virtue its own reward
Posted by Janette K on September 01, 1998 at 23:29:41:
In response to Lucy's success, written by Barry on August 26, 1998 at 00:16:12
] Lucy shamelessly uses Elinor's obvious sense of propriety and integrity to silence her by imposing her confidences about Edward. For the main point to note here is that Lucy, by using every trick in the book, completely defeated Elinor by turning Elinor's strengths -- integrity and decocum -- into weaknesses, and only because of the financial inversion that takes place between the Ferrars brothers, do Elinor and Edward get to have their happy ending. Come to think of it, of all the heroines, it seems to me (other than perhaps Catherine Morland) Elinor does the least to make her own happy ending come about at the end. All the activity is on the side of Lucy, and Elinor seems completely frozen in place, until rescued by events once again put into place by Lucy in furtherance of her self interest. I cannot name a more ultimately formidable female opponnet in all of Jane Austen.
I think Elinor's principles are such that she could not be happy if she herself acted dishonorably, nor could she be happy married to a dishonorable man. If she betrayed Lucy's confidence, even to her mother or sister, that would be dishonorable. If she interfered between an engaged couple, that would be dishonorable. If Edward broke off his engagement, that would be dishonorable, because it would disgrace Lucy. No gentleman ever broke an engagement, or even failed to propose if he realized that he had created expectations of a proposal in a lady's heart, or if he realized that "her happiness depended" on him. This consideration was due to women because of their more vulnerable position in the world.
That is why Willoughby's letter is so disgraceful. He knows that he has raised Marianne's expectations, the her happiness depends on him, and in fact he risks damaging her reputation because she has been so openly affectionate to a man who now is not willing to marry her.
Even though Edward regretted his engagement, until Lucy broke it off, he did believe that she loved him and that he would hurt her if he refused to marry her. This is especially true because she seems willing to marry him even when his fortune is taken away. Edward shows himself worthy of Elinor by acting honorably toward Lucy.
Regarding Elinor, you might recall that she comforts herself with the fact that her own heartbreak is not due to any wrongdoing on her part. She is able to maintain serenity because she has retained her self-respect, even though her circumstances are unhappy. She also gets comfort from supporting her mother and sister. Marianne on the other hand, has to deal with the guilt of having created some elements of her own downfall, and also for having caused her family so much pain.
In the long run, Lucy cannot be "happy" in the true sense of knowing and doing what is right. But even if Lucy had married Elinor, she would not have destroyed her own life over it, but she would have still found good, worthwhile ways to spend her time, and I think would still have had a satisfying, even happy life, because she would have been at peace with herself.
- Marianne's Conduct. . . Stephanie S 14:36:50 9/02/98 (0)
- Virtue and its rewards Mary Anne 08:28:01 9/02/98 (0)
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