歐美研究季刊第46卷第3期 - page 312

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The concept of indifference operates in this passage on several
fronts. First, Edward’s occasional low spirits in Elinor’s
presence seems to suggest a Mr. Palmer-like disregard of a
woman’s happiness. Yet Edward’s indifference is more
complex than that of Mr. Palmer precisely because it remains
at a superficial level. Edward only appears to be indifferent.
This appearance of indifference, I argue, is best understood as
reserve, as burying crucial feeling under the mask of emotional
detachment. And this is exactly what Elinor feels. Disturbed by
Edward’s near-indifference, Elinor intuits that there is
something about Edward’s emotional world that lies beyond
her ken. She tries to grasp that mysterious something by her
reason but to no avail.
The passage above demonstrates a marked decrease in
Elinor’s assurance of Edward’s affection. She begins with
optimism: “[a] doubt of her regard . . . need not give him more
than inquietude” because her consistent kindness toward him is
bound to remove that doubt. Yet this optimism ends in
temporary despair: “for a few painful minutes, she believed it
to be no more than friendship.” Significantly, this decrease
accelerates as Elinor’s thoughts touch on information about
which Edward chooses to be silent. The first blow to Elinor’s
confidence is “that dejection of mind which frequently attend[s]
him” and which he never explains. Elinor’s optimistic view is
further shaken by her “knowledge” about Edward’s mother,
about her snobbishness and about the absolute impossibility of
her allowing her son to marry a poor woman. It is worth
noticing that Elinor’s “knowledge” comes not so much from
Edward himself as from her sister-in-law Fanny Dashwood
(née Ferrars). Elinor acknowledges this point earlier: “What
his mother really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny’s
occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have
never been disposed to think her amiable” (25). Edward, in
other words, says nothing about his low spirits and his family
background. Little wonder that Elinor feels that his reserve
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