歐美研究季刊第46卷第3期 - page 311

Indifference in
Sense and Sensibility
311
eager to accept her offer and, as a result, cares nothing about
the potential embarrassment that Mrs. Jennings’s vulgar jokes
may inflict on her. Once again Austen uses the term
indifference to describe this state of unconcern: “Elinor could
not help smiling at this display of indifference towards the
manners of a person, to whom she had often had difficulty in
persuading Marianne to behave with tolerable politeness”
(178).
There exists a second meaning of indifference, one that
emphasizes the problem of concealed feeling. While Elinor has
no difficulty understanding Marianne’s disregard of Mrs.
Jennings’s gossipy habit, she feels puzzled when Edward
becomes the subject of her interpretation. Judging from the
close interaction between her sister and Edward, Marianne
concludes that they must have been engaged and teases Elinor
about her future marriage: “When you tell me to love him as a
brother, I shall see no more imperfection in his face” (Austen:
2006, 24). Elinor “start[s] at this declaration” because,
although her affection for him is sincerely reciprocated, mutual
affection alone does not equal a marriage proposal (24-25).
Elinor had given her real opinion to her sister. She
could not consider her partiality for Edward in so
prosperous a state as Marianne had believed it. There
was, at times, a want of spirits about him which, if it
did not denote indifference, spoke a something almost
as unpromising. A doubt of her regard, supposing him
to feel it, need not give him more than inquietude. It
would not be likely to produce that dejection of mind
which frequently attended him. A more reasonable
cause might be found in the dependent situation
which forbad the indulgence of his affection. . . . With
such a knowledge as this, it was impossible for Elinor
to feel easy on the subject. . . . the longer they were
together the more doubtful seemed the nature of his
regard; and sometimes, for a few painful minutes, she
believed it to be no more than friendship. (25-26)
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