)
- Why couldn't he just ask? Kathleen Ann 10:56:22 8/27/98 (0)
- The better man? Barbara 13:12:07 8/24/98 (6)
- Could Marianne have resisted Seduction? Barry 23:45:44 8/25/98 (4)
- E. not so sensible? Lindsay 08:40:41 8/25/98 (0)
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