Willoughby’s Confession

August 30, 2010 at 8:55 pm (books) (, , , )

I was close to finishing Sense & Sensibility last evening, when I got stuck on the chapter comprising Willoughby’s ‘confession’. Rather than continue reading, I turned back and RE-read this chapter.

Am I the only one who thinks less of Willoughby after this chapter?

There are so many moments when I wonder if Austen actually meant this appearance to expiate Willoughby — or condemn him a bit further, thereby drawing a line for the credulity of Elinor.

For instance: Did Miss Grey really “dictate” Willoughby’s letter to Marianne? She could certainly play that card, but that’s a position of power for her. With her fortune, Miss Grey could have had her pick of men. There’s just something about her” jealousy,” as Willoughby tells of it, that doesn’t jibe.

What first got me thinking this way? Willoughby’s talking about all stories having two sides and how Elinor mustn’t think him rascal and Eliza saint — as he reminds her to beware who told her one side of this story, he then proceeds to tell her one side of his story. Are we meant to believe it?

Should readers juxtapose this chapter with the *comical* chapter where Brandon offers the Delaford living while Mrs Jennings thinks him offering Elinor his hand? That opens to interpretation the notion that What Willoughby Says may not be what Willoughby in truth is saying.

Frankly, I’m in total confusion…

After last night, I’ve become more like Mrs Dashwood: Ready to write him off as a scoundrel.

Why has Austen included this chapter? Are parts of it truth, and parts of it untruth? Is this confession supposed to point up the “say anything” part of Willoughby’s character? What did he hope to gain? Just to leave Marianne (and Elinor) with such good feelings towards him that she never could say ‘yes’ to the one man Willoughby dreads her marrying? What am I missing here?

Very frustrating at this moment, though I’ve enjoyed this reading of the novel even more than when I read it last (3 years ago).

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