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Re: Infatuation vs love? (Crawfords, Churchill and more)

August 11, 2018 10:19PM
Such an interesting discussion!
I think that essentially it all boils down to the eternal question: "what is true love"? At least, what was it for Austen?
If we look at the happy marriages across all six of her completed novels, it's obvious that she didn't believe in the love from the first sight and forever – the traditionally romantic perception of love, that just happens out of nowhere. The couples that come together through infatuation or lust, without serious consideration or knowledge of each others' characters end up unhappy in Austen world. Mr and Mrs Bennet, Lydia and Wickham, Marianne and Willoughby are all the examples of such pairings. When there is nothing more than infatuation to unite two people, they will soon drift apart.
On the other hand, the happy couples share values and morals, which gives their relationship additional depth and make them truly equal partners in life. Couples that share the strong moral compass have an innate respect for each other and trust in each others' good judgement. They go through conflicts as well, but resolve them and grow as a result.

This is actually one of the topics that is prominent in MP. Edmund and Mary are obviously attracted to each other, and they even develop deeper attachment (it's hard to say how much of true love is in there), but they could never be happy together, simply because they value different things in life. While Mary respects and admires Edmund's intelligence, manners and principles, she'd never be able to share his lifestyle and enjoy the life in the country parsonage. She values prestige and status, while Edmund doesn't care about it. She wants to get a prominent place in the society, while he is content with what he has. While he has huge respect for religion and family ties and especially attentive to the weak and less fortunate in life (as evident from his treatment of the poor relation Fanny), Mary has no respect for those things. In her life they are nuisance, to be cast aside when they stand in the way of any pleasure or gratification; she overlooks poor and underprivileged, unless it suits her purposes to make friends with them. Her friendship to the Bertram girls and to Fanny is completely superficial and she doesn't care at all what happens to them. Mary is charming, she's sweet, she's clever and attractive and Edmund totally falls in love with the surface. But he senses that underneath she's a cynical, selfish person. He truly sees her for what she is when the whole Henry-Maria affair unravels.
I think for modern reader it's hard to grasp the nuances that make Mary a "villain" of the novel. Her worst action is failing to condemn what her brother did to the Bertram family. Nowadays the "crimes" that Maria Bertram committed are certainly not punished by the life-long social isolation. However, marrying someone for the money and then running off with a man who proposed to your cousin and used to court you and your sister simultaneously still doesn't sound good. Mary simply doesn't care what others experience and whether they end up hurt or seriously damaged. And that lack of empathy, compassion and basic human decency is what makes her a no-option for Edmund.
The same can be said about Henry - he easily joins the ranks of Austen cads. I think he genuinely falls in love with Fanny and he does admire her good qualities. The thing is, he admires them in someone else, not himself. He wouldn't ever be able to follow those principles on his own, for his own sake.
The Crawfords is such a nuanced and sophisticated portrayal of flawed people who have good, admirable qualities but at their core, are just bad people. And they are such because of their own choices.

I also think that all the points here in this discussion about Frank Churchill were all dead on. He's definitely on the cad spectrum. Mostly, it's his proneness to play with other peoples' feelings. Truly, here is the "selfish disdain to the feelings of others", whereas Frank Churchill doesn't really care if someone is hurt in the end, as long as he meets his ends. He messes with Emma, Jane, his parents, his adopted parents, the whole Highbury village. I also wonder why Austen let him out so easily - maybe to show that sometimes cads tend to get away. Anyway, his love for Jane also doesn't seem convincing to me, partly because he likes to play, manipulate and plot. Maybe the main attraction for him in the secret engagement was to make a play around it. Could be that after the wedding, Jane will not be half as interesting to him. And as we trust Mr. Knightly's sound judgement, it's obvious that he's also not convinced about Jane's happiness in this alliance.

On the topic of love vs. infatuation some questions that I've been pondering: How do you think, was Anne Elliot infatuated with Captain Wentworth when they first met and got engaged? Is that the real reason why she rejected him then - the lack of deep feeling and knowledge of his character? After all, the second time she was so sure of her choice she didn't really ask about anyone's opinion.

Was Elizabeth Bennet infatuated with Wickham, or was it just hurt vanity speaking? Was she ready to marry him had he proposed before his courtship of Ms. King?

It would be interesting to hear if someone has thoughts on that.

Infatuation vs love? (Crawfords, Churchill and more)

Cat H.June 30, 2018 06:41AM

Re: Infatuation vs love? (Crawfords, Churchill and more)

LizaAugust 11, 2018 10:19PM

Re: Infatuation vs love? (Crawfords, Churchill and more)

AdelaideJuly 17, 2018 12:25AM

Re: Infatuation vs love? (Crawfords, Churchill and more)

AmytatJuly 16, 2018 03:09AM

Re: Infatuation vs love? (Crawfords, Churchill and more)

Agnes BeatrixJuly 02, 2018 04:51PM

Re: Infatuation vs love? (Crawfords, Churchill and more)

Cat H.July 04, 2018 05:52AM

Re: Infatuation vs love? (Crawfords, Churchill and more)

AdelaideJuly 07, 2018 03:43PM


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