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Friday, August 30, 2013

Don't Get Your Petticoats in a Twist | a conversation

My Janeites, I have some sad news: this is the last of our Janeite Conversations for this year! Is it wrong that I hope that makes you as sad as it does me? I just want you to have enjoyed them - I hope they amused you and gave you something to think about. I certainly liked putting them together for you, and I'd like to thank all of the fantastic authors who participated and went along with my crazy scheme. It's not every author who's willing to let you chop up, rearrange and generally screw with your thoughts and words, so thank you, ladies!
Now, on to the last question. This is a favorite of mine because answers tend to be varied and passionate, and it always makes for good discussion.

I asked:

MISTY: Okay, we all know from our many Mansfield discussions this year that not everything in Austen is rose-colored. There are certainly things that bother us, and bother us muchly. I have a few things that... just make me uncomfortable, I guess? I mean, things that I like or accept while reading, or when I was younger, but afterwards (or years later), I'm like, wait... I mean, Marianne and Col. Brandon? I just can't look on that so favorably anymore. As a teen, I was like, He's a good man, she needs to wake up. And as an adult, I'm like, SHE'S A CHILD, HE NEEDS TO WAKE UP.  I also feel like she's a surrogate for the woman he loved - that he's more fixated on Marianne-as-a-substitution, and not Marianne-as-Marianne. I can't feel that they'll be happy together forever, because at some point, she'll realize she gave in to escape her misery, and he'll realize that he doesn't love her, he loves the idea of her. And I don't want that for either of them... I don't know, it just doesn't sit well with me. But what about you guys? What kinda drives you nuts?
KARA: Oh! I must have my share in this conversation! There is something that has always bothered me. I find it difficult to fathom that Mr. Darcy would have admitted to Caroline Bingley that he finds Elizabeth Bennet's eyes fine. Now I know some of you may say that he wanted to discourage Caroline's attentions to him, but really, to her? Another man, maybe, but not her!
MISTY: Hmm. I don't know that it's ever bothered me (probably because it was the first part of the book to give me butterflies...), but I never really looked at it as something out of character, either. I sort of can see him saying something to shut Caroline up, as I think he does delight in that a little bit.
MARIA: Austen let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. She does not punish her antagonists and sometimes that really annoys me.
MISTY: Hahaha, yes! We'd all like to see a little well-deserved comeuppance from time to time, I think.
ALEXA: It's hard to criticize Jane, but there are a couple of things that leave a bad taste in my mouth. The entire characterization of both Isabella and John Thorpe leaves me uneasy, and I often wonder if Mrs. Norris doesn't suffer from dementia-
MISTY: Hmm. Interesting...
ALEXA: ...but perhaps the most troubling thing in her novels is the propensity for women to marry men who aren't their intellectual equals. Three of our heroines suffer this fate (Elinor Dashwood, Fanny Price, and yes, as hard as it may be to admit, Anne Elliot), as well as several of the minor characters (Lucy Steele, Jane Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Maria Bertram, Mrs. Weston, Jane Fairfax). While we do have counter examples (most obviously Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, as well as Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley), it seems like the majority of the time men bring little more than their status to a relationship, while all its substance is supplied by their ladies. Perhaps I'm imposing too much of Austen's biography on her work, but there seems to me some bitterness here. If I find it hard to submit to an adored heroine loving a man of half her worth, how difficult must it have been for a woman as brilliant as Jane Austen to live in a society in which marriage "was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want."
JESSICA: I’ll probably be dodging bullets for this one, but HOW much older Mr. Knightley is than Emma. Sixteen years! That’s a pretty darn big gap! It’s not so much that I think they can’t have a happy life, I just always end the book stressed out about how much life they’ll actually have together before he kicks the bucket! I realize he’s only 37 in the book, but I get so concerned about Regency era life expectancy. Just call me Mr. Woodhouse, I guess.
MISTY: I worry more about the disparity in their power levels. I mean, not that Emma isn't powerful in her own right, but he's been a brother/father figure in many respects. And because of his age, he'll always have that upper hand, he'll always have that superior, 'I was a capable adult when you were a child, making childish decisions' thing in his favor. He's helped mold her. In some ways, it's a lesser version of one of the problems I have with Edmund Bertram - he molded Fanny from her formative years, teaching her to parrot him, praising her for being what he wanted, first as a brother figure, and then as a potential lover. And now he's going to be her husband... The balance of power is really off, and that makes modern-me very uncomfortable.
NANCY: Edmund Bertram as a romantic hero. There aren’t enough words in the English language to express my utter disdain for him. Heroes do NOT spend three-fourths of the book ignoring the heroine’s needs and wishes.
MISTY: ...or thinking he's in love with someone else, only to suddenly "realize" and have everything be forgiven and forgotten within seconds... But as I said above, I have bigger problems with Edmund.
JUNE: Many of JA’s characters were very passive, silently accepting horrible situations. Why didn’t the Dashwood ladies confront their son and brother about the stingy amount of money he gave them? Why didn’t Anne Elliot tell her sister Mary to quit being a whiny hypochondriac? Why didn’t Anne de Bourgh tell her mother get off her back? Admittedly, the Regency era had very different expectation for proper behaviour, but a few JA characters did speak up. Lizzy Bennet bluntly objected to marrying Mr. Collins, and Mrs. Bennet loudly complained about the entail, not that it helped motivate Mr. Bennet to put money aside for his daughters' future but she did try.
MISTY: True.
CAROL: Knowing that Jane Austen wrote during the Georgian/Regency period, you can appreciate the fact that her stories were a reflection of society, but it is still shocking to realize how little freedom women had back then.
MISTY: Yes. Because even those who did try to buck tradition did so at great personal risk - Fanny was sent back to Portsmouth, Lizzie was threatened with being sent away and could have ruined her family's future, Mrs Bennet drives away the very thing she's trying to attract, etc.  It's tricky... Alright, what else don't we love?
ALYSSA: The whole side story of Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax. It seems forced and overly dramatic.
MISTY: It was very dramatic. And though it feels authentic to Frank's character, it seems less-so for Jane's. What else doesn't sit right?
SALLY: Northanger Abbey. It feels a bit immature to me. I don’t believe she would have published it as is. I’m pretty sure if she had lived she would have reworked it before sending to her publisher if she sent it at all. Not being happy with it may very well be the reason she never did send it to her publisher, her brother found it in amongst her things after her death and he had it published. I’m glad he did as it would have been a shame to lose any of her writings but it just never felt like Austen to me.
MISTY: Though I see why people call it immature, and I think you're right, it probably would have been reworked, I can't help but love it and be glad it wasn't.
DEBORAH: I don't like the passage in Persuasion about the dead Musgrove son, in which Austen comes close to suggesting that, because he was kind of a loser, his parents’ grief at his loss is imaginary – “her large fat sighings over the destiny of a son, whom alive nobody had cared for” – is the only moment in the novels in which Austen strikes what I think is a psychologically false note. It’s not that she’s tough and mean and sarcastic – I love that about her! – but that she doesn’t seem to understand that parental love has nothing whatsoever to do with the merit of its object. You love ‘em no matter how loserly they are, and so it cannot be the case that the Musgroves didn’t care for poor Dick. (And he died at 19! You definitely haven’t written off your loserly kids by 19.) I can’t remember if this passage bothered me when I first read Persuasion, but since I’ve become a parent, it’s always brought me up short.
MISTY: I guess I always took that not as coming from a mother's sentiments, but from a casual observers who thinks it's ironic. I mean, I'm pretty sure I've heard similar things said...
DEBORAH: More generally: I find the endings of several of the novels frustrating because they refuse to gratify our romantic fantasies. Edward Ferrars breaks the good news of his non-marriage to Elinor Dashwood, watches her leave the room in tears, goes off for a walk, and then. . . “How soon he had walked himself into the proper resolution. . .how soon an opportunity of exercising it occurred, in what manner he expressed himself, and how he was received, need not be particularly told,” Austen coolly informs us. To which I reply: “OH, YES, IT NEED BE!” It’s no wonder that both Emma Thompson and Andrew Davies dropped the long walk and gave us the love scene when they adapted Sense and Sensibililty for the screen. We are SO jonesing for that lovey-dovey stuff that not to get it is almost like having the symphony break off just before the final note resolves the chord.
LAURIE: Much as I adore Austen, I feel shortchanged in the proposal scenes.
DEBORAH: There are similar non-proposal proposal scenes in just about every novel, though for my tastes, the endings of Emma and Persuasion work wonderfully. (A Janeite friend of mine, however, told me that when she first read Emma’s reply to Mr. Knightley – “What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does” – she threw the book across the room.)
MISTY: Everyone says that, but I actually like that!
LAURIE: Austen shies away from the play-by-play, and at the critical moment, she switches from dialogue to removed summary. The famous LETTER in Persuasion is a notable exception, but even there the author cuts away at one point and reverts to summary ("There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement.") I assume this is a symptom of a more reserved era, but it's challenging for this modern reader, who likes her love scenes spelled out. Which is just one of the reasons the movies are so popular. We'd never see an Austen heroine and hero kiss in the novels, but we sure love to see it in the films. Culturally accurate? Hardly. Satisfying? You betcha.
MISTY: See, I'm the opposite, I guess, from the modern reader who wants it spelled out. Not that I don't sometimes want things to be a little more explicit, because she showed she was capable of writing incredibly romantic, stomach-fluttery lines. But having it left to the reader's imagination - letting them best decide what is romantic - that's a good thing, to me. But then, I tend to find "romantic" things unbearably cheesy, so that's probably why...
DEBORAH: Some people argue that this stuff is a straight artistic failure. “Poor Jane Austen! She was never proposed to herself – well, not by someone she was in love with, anyway -- so she couldn’t write those scenes.” Puh-leeze. Jane Austen couldn’t make stuff up? As if. I’m more inclined to think that withholding the love scenes is her way of disciplining her readers. We’ve all got those Marianne-like fantasies about love, and she’s trying to teach us to let go of them, to be more Elinor-like in our rational expectations of happiness. So maybe I’m not as Elinor-like as I think. Because I have to admit that I’ve watched the Emma Thompson and Andrew Davies versions of the Elinor-Edward proposal scene about a million – well, let’s just say, often.
MISTY: I do like a good proposal scene in a movie. But it's different in the books. When I'm watching someone else's interpretation of a world, I can just go with it, but when I'm creating that world myself, I want a little license. Austen gives us that, she allows us to make it the best, the most affecting,  for us.
MONICA: Jane Austen is Jane Austen, we love her for who she is. Given her attention to detail, though, I’m amazed that she doesn’t refer to anything that’s happening outside the confines of the drawing-room. No reference to the war with Napoleon, no mention of everyday events outside the confines of her novels, no mention of Wellington and the Battle of Waterloo. Nothing. It’s as if she deliberately purged her novels of everything that doesn’t belong to the world the women in her novels inhabit. Was it a deliberate choice? I can’t help feeling it must have been, because we know JA had strong opinions about the political events of the time. We know from her letters, for example, that she sided with Princess Caroline against the Regent who was trying to cast her aside, but there is no hint of anything in her novels.
MISTY: I wouldn't wonder if it was a conscious choice, to give the novels more staying power. They're more universal, more transcendent, if they're not locked into a very specific, brief time-frame.
MONICA: Having said that, I think the lack of political references contributes to our feeling of entering a fairy tale world suspended from time and space, and may well be one of the reasons P&P is so appealing to us today.
MISTY: True. She certainly is well-capable of transporting us, and maybe she did the same for her readers then - maybe she transported them out of the day to day worries... Any other things we dislike about her novels, ladies?
CASSANDRA: That they end? ;)
MISTY: Too true.

So, what doesn't sit well with all of you? Anything you wish you could change, or at least wish to know what Austen was thinking?

Participants in this discussion:
Alexa Adams, author of the "A Tale of Less Pride and Prejudice" series
Carol Cromlin, author of Fitzwilliam Darcy such as I was
Monica Fairview, author of The Other Mr Darcy, The Darcy Cousins, et al.
Alyssa Goodnight, author of Austentatious, Austensibly Ordinary, et al.
Maria Grace, author of the Given Good Principles series
Cassandra Grafton, author of A Fair Prospect
Jessica Grey, author of Attempting Elizabeth
Nancy Kelley, author of the Brides of Pemberely series
Kara Louise, author of Only Mr Darcy Will Do, Pirates and Prejudice, et al.
Sally Smith O'Rourke, author of The Man Who Loved Jane Austen
Laurie Viera Rigler, author of Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict and Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict
June Williams, co-author of Headstrong Girls.
and Deborah Yaffe, author of Among the Janeites

Click the pic to be taken to the Austen in August Main Page!
Thanks to faestock & inadesign for the images used to create this button.


  1. that was so awesome to read :) I think everyone deep inside sees Edmund's behavior innapropriate :)

  2. It never sat right with me that Elizabeth suddenly decided she liked Darcy AFTER she saw his huge house (Pemberley). I can't help wondering if the thought of being mistress of that beautiful estate might not have swayed her opinion toward him a little bit.

    1. A lot of people say that, which I always find funny.
      First, I don't think it factored in all that much. Did it? Sure, but not just in the sense of wealth and security, but more in the way that it showed her more accurately the type of man he was.
      Second, she jokes that she fell in love with him after seeing Pemberley; I don't think, if that were at all true, that she would be so comfortable joking about it.
      Third, Lizzie has clearly demonstrated MANY TIMES that she doesn't care how much a marriage would secure her and her family, financially, she wasn't going to give in for anything short of a happy life - she didn't have it in her to settle.

  3. I would like a bit more detail in the proposal scenes too but I suppose it may not have been proper for an unmarried lady to write such scenes. I agree that it's a shame that there are inbalanced matches but that's just a reflection of the world as it was then. Mr Collins has a much better chance of happiness with Charlotte than with somebody else, even though she doesn't love him. It's not romantic but it would have been a common reality then. Ditto the age gaps but there I am a bit more uncomfortable. Not so much with Emma and Knightley, as I think an older husband would quite suit her, even though its likely that she'll end up a fairly young widow, but more so with Marianne and Brandon, as you can't help but have the suspicion that she's a replacement for his long lost ward and he's just somebody to marry. I know it says she comes to love him but I'd have rather seen him end up with Elinor and Marianne end up with somebody else entirely. I think this is what I'd change.

    As for just desserts, I think that the bad are generally punished as much as they usually are in life, i.e not much, although I would say most of them DO get punished - Willoughby, Mr Elliot and Crawford have to live with their regrets, Mrs Rushworth and Mrs Norris both end in an unhappier situation once they are shipped off. The least satisfactory one is probably Lydia and Wickham but thinking about it, she is punished by having him as a husband and as for him, is it likely Darcy would help him if he abandoned Lydia? I would say not, so he is tied for life to somebody who is very likely to turn into Mrs Bennet and he will have to work because he won't be able to make his fortune from an advantageous marriage ever - it's entirely fitting, and actually better than he deserves.

  4. I am surprised to hear the dont like parts abouy Marianne and Elinor Dashwood! I love Marianne's love story the most, and yes...even over Elizabeth Bennet's! I am a big lover of fairy tales....and Marianne's love in theend of the novel follows that type of a story line for me. And I have more of an issue with Elizabeth Bennet being able to fall in love woth someone after being so insulted by this person, in which she took greatly personal. I think elizabeth and elinor are pretty much the same side of the coin...all about being able yo forgive and let go , and allow love. For me , I would find elinor's situation easier to acomplish that than Elizabeth's.
    Also...it is mentioned the lack of political detail could have been for readers as a getaway. I had read several times jane austen suffered from a disease , one that can cause a lot of gastrointestinal pain. Maybe writing was HER getaway from what she went through day to day. My own daughter suffers from Crohn's Disease , and writing is something she does to cope emotionally. Something to ponder on!

    1. I don't think Darcy's mistakes are that hard to forgive, most of her dislike was based on Elizabeth's prejudice and misinterpretation rather than fact. Edward Ferrars allowed Einor to fall in love with him knowing he was engaged to somebody else, that is much worse if you ask me.

      Definitely agree that JA was offering escapism, most books set today don't go into the war in Iraq or the situation in Syria and if they did I wouldn't be reading them! There was a movement later in the 19th century to use books to get social messages across but Austen wasn't trying to do anything more than entertain.

    2. Such diverse people there are in the world! And how wonderful for Jane to create such a range of characters in her novels, giving plenty of choices for people to relate to.
      In my eyes, love is not something "allowed", it is personal...so I cannot relate to your comment about edward having "allowed" elinor to fall in love with him. I just saw that hole situation to be the downfall to a society that generally did not allow much intimate forthcoming of information and expression, especially when class and status was involved. That is the beauty of reading novels...they hit us each in ways that are personal to ourself!
      I have to say though, I dont understand the comment you made about austen's writings having been nothing more but entertainment. Writing can be a very personal thing, and I dont think that anyone can truly know for a surety an authors purpose behind a piece unless the reason has been specifically given. I am not us versed in all things Jane Austen, so I may not know some info. Has she ever made clear in any of her letters or writings what fueled her novels?

    3. I see what you mean but rather than allowed perhaps I should have said that he did nothing to prevent it. Once he realised she had feelings towards him that he knew he couldn't fulfill he should have left and I don't think he went as soon as he should have. I know he cared for her too and was in a bad situation but it was a situation that he made, so I don't think he behaved as honourably as he should have.

      And as regards the entertainment thing what I meant was that she didn't have some big social conscience agenda going on like some of the Victorian authors, I personally believe that Austen set out to entertain her audience rather than educate them or preach at them, but of course that is not to say that entertainment is all that you'd get out of them, they explore some interesting issues and certainly have given me food for thought.

    4. Makes sense. I think maybe I have the feelings that it would be easier to forgive in elinors situation over elizabeths is because of my own personal experience. For me, I can acknowledge that edward was still acting out of love due to his feelings for elinor. Even though he failed to handle his feelings in the best manner. Where as Darcy flat out was rude, out of prejudice and negative traits. In my own life , I have come across way too many "darcy behavior" that I've grown to be cold towards it. As for edward, easier for me to forgive to due how the situation panned out, and his honest love for elinor.

    5. Not that darcy's love wasnt honest. ..but the problematic actions by darcy was not out of love. If that makes sense! LOL

  5. There seems to be a point being made here, that in Austen the men who marry tend to be somehow more empowered/powerful than their brides- they're either not the intellectual equal of their bride but she has to make do because, well, marriage; have considerably more wealth and privilege than she does and therefor all the power (in addition to their privilege of gender); or are older/wiser/more mature and therefore have the ability to patronize their brides in a societally-acceptable manner. I know we cannot judge Regency concepts of marriage and happiness by our 21st century standards, but given this prevailing theme, I wonder if that was simply the norm of the time. It's subtle, but it leads us modern readers to wonder how happy those marriages would be in 5, 10, 20 years. Would the wives eventually resent the husbands? Become lesser versions of themselves because their imbalance in marriage equality virtually infantilizes them? That puts her novels into a sad, sad light.

    1. I'm not sure I see the difference in terms of intelectual equals in marriage between that time period and this one. I've been surrounded by many couples that I find myself thinking that they just dont "go" together because of this same reason! But yet, they fell in love and married....
      I would just guess that there was a fair equal number of unhappy marriages then as there are now, they were probably just better at making it look like a happy marriage due to what was expected as being propper. Who knows though....maybe they were in a sense easier to feel happy in their spouse because their focuses in life are much different than ours now days. They spent time together at tea, dinners, and all that, with the necesities of life more in the forefront. Us on the other hand, our lives have been taken over with so much technology that it pulls us in so many different directions. I think those aspects of the difference in time periods greatly effect marriage happiness.

    2. It does put things in a sad light, but I have 2 things to say on that:
      1) I don't think someone has to be as smart or as wealthy, etc., as you for you to be happy. This varies by person, but I think some of the imbalances aren't necessarily incompatabilities. In some cases, though, it certainly would have been, and Austen I think even made a point of it. Probably nowhere more pointedly than in P&P, where Lizzie's dad says he knows she won't be happy with someone who's not her equal, and where Mr B himself has seen what an unequal marriage can lead to.
      But there are others where their differences make them complement each other, so it works - it really depends on the character, and Austen showcases that well.

      2) I don't know how happy marriages were supposed to stay, honestly... I mean, I think what people looked for was to get along well enough to produce an heir, maybe a backup, and then they could drift apart and move in their own spheres, and nothing much was thought of it. Now, we can divorce at the drop of a dime, but then, it wasn't really as different as we like to think. People did get sick of each other, and they did grow apart - they just didn't make it a legal issue... I don't know that that puts things in any happier light, but just something to think about - was a Happily EVER After-type of happiness really considered any likelier then?

    3. You both have an excellent point. Equality doesn't equal compatibility- although it's much more romanticized in current day to be equal in ambition/education/culture, at least in my experience. And clearly, was not the case back then, if we can infer through Austen.

      I do wonder how important love, or even respect, were to a marriage. There are plenty of cases within Austen of people marrying for wealth or security (though I think they're universally portrayed as having a negative impact, usually to the person with the more delicate/romantic heart in the match). The way Henry Tilney describes his parents' relationship, as a kind of vampirism of happiness, makes me think that bitterness in marriage was entirely possible and possibly likely if the match wasn't based on respect or admiration (on both sides).
      So if you aren't intellectual, generational, or financial equals...where does the respect (enough to temper mutual boredom with your spouse) come from? Moral standing? Social graces? Appearance? Meeting societal expectations as a spouse and parent?

  6. This is probably the best conversation you've had, I must say that I'm going to miss them :(
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

    The one thing that bothered me about Austen's novels has already been discussed, and it's the intellectual inequality of almost ALL the couples she describes - even (and most importantly) between the main couples of her stories. Lizzy and Darcy are actually the only two whose marriage would work in modern days, in my opinion.
    In every other case, one of the two would surely end up realizing the person they married is different from what they thought he/she was, which today would equal divorce, or at the very least a life-long therapy.
    I know inequality in marriage was the norm back then, but what Austen tries to depict here is not the norm, but the stories of some few brave people choosing to marry for love rather than interest, power and money - which is why I'm a bit disappointed in her love stories, I really don't see them working in the long period.
    I love Jane for her style and the beautiful way she describes her characters, which is something I find disappointing in most other writers, but I think she doesn't really manage to do what I believe she wanted to do, which is depicting real, steadfast love in contrast with passion-driven stories. I'm not a romantic and find all those passionate love stories unsufferable, but it's not like her characters' feelings are any closer to true love than passion is.

  7. I think some of the authors hit on my concerns with these stories. One of them was that I always wanted Col. B for Elinor when I read the book and even seeing the movies. They just seemed to connect better- meeting of the minds stuff. On a lesser level, I had the same issue with Catherine and Henry Tilney because I didn't feel the connection went past whimsical with them. This may sound odd, but I once thought that Col. Fitz and Emma would make a lively couple (that's neither here nor there, eh-hm, sorry for the rabbit trail).

    I love these conversations, Misty and ladies!

    1. I agree about Elinor and Col. Brandon! They are much closer in age, practicality, temperament, etc. [Actually the mother would have been an even closer age for the good Colonel...]
      Imagine a story set today that had our 37-year-old hero trolling the local high schools looking for a girl with an unbroken spirit and excitement for life. That would just be all kinds of wrong and is probably already the plotline for a Lifetime Original movie.

  8. I'm amused, reading through all the conversations, by how much my... vitriol toward Edmund colored all my answers. It's understandable, since I answered the questions on the same day I wrote my post, but I have a better answer now, I think.

    Every time I read (or try to read) Mansfield Park, I'm appalled by how the entire family treats Fanny. I know it's an accurate representation of how a poor relation might expect to be treated, and maybe it's that awareness that gets under my skin. There were actually children who were neglected like this, for no other reason than that their parents weren't the wealthy ones in the family. Family is family, and all children deserve to be loved.

    I also (and this might get me some rotten tomatoes) really can't stand how blind Elizabeth is in the first half of P&P. This is my favorite book, and I almost can't stomach the first half of it because she is such an idiot. I don't blame her for not liking Darcy, but the way she just takes Wickham's word for everything is ridiculous. I just listened to these chapters yesterday, and I honestly wanted to throw something when she completely dismissed Bingley's warning (via Jane) about Wickham.

    This is why I took so long to get into LBD. Watching the story, narrated entirely by her... I wanted to smack her.

    1. Here, here, Nancy (about the thoughts on Lizzy)! I have the same reaction. She feels almost smug the way she ignores the hints to caution her about Wickham because she feels she knows better. And like so many of us when we feel insulted, she doesn't recognize that her big hang up with Darcy is because she's still smarting about the remark at the assembly.

      As to Edmund, I am a family worker so I totally get your righteous anger over the way Fanny is treated by family.

    2. Haha! That's one of my favorite things about Austen, honestly- her heroines are realistically flawed. I always assumed Wickham's charisma (in wit, but appearance and energy as well) gave her a kind of temporary stupidity. In my own life, even a keenly-honed instinct has gone unheeded at times, when a bit of engaging pretty started paying attention to me. Not that all women turn into idiots around an attractive guy, but....hormones.

      And I think it's necessary for her to be humbled in retrospect, when she realizes that she (who knows herself to be witty) is not above mistakes, especially when she turns to her own pride instead of listening to trusted confidants (another recurring theme in Austen, right?). It gives her the humility, and then ability, to truly understand Darcy. And also, in the greater scheme of things, it makes Lydia more understandable (to Lizzy, if not to us) because she falls prey to the same weakness.

  9. As I was reading this post and comments I remembered something else that doesn't sit right with me: Mrs. Smith in Persuasion. She doesn't tell Anne what a horrible person Mr Elliot is because of some social convention that says one shouldn't disparage a family member or a fiancé. But if she is really Anne's friend why wouldn't she warn her? Answer: she cares more about what Anne's possible husband-to-be could do for her financial situation than she cares about Anne's well-being. I mean, can you imagine a friend keeping from you that your boyfriend/possible future hubby is a serial killer just because they were afraid you wouldn't invite them over after the wedding for tea, scones, and mass murder? Jeez Louise.

    I too am really sad that this is our last conversation, and what a fascinating one it is!

    1. Mrs Smith has always made me a little uncomfortable in general, honestly... Hands in too many pies, seems a little too gleeful about misfortune, etc.

    2. Now I'm imagining some sort of Austen-esque Dexter series.....

    3. I like this aspect of the Mrs. Smith subplot, actually, because I think it's quite realistic: Mrs. Smith does care about Anne, but she's in a desperate situation -- she's poor, sick and all alone in the world, and Anne is her only wealthy, well-connected potential ally. Now it looks as if Anne is about to marry a man who Mrs. Smith knows could help her, but who she also knows is a nasty piece of work. What's Mrs. Smith to do? Seems to me a less realistic writer, one given to creating "pictures of perfection," would have Mrs. Smith Tell All Because It Is The Right Thing To Do. Our JA, however, recognizes that desperation can make even good people behave ruthlessly -- and so Mrs. Smith withholds her information about Mr. Elliot's character until she's winkled out the info about Anne's prior attachment and realizes that the Mr. Elliot marriage is definitively off. Anne knows what's happened here -- she asks Mrs. Smith why she didn't speak earlier and gets a pretty weaselly answer -- but does she leave in a huff, because her friend didn't live up to some storybook ideal of perfect friend behavior? Nope -- she does what we often do when we're disappointed in someone but don't want to sever the relationship; she decides to paper it over and move on. I think the whole episode has wonderful psychological acuteness. Which doesn't mean it isn't uncomfortable, though -- quite the reverse, since psychological acuteness often is uncomfortable. . .

    4. I'm not saying I don't like it, because I do - just that she makes me uncomfortable as a character. In my mind, that's a good thing: like you said, it's realistic, and anything that elicits a reaction like that means the author has done their job.

  10. I really find the most fault with Fanny and Edmund. The way he just decides that he is know madly in love with her just makes me sick. Also, the way Fanny just accepts it and goes with it like he didn't treat her like she was nothing but family.

  11. I'm a guy and the thing that bothers me about Austen's works is how she has Brandon behave. What's more remarkable is that no one else sees the problem. I speak of how Brandon did not tell the Dashwoods about Willoughby until AFTER Marianne was rid of him. How can no one see that as anything but carelessness and misplaced reserve. IF Willoughby's only sin at the time was what he did to Eliza, that would be bad enough. But Austen has Brandon, when he finally tells Elnor, admit that he had known for many weeks that Willoughby was expensive and dissipated and he knows the Dashwood's DO NOT know that about Willouhgby because he thinks they are being deceived. Now, if he knew they are being deceived and he knows the truth, isn't he, a trusted mature friend of the family also deceiving them? He is putting Marianne in danger of a miserable future with a guy he knows to be depraved, wild, dissolute and self-indulgent. I would think a man as honorable as we think Austen portraying him would be more courageous. The only excuses Austen gives him is that he thought he had no hope of succeeding and that he consoled himself that Marianne might reclaim him. I'm not sure what "succeed" means here. Most interpret it to mean they would not believe him. So, the crux of the situation is that because he's worried they might think he is lying, he actually lies (by omission). I admit it is plausible that a girl like Marianne might not believe him, but her mother? Elinor? We think NONE of them would believe Brandon if he wrote a letter to Mrs Dashwood as soon as he found out what kind of man WIllougbhy is? In other words, I think in real life, his duty would have been to Mrs Dashwood. She is his peer both in age and station, both having teenager in their charge. So of course he shouldn't address his concerns to Marianne, but to her mother.

    Now, as to his hope that Marianne might reclaim him, why does this not bother decent women? Why jeopardize her future in the off chance she could correct his many faults? And Brandon has before him an example of what happens to a young woman who marries a bad man...ruination. Yet when he sees a potentially disastrous situation unfolding, he keeps silent.

    Anyways, that's my pet peeve with Austen's works.

    1. I think that 'succeed' in this context is to be successful in obtaining Marianne's hand in marriage. Austen used the word succeed in this way in the Emma/Knightley proposal. So I suppose Brandon didn't say anything because he thought Marianne would never accept him and Willoughby might change his ways if he was married to Marianne but it was a huge gamble, he should have at least warned Mrs Dashwood.

  12. I just remembered something that niggles at me from Pride and Prejudice; Darcy is told in the April that Jane Bennet has feelings for Bingley but he does nothing about it until he wants to return to Hertfordshire himself after seeing Lizzy at Pemberley. I've always thought that was a bit selfish of him.


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