Welcome to Week 2 of Austen in August, hosted by Misty of The Book Rat blog.
We’ve had some great comments about this year’s choice, Persuasion. And we’re looking forward to more.
This week I chose just one questions to answer. Feel free to ask any of your own so we can all have a part of the conversation.
This question is from the Middle questions. “As Anne and Wentworth are thrown together more and more, how do you feel about the fact that they never address their shared history? Do you find either to be irrational or unjust in not being open with the other and broaching the topic? Do you find Anne too self-sacrificing?”
I’ve sub-titled this post, Emotional Chicken Anyone? because in that game, neither party wants to be the first to rip open their chest and show their heart. Or still-broken heart in the case of Frederick and Anne. Delving into the past for these two would be like oral surgery sans the anesthetic, hence, IMO, each are silent on the matter in the first half of the book.
As Wentworth tells Anne after they straighten out all the misunderstandings that aside from the constant ache, he didn’t really know his own heart. He was angry, but underlying the huffy, angry toddler behavior was a constant love for her that dictated the previous eight years of his life. For Anne’s part, she observed the anger, but as time went on on she felt it softening and hoped they might become friends eventually. She observed and hoped, but she wasn’t going to open that emotional I-still-love-you-Frederick vein. That would have been like jumping into a pool of rejection sharks with an open wound.
I don’t see Anne as self-sacrificing, but taking advantage of the circumstances.
Years ago I posited that Anne should have stepped up and spoken candidly with Frederick. Ouch! I was told, in no uncertain terms, that both the lovers, but most particularly Anne, were shackled by the social conventions of the time. I didn’t buy the argument then and I don’t buy it now. Besides the fact that love has always managed to find a way around conventions, the neighborhood society of the Musgroves was astonishingly casual. The elder Musgroves weren’t fastidious about much of anything, much less propriety. Charles Musgrove saw Frederick interacting with his family and sisters in ways far too intimate and he said nothing. At the very least, he should have dropped a few discrete hints about the impression forming while they were off shooting together.
We’ll not bother discussing whether it was even possible for a Musgrove to drop a discrete hint, and just say that it’s doubtful Charles would have had a thunderous reaction if he found Frederick and Anne in a quiet tête à tête somewhere around Uppercross. I can’t imagine anyone, except Mary perhaps, would have had a thing to say period. In the same way that Austen instinctively used societal constriction to ramp up tension to further her story, Anne used it as the excuse to avoid risking Frederick’s rejection again.
This sort of social/romantic hide-n-seek is so true to life; I can’t help think that maybe Jane Austen had played the game herself.
Comment as you will. Have fun.
Take care–Susan Kaye