Poor Willoughby

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

“What do you mean poor Willoughby? Willoughby was a cad and a bounder and a libertine. He even admitted to being a libertine.” “What’s a bounder? Tigger was a bounder and you like Tigger.” “Tigger was a bouncer and not a bounder.”

The whole of his behaviour, from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been grounded on selfishness. It was selfishness which first made him sport with your affections; which afterwards, when his own were engaged, made him delay the confession of it. ~Elinor

While Willoughby is certainly a flawed character, is he really all that more reprehensible than some of the other characters in this story? I can’t think of anything nice to say about John and Fanny Dashwood and they are kin. What about Robert Ferrars and Lucy Steele, two more vapid twits have never been penned. So why should poor Willoughby be singled out for century after century of feminine scorn?

Mama, the more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! ~Marianne

Willoughby plays the part of antagonist, to Marianne and Elinor’s duo protagonist parts. In such a role he is likely to come out on the short end, but without him the story could not exist. When they first meet, Marianne and Willoughby are two peas in a pod, hopeless romantics. Through her trials, Marianne is allowed to evolve past her initial, unrealistic romantic expectations of a man. This opens her heart for Colonel Brandon. Brandon in turn is then motivated to provide a curacy at Delaford for Edward Ferrars and Elinor. Happy ending, QED. None of this would have occurred without poor Willoughby’s involvement.

But she will be gained by some one else. And if that some one should be the very he whom, of all others, I could least bear – but I will not stay to rob myself of all your compassionate goodwill, by shewing that where I have most injured I can least forgive. ~Willoughby

At the story’s end Willoughby arrives distraught over the news of Marianne’s grave illness. He confesses to Elinor that he really did love Marianne. Now his fate is a loveless one, he must marry Miss Sophia Grey, a wealthy but malicious heiress. He is a broken man who is shown only pity by Elinor. He made the same mistakes that Marianne did. Well, maybe he did make one more mistake than she. Austin casts him down, while Marianne is allowed to rise. We know Marianne’s thoughts, we feel her feelings. Of Willoughby, we only hear of his actions and are left to guess his motives. I think that we should cut him some slack and let his two-hundred old ‘crimes’ be forgiven.

The photo with this post was taken from the program’s cover art. Pictured are Elinor (Nancy Lemenager) on the left and Marianne (Amelia McCain) on the right. They appear to be gazing on their ancestral estate, Norland Park. Friday night, we saw Jon Jory’s play at the Rep, adapted from Jane Austin’s, “Sense and Sensibility”.

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