Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Sense & Sensibility, Volume II, chapter 12 (ch 26)

This chapter could be subtitled "The Dashwood Sisters go to London." Of course, it only covers their travel time, arrival and first day, but still . . .

Picking up on where I left off with Mrs Jennings

How sweet is it that Mrs Jennings fusses over them so much? I know she's a chatty old lady and all, but I still love her. The only thing that has her unhappy in the slightest is that the Dashwoods are letting her order all their meals at the inns they stop at along the way to London (an expense that Mrs Jennings is undoubtedly picking up, including their room rentals as they go - when she said it'd only cost her the price of sending her servant by a more public conveyance, she wasn't entirely truthful). Mrs Jennings really, truly wants to make the Dashwood girls as happy as possible, which includes feeding them things that they love, and she is frustrated that they won't be more forthcoming about their preferences. *love*

Marianne is a bit of a bitch here

You will recall that Marianne is the one who is so enthusiastic about going to London, but as we immediately see, it is entirely because she hopes to see Willoughby there. Her single-mindedness on the issue - indeed, her complete fixation on Willoughby - begins to be more apparent, as she is rude to other people (completely ignoring Mrs Jennings during three days of travel time - in a closed carriage! - and then snubbing Colonel Brandon when he pays a call on them their first evening in town) and inattentive to pretty much anything else, be it food, books, conversation or even shopping.

Not cool, Marianne. Not cool at all.

When the Dashwoods get to London, the very first thing Marianne does is send a note off to Willoughby. The fact that Marianne is writing a letter to Willoughby is perceived by Elinor as evidence that they are engaged, since correspondence between unmarried people of the opposite gender was limited at the time to relatives, spouses, or those who were betrothed. She isn't good company for anyone - not even Elinor - pacing and making herself somewhat crazy because she's waiting to hear from Willoughby.

Elinor keeps on keeping on

Meanwhile, I'd like to talk about Elinor here. She is headed off to London against her wishes, knowing that there's some chance she will be forced into company with Edward, whom she loves but can never, ever have. And yet, although she is the one who we are certain is in dire circumstances, she's the one who goes out of her way to be kind to Mrs Jennings, talking with her, playing cards with her and her friends, etc. She is doing her duty, despite personal hardship, while her sister . . . is sooooo not. Meanwhile, she's worried about her sister, since Marianne seems too wrapped up in Willoughby thoughts - and Elinor's spider senses have been tingling about Willoughby, to the point that she actively distrusts his motives and/or intentions.

She ends the chapter thinking that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, since Willoughby seems not to reciprocate Marianne's feelings: if he loves Marianne and is (she believes) engaged to her, why on earth hasn't he turned up to say hello?

A word about the menfolk:

When they arrive, Marianne sends a note directly to Willoughby. We have to assume, since it's so short, that it's along the lines of "I'm here in London, here's my address, come as soon as you can." And Marianne is certain that will get an immediate response.

It is not, however, Willoughby who arrives with all due haste; rather, it is Colonel Brandon, who heard from the Palmers that they would be arriving and paid a call on them the very day they arrived in town - which is hasty indeed. Seriously, turning up the next day to pay a call would be considered quick, so turning up the very day that they got to town shows real desire to see them.

For Marianne to be visibly upset that it's he, and not Willoughby, who has come to call, exiting the room in order to get her feelings under anything at all resembling control - well, poor Brandon. I just want to reach into the pages of the book and pat his hand or something.

So you've got Willoughby, who is not responding to a direct invitation, compared to Brandon, who races over as soon as he hears they're in town. (I'll say it again - Colonel Brandon: Man of Action). Oh, Austen, how I love your combination of foreshadowing and character development. You, madam, are a genius.

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