Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sense and Sensiblity: Family Responsibility

I Love this book it is my favorite of Jane Austen's books. This book's plot revolves around the death of a loving father whose sin is that he married a second wife after his first wife died. On His death bed old Mr. Dashwood puts his trust in his son from his first marriage. He makes his son, John, promise to fulfill his family responsibility towards his half sisters and step mother.

John Dashwood is the closest family relation this group of widows and orphans have. Without his help their are to be left destitute. He is their family redeemer to use an old testament concept. Yet his wife, Fanny, convinces him that he doesn't owe them any obligatio, they are after all only half blood. So as we meet this unhappy group of women their morning for their father turns into dispair knowing now that not only have they lost a man who loved them and protected them, but also the one who has been given the charge to take over doesn't believe he has any obligation towards them. They are utterly alone in a world where they as women can do very little to advance themselves.

So John whose responsibility it was to care for these women shirks from his duty. Luckily for the Dashwood girls there is someone who will step up to the responcibility. Sir. John Middleton. I think it is interesting that these two men have the same first name. John Dashwood is anyoung man who is easily swayed by his wife, is either vain, selfish, proud, or a mixture of all three. Sir John is generous,humble and cares little of other people's opinion. He is himself and because he knows who he is he doesn't worry about how other peopl view him.

Where John Dashwood refuses the responcibility he has, Sir John races in to take up a responsiblity that is not his. No he doesn't give them gifts of money, but he provides a house for them at a low rent, invites them to dine with him and his family almost daily, and even attempts to introduce them to men who could make them a good husband.

In the Emma Thompson movie Robert Hardy plays the part perfectly. He loves these distant relations, and as he pours out his generosity he begs them, don't thank me. Thanks is not what he wants. He simply wants to do good for people for the sake of doing it.

Next week we will still be in Sense and Sensibility, looking at the different women in the book.

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