歐美研究季刊第46卷第3期 - page 313

Indifference in
Sense and Sensibility
313
“denote[s] indifference.” Little wonder that Elinor’s conviction
of his indifference to her as a lover coincides with Edward’s
staunch insistence on reticence. “[T]he longer they were
together,” the longer Edward’s reserve gnaws at Elinor’s heart.
Such is Edward’s reserve that Elinor “believe[s] [his affection
for her] to be no more than friendship.”
In
Sense and Sensibility
, indifference takes the form of
either cold unconcern or apparent reserve, or both. Both
valences indicate the relevance of emotional impoverishment
and inadequacy to Austen’s fiction. Both connect ethical
concerns with the absence of powerful feeling. Who appears
indifferent to whom raises the issues of social power and moral
character, while why indifference is necessary complicates
them further.
Sense and Sensibility
takes shape as Austen
contemplates what can happen when “the Passions,” as Brontë
calls them, are deliberately frozen and withheld.
II. Unconcern
In her recent book,
Unbounded Attachment
(2013),
Harriet Guest discusses how women writers by the turn of the
nineteenth century relied on feeling to forge an imagined sense
of community otherwise unavailable in a time of political
turmoil. She writes: “In the decade of the French Revolution,
when political debate in Britain seemed increasingly to polarize
society and leave few speakers innocent of its divisions, the
availability to women writers of a language of human
feeling . . . which seemed to transcend social boundaries and
political differences, acquired a new urgency and significance”
(5). Guest argues that Austen’s novels exemplify this faith in
the power of affection to alleviate the anxiety of social discord.
Sense and Sensibility
is the first novel she draws on to illustrate
her point. This novel, she maintains, “is the narrative of the
brief period in which Elinor’s intense concern for her sister
creates a network of relations among what . . . would
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