歐美研究季刊第46卷第3期 - page 316

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economic hardships of the Dashwood women and his generous
plan dwindles into a decision to help them move their things to
a new house when necessary. Ruth Perry has argued that
Austen’s age witnessed a sharp decline of women’s economic
power and independence. Through the manipulation of
jointure and dowry, the development of waged labor and the
redistribution of lands, wealth was increasingly concentrated in
the male line. Perry terms this historical development “the
great disinheritance” of daughters (2004:
38-75). Perry has
explained in details the legal and social factors underpinning
and facilitating this development. Austen’s novel reveals
another, less documented, aspect. The great disinheritance
happens also because the possessor of wealth chooses to be
indifferent to the financial insecurity of his sisters.
John Dashwood’s rapid switch from generosity to
indifference is perhaps understandable given his natural
propensity for apathy: “Mr. John Dashwood had not the
strong feelings of the rest of the family” (Austen, 2006: 5).
Unconcern and strong feeling, it seems, are irreconcilable. But
Austen incorporates another, more subtle, understanding of
unconcern in her text. Through the example of Marianne,
Austen shows that the problem of unconcern can infiltrate
emotional demonstrativeness and that it in fact constitutes part
of a character’s powerful feeling. The fluctuation of
Marianne’s emotions, covering romantic longing, lovesickness
and traumatic disappointment, is always characterized by excess.
Situating Marianne’s emotional excess in the context of the
eighteenth-century culture of sensibility, many literary
historians demonstrate that Marianne’s susceptibility to strong
feelings establishes her as a sentimental heroine, that her
indulgence in them indicates the decline of such culture by the
turn of the nineteenth century, and that her recovery from
morbid sentiments reveals the priority of self-control over
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