歐美研究季刊第46卷第3期 - page 320

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more on Marianne’s social awkwardness than on her love of
Willoughby. Indeed, Marianne is early described as lacking in
social grace: “she was every thing but prudent” (7). When
Marianne famously shows no interest in flattering Lady
Middleton, “upon Elinor therefore the whole task of telling
lies . . . always fell” (141). Even in those descriptions of
Marianne’s interaction with Willoughby the narrative focus
frequently shifts to Marianne’s indifference to everyone else
apart from her lover, to everything else apart from seeing him
again. Thus their courtship in Barton cottage can be
summarized in one sentence: “[w]hen he was present she had
no eyes for any one else” (64). Thus another sentence suffices
in encapsulating Marianne’s sojourn in London: “At one
moment she was absolutely indifferent to the observation of all
the world, at another she would seclude herself from it for
ever” (228). There certainly are brief discussions of Marianne’s
feeling
per se
. But they tend either to be placed in the context
of unconcern or to introduce the problem of indifference again.
Marianne’s anxious expectation to see Willoughby, for
example, renders her oblivious to common courtesy (184).
And her traumatic encounter with Willoughby results in a
cynical belief that the gossipy Mrs. Jennings could not feel her
sorrow (228).
Of course, the unexpected meeting of Marianne and
Willoughby in a London party marks the apex of Marianne’s
emotional excess. But once again, indifference and its social
ramifications lie at the heart of this dramatic scene. We see
Marianne “give way in a low voice to the misery of her
feelings” (Austen, 2006: 202). At the same time we understand
that it is Willoughby’s cold politeness, the conspicuous absence
of his former passion for Marianne, that occasions her sorrow
in the first place. Moreover, Austen quickly whisks a grieving
Marianne away from her narrative and, in her stead, places a
thinking Elinor contemplating on the cause of Willoughby’s
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