Saturday, January 10, 2015

book talk: Mrs. John Dashwood

I have once again started reading Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility. One of the BBC versions of this movie is one of my favorite movies. I love this story, however, I have yet to get through the original novel. Why? Jane Austen has a bit of a different style. I generally love a writer who flourishes with detail, adjectives, and anything extra that just helps to make me feel like I am there. Jane Austen is a no nonsense writer. We get barely any details, mostly written as a narrator with some talking between the characters. It is slightly jarring for me at times, and feels a bit dry. However, her stories are really wonderful tales, filled with a lot of well worded quotable moments. I would love to get in a place where I can read through them all and appreciate her style of writing more. So, once again, I am giving Sense and Sensibility another go. Within the first few chapters, we meet Mrs. John Dashwood, the wife of the man who is inheriting Norland Park. She is a bit of a character to take in, and I always find myself slightly laughing inside when I read her antics. She is such an incredibly manipulative, selfish person, you almost can't fathom her. Mr. John Dashwood's father, while on his deathbed, asked him to please be sure to care for his current wife and daughters. If you know about that time period, women inherited basically nothing when there was a male heir available, no matter how distant. So when Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood swoop in and take over Norland Park while the widow and his daughters are mourning within, Mr. John Dashwood begins to ponder how to fulfill his father's last wish. At first, he is happy with giving them each a substantial amount of money to help them settle in their new life. Then Mrs. John Dashwood begins her manipulation, weaving this long elaborate thinking that winds Mr. Dashwood down a path of craziness!
Such as:
"...he could not have thought of such as thing as begging you to give away half your fortune from your own child."
"The time may come when Harry will regret that so large a sum was parted with."
"...people always live for ever when there is any annuity to be paid them; and she is very stout and healthy, and hardly forty."
And finally delivering this last speech, convincing her husband it was unnecessary to gift his stepmother and stepsisters any money:
" ...I am convince within myself that your father had no idea of your giving them any money at all. The assistance he thought of, I daresay, was only such as might be reasonably expected of you; for instance, such as looking out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to move their things, and sending them presents of fish and game, and so forth, whenever they are in season. I'll lay my life that he meant nothing farther; indeed, it would be very strange and unreasonable if he did. Do but consider, my dear Mr. Dashwood, how excessively comfortable your mother-in-law and her daughters may live on the interest of seven thousand pounds, besides the thousand pounds belonging to each of the girls, which brings them in fifty pounds a year apiece, and, of course, they will pay their mother for their board out if it. Altogether, they will have five hundred a year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that?- They will live so cheap! Their house-keeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind! Only conceive how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a year! I am sure I cannot imagine how they will spend half of it; and as to your giving them more, it is quite absurd to think of it. They will be much more able to give you something."
It always amazes me how crazy manipulative this woman is! Why, of course they should need no money to help out. If one hasn't money for anything, no money is required for anything else! In modern times, can you imagine one not ever needing the use of a vehicle? Or anything extensive to clean your house? And have no need for company? This cracks me up that she is basically saying, they will be poor, so they wont need money for anything. What?! What I find even more hilarious is that her husband immediately falls in line with her thinking, confirming her thoughts to be true. How do two people in one room have such a lack of humanity for others, to weave such a web of absurdity to justify their desires? Insanity!

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