歐美研究季刊第46卷第3期 - page 321

Indifference in
Sense and Sensibility
321
cold formalities. Judging from his unwillingness to come closer
to Marianne in the party, Elinor assumes that Willoughby must
have been “weary of” her sister (203). But she also detects
clues that contradict this assumption. Willoughby evidently is
embarrassed and uncomfortable when he acts like a stranger to
Marianne. His embarrassment predisposes Elinor to believe
that he is not a cold-blooded scoundrel as he appears to be
(203). In other words, Willoughby’s indifference goes beyond
the confines of unconcern. It suggests that he has important
feelings to convey, finds it impossible to do so in public and
can only find shelter in the appearance of coldness. The
problem of indifference is intimately connected with the issue
of reserve.
III. Reserve
It is important to note that Brontë’s criticism of Austen is
couched in terms of reserve: “the Passions are perfectly
unknown to her; . . . to the Feelings she vouchsafes no more
than an occasional graceful but distant recognition. . . . Her
business is not half so much with the human heart as with the
human eyes, mouth, hands and feet; what sees keenly, speaks
aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study, but what throbs fast
and full . . . what is the unseen seat of Life . . .
this
Miss Austen
ignores” (as cited in Southam, 1995: 128; original emphasis).
In her attempt to describe Austen as a passionless writer,
Brontë mobilizes the contrast between surface and depth,
between what one perceives with her five senses and what one
feels with her heart. Brontë argues that Austen privileges the
former at the expense of the latter. There is, however, an
interesting concession in Brontë’s comment. Instead of
maintaining that Austen is a heartless woman, she suggests that
“[her] business is not
half so much
with the human heart as
with the human eyes” (128; my emphasis). What irritate
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