Austen in August, Week 2: Susan Kaye

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?”

Effects by BeFunky.com

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.

If this is your first visit with us, check out last week’s AiA posts:
Susan Kaye: What Does Does Mary Know?
Robin Helm: Should Anne have Yielded to Persuasion?
Laura Hile: A Civil Cautious Lawyer

Take care–Susan Kaye

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9 thoughts on “Austen in August, Week 2: Susan Kaye

  1. Robin Helm

    Interesting question, Susan. Wentworth had committed, and then had been rejected one time. I am not surprised that he reacted as he did when he met Anne again. She was in the power position the first time, and he lost. The second time, the power had shifted. She was now 27 and still single. Though he may not have done it intentionally, he caused her to suffer the sting of rejection when they met again after 8 years. Both had always been constant in their hearts, but neither was willing to throw themselves under the emotional bus when they first saw each other again.

    While Anne gave up hope of reuniting with Wentworth as she observed him in a flirtation with Louisa which she thought would end in marriage, Wentworth thought Anne would never marry – until he saw the attentions paid to her at Lyme by William Elliot. The admiration Anne received from that gentleman jolted Wentworth. I believe he started to listen to his heart at that point. He had fought it until then.

    My personality is nothing like Anne’s. I would have ignored him completely at first. He had betrayed many times that he still cared for her, yet he flirted with other women in front of her. At some point, I would have confronted him with his behavior. That’s me. I think Anne acted within her personality – I don’t think she could have done otherwise and been Anne. I admire her restraint; it reminds me of Elinor Dashwood. Anne has never seemed weak or self-sacrificing to me. She is strong and reserved.

    Wentworth is another story. He should not have played with the affections of Louisa when he had no intention of marrying her. Let’s think of another Austen hero who is not quite as dashing as Wentworth. Darcy was vehemently rejected, yet he remained constant, worked for Elizabeth’s good, and confessed his feelings for her again, knowing all the while that she might reject him once more. That’s why I’m still Team Darcy.

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      Nobility always has it’s comeuppance. It’s easy to say that Darcy was self-sacrificing in “fixing” Elizabeth’s family problems, we’ll see how well that nobility holds up now that he’s married to her and his worst nightmare is now is brother-in-law. I’m sure readers love the idea that tossing a little Darcy money around will alleviate the problem by keeping Wickham and Lydia at bay, bet not.

      We can point at Wentworth and say he flirted with Louisa, which in Regency times he did, but it wasn’t to hurt Anne, IMO. He got caught up in the maelstrom that is the Musgroves and went along for the ride. I’m sure there were long talks with Edward about his stupidity when he was hiding out in Shropshire.

      Anne and Frederick start out with a clean slate. With Darcy and Elizabeth, the tilt-O-whirl is just starting and they better fasten their seat belts because bad pennies always come back.

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      1. Robin Helm

        I have to humbly disagree. Wentworth could not have missed Anne’s misery. What she felt was on her face. I don’t think he really intended to hurt her, because he wasn’t mean, but I do think he was showing her what she gave up. I also think he and Edward talked it out. That’s why he went to Shropshire.

        I don’t think of Darcy as self-sacrificing at all. He did, however, risk rejection a second time, even after he said he would not renew his addresses. There had been very little encouragement from Elizabeth when he did so.

        Anne and Frederick’s slate is just as jumbled as Darcy and Elizabeth’s. Frederick is now saddled with the entire Elliot clan, and the estate is entailed away from the female line just as it is in the Bennet family’s case. Both Wentworth and Darcy will have to contend with less than pleasant in-laws who might live with them at some time.

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  2. AmyFlo

    ” jumping into a pool of rejection sharks with an open wound.”

    LOL!!! What a visual!

    When Wentworth and Anne first cross paths again, I don’t think either really knows how to behave in each other’s presence. Wentworth is still angry and Anne is still consumed with regret. It’s his call how their interaction would go, and upon their first meeting, he barely acknowledges her. Because it’s in Anne’s nature to fit into the moods of others, she perceives Wentworth’s cool politeness to her as a sign that he doesn’t want to talk to her. So, she obliges and tries to make herself invisible.
    As for social convention… I don’t know much about that, but I doubt nothing would be made of dashing, outgoing Captain Wentworth suddenly having an emotional tete-a-tete with “only Anne.”
    And by the time he’s realized that there’s more to his emotions than resentment, he’s already entangled with Louisa and Anne is gone.

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      I disagree. Anne and Wentworth are known to be previously acquainted and no one thinks enough of her to imagine that he would be interested romantically. She’s safe. After he’s been traipsing high and low with the single girls of the house, being seen with Anne would likely be thought of as a pity convo.

      He put his foot in it with Louisa, but that’s stupidity on his part and a little emotional cupidity on the part of the family.

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      1. AmyFlo

        I think there are many ways on how the Musgroves would perceive a private conversation between Wentworth and Anne. If the conversation appeared to be casual, then I can see them seeing it as a “pity convo” and not thinking anything of it.

        Because he’s ruled out even the barest traces of polite conversation, then that wouldn’t happen. Austen herself doesn’t give the details on how they conveyed that they were previously acquainted, so I’ll just go with Hinds’ brief “We have met once” and Root’s stiff “Captain Wentworth.” Such a snipped summary of their previous association would indicate to me (if I were a Musgrove) that they barely knew each other at all. So their talking to each other would be dismissed, yes, as nothing more than talk of the weather.

        But the image in my mind of the two of them talking wouldn’t be casual at all – it would be intense. If the Musgroves saw such a thing, I doubt even their breezy perceptions would miss that something more is going on.

        To your point about love finding its ways around social convention, this is true (hence The Letter). But when they’re with the Musgroves, he doesn’t know he’s still in love with her, and she’s desperately trying to blend into the walls.

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        1. Susan Kaye Post author

          And she blended into those walls, leaving him to simmer in anger. She did the modern woman’s equivalent of “fine.” Meaning, “I’m peeved, now find out why.”

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  3. Laura Hile

    As Susan has said, it’s all about the story. Misunderstandings and reluctance to speak make for great ones. And an author’s painful experiences are a wellspring of story ideas. I cringe to think that Jane overheard some of the things she later had Anne or Wentworth say…

    How many times have I behaved like they did? To see each of them weak and reserved (or unthinking) increases my interest (and sympathy, particularly for Anne) because I recognize their all too human mistakes. I want to jump up and down, shouting, “Don’t be stupid! Like me! Don’t be like me! Don’t do what I did!”

    Which means that I am involved in the story. Which is what Jane wanted. The mark of a master storyteller. It’s easy to forget her characters are not real.

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