I had a conversation with my daughter yesterday that focused on a free tattoo and what a disaster it had turned out to be. (For an acquaintance, not her.) We decided that if you speak to someone and tell them about a desire or a need you have, if their next words are, “I know a guy,” it’s best to end the conversation and move away very fast.
Nasty reviews come in lots of guises. Amazon isn’t the only place human blisters frequent.
One of the best episodes of The Big Bang Theory last season was one in which Sheldon introduces Amy to the Indiana Jones franchise. In turn, she points out the walloping plot flaw in Raiders of the Lost Ark: the Nazis would have found the ark and been just as fried if Indiana Jones had stayed home washing his socks. Indy makes no difference to the story at all. Yeah, I really didn’t notice this either, but I chalk it up to the fact that I don’t like Indiana Jones in any of his incarnations.
Anyway, there is a similar, superfluous character in Persuasion. Just not one of the main ones, thankfully. The character of Mrs. Smith serves to give Anne an escape from the confines of Camden Place. Austen uses her to show us Anne’s compassion to a down-and-out friend. Smith makes little trifles that are sold to Nurse Rook’s wealthy patients, and the money given to needy neighbors. In doing this Austen shows us a person who, though suffering herself, is mindful of the suffering of others. Her presence in Anne’s schedule makes Sir Walter angry, and that can’t be bad. She also lets Anne know what a horrible person William Elliot is. Too bad dishing the dirt comes after Anne already made her mind up about Elliot and the prospect of becoming the next Lady Elliot. Anne and Frederick would have ended up together whether Mrs. Smith had spilled the beans or not.
If Austen were a modern author, she might have been encouraged to delete Mrs. Smith all together. I think I like the story with her. Even if she’s less a “hero” than I might have thought earlier.