Stiff upper lip
Posted by Helen on September 12, 1997 at 10:15:51:
In response to Valuing what is rare: another sense, written by Hil on September 11, 1997 at 00:12:50
] The notion that you just don't unburden yourself to any person at any moment can be a good one. Of course, there are drawbacks, serious ones, to not feeling free to express emotions. But on the whole, I think I'd wish the pendulum would swing a bit the other way in America.But apparently, it's not going to. And even worse, other countries seem to be emulating us!
] It is certainly becoming more like that here, on TV, anyway.
] ] The biggest problem, I think, is that once you start waving out a banner of emotions, the next person feels like he has to have a BIGGER banner to show that he really cares, and on and on, until your reactions to events aren't at all related to your real feelings but instead to the reactions of others.
] Yes. Unburdening oneself to all and sundry, in a way devalues the strength of one's reaction, even if it appears the opposite. And it devalues the specialness (or rarity, to come back to that in another sense)of having special people to whom you unburden, those who understand and support you, as a special person. So overall it devalues human relations? Do you think?
As regards S&S, I think it's interesting that it's possible for people like Hil and myself to read it and think it valorizes Elinor's reserve, and for others such as Arnessa to be completely on Marianne's side. Certainly both are presented with sympathy - but yes, I do think Elinor is vindicated, when Marianne says of her conduct "I compare it with what it ought to have been - I compare it with yours." Yet in P&P Lizzy is very much seen as good for being able to speak her mind. Maybe we have a code of conduct here which goes, "by all means, speak your mind if you can do so without hurting the innocent, but watch how you actually behave - because you can hurt others, and also because if you let your guard down you can get hurt yourself".
As a Brit, I do value reserve, but it's refreshing to have friends who will be warm in their emotional responses sometimes! Perhaps we could say that reserve in the public domain is best, while amongst one's friends the emotional guard drops. And in this respect I think we have moved on from Jane Austen's day, when reserve amongst the private family, as shown in her novels, was the norm. I think this change (no reserve at home) is a Victorian, not a modern development - I can think of several Victorian authors who would have been shocked by Mrs. Dashwood not wanting to know whether Willoughby and Marianne actually have an understanding or not - they would have thought it a parent's duty to know these things.
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