"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 8
What's the point of having a timetable, you may be wondering, if I end up posting everything one day late and just backdating it?
I'll be darned if I know! =P
But if you will forgive me, we can start again now. I've decided to give Anne and Wentworth a rest this week. I hope you will enjoy discussing the other characters I've decided to feature.
Chapters 9 to 12
This time, I thought I'd look at the secondary characters more closely. As much as I'd like to go through them all (I have a feeling that Mary, in particular, would be combox gold), there are only two (or three?--LOL!) who got me scribbling Book Club notes on the bus.
When Charles first enters the story, we learn that he is Henrietta Musgrove's "boyfriend" and has been for some time. But he has been away during this "critical period" in Henrietta's life, and when he returns, it is to "very altered manners" that may or may not have something to do with the new interloper Captain Wentworth. At first, Charles doesn't take it well (But who could blame him?) and seems to want to fight for Henrietta . . . but then he does something even I didn't expect.
After a short struggle . . . Charles Hayter seemed to quit the field. Three days had passed without his coming once to Uppercross; a most decided change. He had even refused one regular invitation to dinner; and having been found on the occasion by Mr. Musgrove with some large books before him, Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove were sure all could not be right, and talked, with grave faces, of his studying himself to death. It was Mary's hope and belief that he had received a positive dismissal from Henrietta, and her husband lived under the constant dependance of seeing him to-morrow. Anne could only feel that Charles Hayter was wise.
I agree with Anne. And I would add that Charles reminds me of another ill-used Austen character: Jane Fairfax from Emma! The difference is that Charles will be able to rally again. If Henrietta really thinks she'd rather have the new hottie's attentions than Charles's own steady, faithful love, then he would be better off dumping her like garbage and looking for a wiser woman to woo.
But the surprises don't end there. Apparently, after Charles pulls away, Henrietta realises what she has lost and goes after him herself! And as early as Chapter 10, we have one Musgrove sister assured of a happy ending she actually deserves.
I know some who would say that Charles was wise not just in the way Anne (and therefore Austen) admired, but also in a more Machiavellian sense. He was right to hold fast to dignity and self-preservation--and also "correct" in that this was the one way to get Henrietta back. But I'd also say that Charles doesn't strike me as one who is "as wise as serpents."
You might have noticed my use of the phrase "rally again" to describe the rejected Charles Hayter--and you might remember that Anne uses it to describe the despondent Captain Benwick.
"He is younger than I am; younger in feeling, if not in fact; younger as a man. He will rally again, and be happy with another."
The difference between Charles and Benwick is that the latter has no hope of his love returning to him because she is dead. To me, there is something a bit condescending in Anne's view of Benwick--a refusal to see how deeply his suffering runs. And she should know better, shouldn't she? Wasn't she younger than he was when she thought Captain Wentworth was lost to her forever? What makes her "older in feeling, if not in fact," and therefore unable to be happy with another? Her description of Benwick as "younger as a man" seems to hint at the answer. Is Anne saying that she will never get a second chance simply because she is a woman?
Later, if I recall correctly, Anne and another character will actually argue about which of the two sexes is more steadfast in love.
Admiral and Mrs. Croft
A final note: in case you missed last week's Thursday post, let me now point you to Theme Thursday 8. In it, I wonder whether Admiral and Mrs. Croft's way of driving is a metaphor for their marriage--and a few nights later, Jane Austen herself gave textual testimony that it is!
When Anne gets a lift in their gig, she notes their unusual "style of driving" and muses that it's "no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs"!