Sunday, 24 November 2013

New thoughts on (the ending of) "Sense and sensibility"

On 30/7/2013 I published a rant harshly attacking "Sense and sensibility", especially its ending. 
Tonight I've reread many passages in this book and slightly changed some of my opinions. 
1/ Edward doesn't break the engagement with Lucy not because he loves her. It shows that he's an honest person, doing his duty. Breaking an engagement in the 19th century isn't a simple matter, which I finally understand after reading John Fowles's "The French lieutenant's woman".
His uncertainty of the relationship between himself and Elinor is also understandable, on the 1 hand he's a diffident man, and simple, on the other hand Elinor always tries not to cross any boundary, and doesn't express much emotion. 
Pride might be another factor. A son who has always obediently followed his mother's wishes like a puppet may 1 day explode and rebel and thus, when threatened to be disinherited if he doesn't break the engagement with Lucy (and later marry Miss Morton), Edward feels the urge not to comply. 
2/ The sudden attachment of Lucy Steele to Robert Ferras can be explained that the cunning, manipulative, selfish Lucy, seeing no future with the disinherited Edward, tries to entrap Robert by stroking his vanity with flattery (the art she has always mastered), which she later also does to Mrs Ferras. This is certainly abrupt and unsatisfying, especially what happens afterwards- Mrs Ferras disinherits Edward for deceiving her for 4 years and not breaking the engagement with Lucy and not marrying Miss Morton as she wishes, and thus gives all of her money to Robert, but doesn't do the same to Robert when he marries that same girl, and later, she accepts Edward's reconciliation, approves of his marriage to Elinor and receives him again. That is, I've said it, this resolution is still abrupt and unsatisfying, but now it appears more understandable, or at least it's not impossible and incomprehensible as I thought the 1st time I read it. 
3/ Willoughby's attempt to explain and justify himself doesn't make him better. In fact, it makes him more despicable. Not only selfish, greedy, dishonest and materialistic but also weak, cowardly and always blaming others. 
The most unsatisfying, ineffective bit in this ending, about which I haven't changed my opinion, is the way Jane Austen puts Marianne and Colonel Brandon together. It's like in the end Jane Austen doesn't know what to do and makes a rash decision to finish this novel, to get it done and over with, whereas what she has to do is merely adding a development that may convince the readers of the growing attachment of these 2 characters. 
A flawed novel but not disastrous. In a nutshell, my opinions on "Sense and sensibility" are better and consequently my feelings about Jane Austen have also been improved. She's definitely shrewd and observant. I doubt I'll ever become a Janeite (it's too unlikely, look at how 'manly' I am- loving Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Nabokov, Kafka, Orwell, Kundera, Salinger...) but perhaps in the future I won't hate her very much.

Update on 25/11: 
1 thing bothers me- among the 3 main guys, the only interesting and charming guy is Willoughby, a douchebag, the other 2 guys, who marry the 2 heroines, are honest, reliable and considerate but quite boring. Edward's reserved, diffident, meek, dutiful, not at all passionate and virtuosic, Colonel Brandon's quiet, reserved and too old (for Marianne). 
I have to read "Mansfield park" to confirm this, but according to the film, it has the same pattern- between a charming, passionate jerk and a trustworthy, kind but tedious dude, the heroine Fanny Price goes for the latter. 
By such a remark I by no means say that one should choose a charismatic asshole instead but boring people are boring and I don't like them. "A bore is someone who derives you of solitude without providing you with company". It's better to be alone.

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