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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sometimes strange rumours point to the truth

"There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being seen with a slice of Mrs. Weston's wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr. Woodhouse would never believe it."

I guessed back in December, 2008 WHICH CHARACTER(S) IN THE NOVEL give(s) the Perry children all the wedding cake, but it was only an hour ago that I chanced to discover that my guess was not only correct, but also very significant for understanding the shadow story of the novel.

The answer is beautiful, because it is hiding in plain sight, and yet it subtly ties together many strands of the shadow story. If anyone does guess the correct answer, together with giving some reasonably satisfactory explanation for same, I promise I will verify it. Please note that I am deliberately NOT revealing at this point whether there is only one donor, or more than one.

However, if no correct, well-justified answer is given, I WILL nonetheless reveal the identity of the secret benefactor(s) when I give my talk about the shadow story of Emma to the JASNA regional chapter in NYC in May.

It was Anielka's claim that David Garrick is the METAPHORICAL donor of the wedding cake, which she posted to the groups a few months ago, which first led me to guess the identity of the donor(s). However, her answer was only one "door", among several, that lead to the answer I have found, and now have verified by another "door" to that answer, which is highly probative. As interesting as it was to know that JA had Garrick in the back of her mind when she wrote about that strange rumour, I believe it will be more interesting to most Janeites, to know who JA had in the FRONT of her mind. All the same, thanks to Anielka for the jog to find what I have found.

"There was a strange rumour in Highbury of all the little Perrys being seen with a slice of Mrs. Weston's wedding-cake in their hands: but Mr. Woodhouse would never believe it."

On the surface, it seems like an utterly trivial, silly, random detail, thrown in by Jane Austen for no special reason. except maybe to make us smile about Mr. Woodhouse's food obsessions. And yet, as I will show, it goes to the heart of the shadow story of the novel.

Cheers, ARNIE

P.S. Speaking of cake, I am strangely reminded of the punch line of the very funny t-shirt my wife bought many years ago, on the subject of the communication gap between male and female, which I posted in these groups about 16 months ago:

Two women talking in the bathroom (in two frames):

Frame 1, entitled "What Men Think Women Talk About"

First woman: "My boyfriend is the best lover in the whole world"
Second woman: "No, MY boyfriend is the best lover in the whole world."

Frame 2, entitled "What Women Really Talk About"

First woman: "Do you think sex is better than cake?"
Second woman: "What kind of cake?"

1 comment:

Arnie Perlstein said...

I just realized (on 1/7/12) that I never posted the answer to my quiz back in 2010, so I will do so now--the person who gives all that wedding cake to the Perry children is...... Mr. Woodhouse, who recognizes that it's too late to stop Mrs. Weston from getting married, but at least he can prevent Emma's eating any wedding cake and thereby being put at risk of getting married herself!