The Jane Austen Social Scene Part VII: John Willoughby

Oh, wow, have I been absent from the blogosphere! I just realized my last post was back in May, and I am officially embarrassed!

Seeing the date of my last post, I wondered, “What have I been doing all this time?” Well, I like to think that I have been out experiencing the Jane Austen Social Scene for myself this summer.

My experiences with dating and relationships could very well turn into excerpts for a book whose ideas for a title could include It’s Actually Not My Fault That I’m Single, Buttmachine* and Bike Helmets, and What To Do When Your Date Leaves You To Walk Back Alone At Night. Trust me, there are also other working titles and the chapters would be even better.

After taking a break from attempts at dating, I decided to give it a whirl again this summer. I tried different venues in the past from going to events to the slew of online sites, so I wanted to try a dating avenue I did not pursue before but had heard much about: Tinder.

I am an optimist. I see the best in people. I am honest, genuine, and direct. I apply the golden principle of “Treat others as you would want to be treated” to my interactions with fellow creatures.

Unfortunately, I can not say the same for others.

When I think over the dates and the people I have met because of Tinder, I likewise think about where in the Jane Austen Social Scene they would inhabit. And there is one character who comes to mind: John Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility.

Willoughby is a character who essentially leads Marianne on and ends up hurting her. He shows interest in her, they share common interests and engaging conversations, and he creates an implicit attachment between them. It’s also revealed that he got a girl pregnant, refused to take responsibility for his actions, and was disinherited as a result. His financial crisis leads him to needing to marry someone rich, which he does.

Now, the guys I met did not necessarily match Willoughby’s plot (thankfully) nor will the Willoughby type in general (at least I hope they don’t). The Willoughby guy is the type who at first presents himself as charming and expresses an interest. Once this interest is reciprocated, they give the appearance of a desire to get to know a person. This desire, however, has an ulterior motive to serve their own means which are usually selfish.

How does one deal with a Willoughby type? By having the good sense to exercise sensibility.

*Buttmachine refers to title of a song. No, I’m serious. Google “Buttmachine song” and see for yourself.

 

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The Jane Austen Social Scene Part VI: Captain Frederick Wentworth

Photo Source: fanpop.com

Photo Source: fanpop.com

Can I be completely honest about the Jane Austen Social Scene? I love Mr. Knightley and Mr. Darcy, of course, but it’s Captain Frederick Wentworth who, in my opinion, has the most romantic speech:

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

Captain Frederick Wentworth. Even his last name is telling of how far is he is willing to go to be able to be with the woman he loves, essentially making himself worthy (get it, he went and got worth?) to be with Anne. Note: it’s here that I defend Anne being persuaded the first time around to break off the engagement with him. Lady Russell was only trying to look out for Anne’s best interests because she didn’t want her to marry someone with questionable economic prospects.

The Captain Wentworth type is the man you rarely hear about encountering in real life, usually being the romantic archetype of romances where he is the male character who has only truly loved one woman his entire life and has worked so that she might consider him again the next time she sees him. Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot are a couple who broke up, drifted apart, and then went back to each other after several years.

So does the Captain Wentworth type exist outside of the realm of fiction? Perhaps a better question would be is it possible for a relationship to be like that of Wentworth and Elliot, where someone can break another’s heart but there is still a chance to redeem the love?

Maybe Austen titled the novel Persuasion to not only refer to the power of persuasion present in the novel, but for the novel to also serve as a tool to persuade us, as readers, to believe, just for a moment, that this love is possible.

One Rainy Day

Today is a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester. I am standing in from of my First Year Writing class, knowing that they realize full well that it’s a rainy Friday morning, two weeks from the end of the semester.

We are in the Personal Narrative Unit, the one where they can pick whatever they want to write about so long as they are able to show the before, during, and after of the experience/event and show why the experience was significant to them in some way. I do not have a formal lesson set out for the day, which is no surprise, so I decide the weather is a fitting excuse to show the twenty minute clip from J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, the video they will need to watch to complete an extra credit opportunity I am giving them, an opportunity almost all of them need. For me, showing the video is an opportunity for twenty minutes of captive attention that will coincide nicely with the end of class.

I show the video because Rowling’s speech can be seen as a Personal Narrative where she discusses more than one experience/event and the impact on her life. Although my students only have to focus on one experience/event that is important to them, Rowling’s speech demonstrates the concepts we talk about in Personal Narrative: showing the significance through use of examples; who they are before, during, and after the experience; and, ultimately, the takeaway from the experience.

As they are watching the video, I too listen and watch the video. I am struck by Rowling’s mention of people who either peer into the metaphorical cage, unafraid of what they might see, or who turn away, too afraid to find out. Rowling’s praise of the power of imagination likewise impresses upon me, and combined with the other part of her speech, I am left mulling over the recent events in my life.

Approximately one year ago I left substitute teaching and the other positions I held in school districts that I had grown to think of as a hybrid between the space where I moved towards becoming an adult and my post-college purgatory. I left to end the year in another school district working as a Special Education Para-Educator, a job that would not only round out my experiences in Education but also mean a daily paycheck.

Approximately one year ago was also when my dad lost the job he held for as long as I could remember. In the loss of his job, my family lost our quasi-stable sense of security that was replaced by the sobering reality that the lifestyle we knew and were accustomed had turned into a ghost – a shadow, a specter attached to each of our lives.

Lastly, approximately one year ago was when I made the decision to attend the University of New Hampshire to pursue my graduate degree in English Literature. This decision meant that I would have to move up to New Hampshire to be closer to school, leaving my parents and the Boston area for the rural setting of the granite state. A state away and a world apart.

Approximately one year later I am sitting watching J. K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech, and I realize that I veil the past. Not hide. Not escape. Veil. I cover the past – my past – with the creation of this new life. New location, new friends, new experiences. This newness makes it easy to mask the past because this newness provides ample opportunities for distractions. Romantic interests, classwork, scholarship, even texting are each shiny lights that help lead me away from the past.

As I sit listing to Rowling’s words, I begin to register that I simply did not come to this new place in my life; I arrived here through experiences that span beyond approximately one year ago. Experiences where I not only peered into those dark cages, but also extended a hand to those stuck inside, hoping for someone to extend a hand to me.

The power of imagination was another topic that I was struck by in Rowling’s speech. I am a writer, but I am not the writer I used to be. Once I wrote for both others and for myself, creating worlds and narrations that were drafted because I wished to engage in the craft of writing. But in this new life of mine I feel I have become a passive writer, skillfully composing works because they are required of me instead of out of the enjoyment of allowing my unbridled imagination to seize my fingers and cast my attention into the abyss of inspiration.

Where is that individual I remember being? Did I shove her in one of the moving boxes neatly labeled with the contents inside and conveniently forgot to unpack her? Did I think I could erase her by becoming a new self in this new setting? Or worse, did I cut her up, using only those fragments I thought would look best with the new image I was creating?

Perhaps none of those possibilities. Perhaps she is shackled inside me, wanting to be set free from her cage. All the while I dangle the key in front of her – painfully, tauntingly – until a time when the pushes and pulls around me see appropriate to unchain her, one link at a time so as not to become overwhelming.

Today I choose to begin the process of unchaining her. As I write this, the key starts to turn and her wrists slowly move.

 

The Jane Austen Social Scene Part V: Marianne Dashwood

Photo source: barnesandnoble.com

Photo source: barnesandnoble.com

Okay, confession time. I was apprehensive about writing about Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. Marianne was a character I did not give a lot of thought to when I first read the novel except to think “Silly girl.” When I decided I was going to write about Marianne for The Jane Austen Social Scene, however, I had to give her more thought.

Sure, she makes her attraction to Willoughby very public to the point where everyone thinks that the two are engaged and then has to endure the embarrassment of finding out that he not only rejected her, he gets engaged to another woman for her money (ouch!). She’s spontaneous, a romantic, and seems to wear blinders when falling for Willoughby. The first time I read the novel I kept thinking “Someone needs to slow this girl down and tell her to think before she acts. She’s making an idiot of herself all for some guy!”

Making the decision to write about Marianne for this blog made me realize something I did not when I first read the book: I have a bit of Marianne in me. Hence, this post becoming a bit of a confession.

The Marianne Dashwood is someone who forms strong attachments to people they are interested in, not caring if they look slightly foolish or imprudent in making their interest known. Slightly naive in regards to love, the Marianne Dashwood type will come to understand their folly in time, usually after they find out that the person they were interested in does not necessarily return their affections in full. Upon accepting this, the Marianne Dashwood will move onto someone who actually loves them (Col. Brandon, anyone?).

The Jane Austen Social Scene Part IV: Mr. Darcy

Oh, Darcy.

Photo Source: ebookbees.com

Photo Source: ebookbees.com

One of Austen’s most beloved male characters, Mr. Darcy is a character seemingly synonymous with Jane Austen.  So, I got to thinking: what is it about Mr. Darcy that makes him so attractive?

I admit, Mr. Darcy was not my favorite Jane Austen character for a while.  He’s distant.  For all of his dissuading Mr. Bingley from proposing to Jane Bennet the first time around, he doesn’t exactly send clear signals to Elizabeth Bennet that he likes her.  When he does tell Elizabeth that he loves her, he also insults her family.  Hardly romance material.

And yet there’s still something attractive about Mr. Darcy.  He’s awkward.  He mucks things up at the beginning between him and Elizabeth but makes them right.  He acknowledges that he was wrong.

He’s not totally unlike a guy you’d encounter in real life.

The Mr. Darcy type is someone who is not best known for their clear communication of their feelings.  You might not be sure how they feel about you, or you might think they think of you at best in amiable terms.  The Mr. Darcy type is someone you are not initially attracted to, but later realize that you do like them.  And once you realize you like them, you find yourself unable to articulate a proper conversation with them.  It’s okay.  The Mr. Darcy type wins hearts mostly with their actions rather than their words…although their words are pretty memorable.

“In vain I have struggled.  It will not do.  My feelings will not be repressed.  You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

The Jane Austen Social Scene Part III

Happy New Year!

In honor of the New Year, I figured I would post about two of my favorite Jane Austen characters (okay, who am I kidding, they are two of my favorite overall literary characters as well): Emma Woodhouse from Emma and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Photo Source: fridayonmymind.hubpages.com

Photo Source: fridayonmymind.hubpages.com

Photo Source: ebookbees.com

Photo Source: ebookbees.com

I like to think that Emma and Elizabeth, or Lizzy as she’s often referred to, would be good friends.  Both are smart, witty, and social.  Both get involved at one point with guys who turn out to be liars.  On the surface, they can appear to have a lot of the same character traits.  Yet…

Emma is a homebody whereas Lizzy is not.  Although Emma is social, she is tied to her home and to her father, so much so that she tells Mr. Knightley that can’t marry him because it would hurt her father too much to have her move away from him.  Meanwhile, Lizzy travels with her aunt and uncle and moves to Pemberley after marrying Mr. Darcy.

Despite Emma being higher up socially than Lizzy and being more wealthy (at least when they are both single), I would say Lizzy actually has more physical mobility since Emma does not travel except on her honeymoon.  This lack of travel on Emma’s part is in large due to her care of her father who is constantly worrying.  I give a lot of kudos to Emma for her patience with her father, but I give more kudos to Lizzy for making her own decisions without worrying about how her parents might react (example: her rejection of Mr. Collins).

Lizzy is also more grounded than Emma, perceiving the world in a way that demonstrates more of an awareness about society than Emma has.  Does Lizzy try to persuade her friend Charlotte Lucas to call off the engagement to Mr. Collins because Lizzy does not particularly care for Mr. Collins?  No, Lizzy does not.  Emma, on the other hand, practically holds up a neon sign to let her friend Harriet Smith know what she thinks of the idea of Harriet marrying Mr. Martin; as a result, Harriet rejects Mr. Martin the first time around, potentially ruining her social prospects.  Both Emma and Lizzy can be naive when it comes to the society around them; however, given Emma’s elevated position this lack of awareness is more pronounced.

There are certainly more differences when it comes to these two.  Lizzy comes from a large family; Emma has a sister, but seems to suffer from only-child syndrome at times.  Lizzy is perhaps the more mature of the two characters whereas Emma has moments of immaturity such as her insulting behavior towards Miss Bates when they are on an outing in the county (again, lack of social awareness – poor Miss Bates really is poor Miss Bates).  What makes me love both of these characters so much though is that they both have great hearts.  Emma feels awful once she realizes the mistakes she’s made and seeks to remedy them immediately.  Lizzy understands how she let her bias cloud her better judgement.  To me, these two are some of the most “real” characters in the world of Jane Austen, characters I identify with within myself and with others (and those others are often my close friends).

 

 

The Jane Austen Social Scene Part II

Photo Source: ramblings-janeite.blogspot.com

Photo Source: ramblings-janeite.blogspot.com

Today I bring you the puzzling case of Frank Churchill from Emma. In the novel, Frank Churchill is extremely flirtatious with Emma Woodhouse to the point where those around them speculate that the pair will soon be engaged. By the end of the novel, it’s revealed that Frank Churchill’s flirtations with Emma and slights of Emma’s rival Jane Fairfax were all part of Frank Churchill’s rouse to keep his engagement to Jane Fairfax under wraps until his wealthy aunt died and he received his inheritance. Once that happens it’s all, “Jane! We’re rich! I love you!” and “Good day, Miss Woodhouse.”

To be fair, Emma realizes she doesn’t actually love Frank Churchill and that her feelings towards Frank Churchill were more along the lines of a crush rather than enamor (and that he’s wrong for her). Kudos to Frank Churchill too for keeping his promise to Jane Fairfax. And yet…he totally uses Emma, fooling both her and everyone else (including his own father). Not to mention his insults towards Jane Fairfax, his secret fiancée.

So what do I make of Frank Churchill, both in the story and in the social scene? The Frank Churchill type is very charming, flirtatious, and someone you think is genuinely interested in you romantically. Yet the Frank Churchill type is in fact attached to another whom they rarely bring up (oh, yeah, my girlfriend…) in conversation; they would instead prefer to turn on the charm with you. If you do bring up the subject of their attachment, the charming façade falters as their expression turns serious and their volume lowers a notch or two as if they don’t want others to know. They might be distanced from their attachment by geographic distance or by other factors. Whatever the details of the case may be, the Frank Churchill type will blend with others, easily earning their high opinion.

Be wise to look past the charm of Frank Churchill as they may try to use you as part of their plans or simply to distract/amuse/entertain themselves. Either way, their views towards you can be best summed up as thinking of you as someone to play with. Once you figure out their game, “Shameful!” will come to mind when you think of them and what they did to you and those around you.