I just want to link to this while I have a moment free – I read it this morning and have been thinking about it, off and on, all day.
Anne talks about what she calls “The Marianne Problem” – based on Marianne Dashwood, in Sense and Sensibility – the sister who follows her heart, her soul, her spirit – to disastrous results, in the arms of Willoughby. Who is nerely ruined by passionate love. Is it better to take a steadier course? To choose something that is perhaps not so exciting, not so dangerous?
But isn’t it also true that, perhaps, for people like Marianne – there is no other choice? How can you train your heart to not want what it wants?
Some people ARE able to make other choices, are able to counsel themselves out of grand passions, and pick what is best for them. I have seen it around me. They don’t seem to be paying any great price of the soul.
But who says that this is the path everyone is even able to take?
I’m asking these as hypotheticals, and I’ve been asking myself these questions all day. I’ve got quite a bit of Marianne Dashwood in me, which is why the post hit such a nerve. I’ve also got quite a bit of Elinor in me as well – but in terms of love, romance, all that jazz – I’m Marianne all the way. And I’ve had equally disastrous results (although, granted, I haven’t almost died from my disasters, and I haven’t had to be “bled” in the sick room of a drafty manor, all because of my broken heart). But I have paid a huge price for my Marianne-ness.
And you could counsel me a smarter course, you could tell me why it isn’t always best to follow one’s passion … blah blah blah … but we are talking about something which is so intrinsic to my makeup that I literally would stop being myself if I chiseled that part of me out. I’ve tormented myself with these questions before, in my lonelier periods. Could I really change? In that way?
I think you’re right, too, Anne, about the weakness in the novel. It was Austen’s earlier book, and while the prose is, of course, magnificent – the plot is a bit more simplistic, the lines more clearly drawn.
I have a lot I want to say about this, but no time at the moment. I’ll post my thoughts later, when I know what exactly they are.
Oh, one last thought: In terms of the whole Willoughby thing – who, while he is compelling and romantic, and says all the right things – he’s a complete cad, and he has no character.
But the question the book poses (or – maybe it doesn’t) is: Can you tame your heart to not want what it wants?
I don’t think that this is just a matter of training yourself not to fall in love with heroin addicts (or “Notorious” addicts) or really bad men who beat you – or something so obviously self-destructive. I think it’s deeper. Can you decide, after making some mistakes in love, after paying huge prices, to put aside your need for great chemistry, for sexual fizz, for passionate feelings … and be with someone who may not shoot you over the moon, but who is a steady companion beside you?
I believe the answers are different for different people.
I don’t believe that Marianne Dashwood, as she is written, could actually make that second choice. I think the film does show that her happiness will never again be what it was. However, she was punished so greatly for loving someone so deeply, that the happiness she will find with the Colonel, although it is a quieter kind, will be enough.
She has been frightened out of wanting more from life.
Just a couple of my thoughts.
UPDATE Anne responds to this. I’ve got a lot more to say on this topic. It touches on my problem with the self-help therapeutic culture which has so entwined itself into our society. The fallacy that we can be “fixed” – and also the fallacy that there is anything to fix in the first place.
Elia Kazan said a great thing about analysis. (And I have to just say this, to be clear: I had been in analysis for years. It did me a great deal of good. And I know that being in analysis has saved many people’s lives. I am not discarding the idea of therapy – NO. The following is just my opinion, and my problem with the idea that everyone needs therapy and that every problem needs to be “fixed”.)
Kazan said that too much of therapy wants to get rid of the “rebel” in us. It wants to “fix” the anti-social side of us (not the psychopathic guy-with-the-rifle-in-the-watchtower rebel – that’s not what he meant by antisocial) – but the person who maybe sees things in this society he doesn’t like, and doesn’t WANT to conform.
I don’t want to get into this too much – at least not in a cursory way – it deserves more thought.
But that’s a little bit of what Anne’s post made me think of.