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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sir Thomas Bertram and General Tilney: Two Peas in a Pod

In Janeites, Diana Birchall noted that the 1971 Brian Southam article I cited yesterday included the following comment:

"Like so many of his kind, Sir Thomas is a Christian gentleman, well-meaning and principled. But these are the men who can work evil more insidiously and blindly than the deepest villains."

I responded as follows:

I had noticed that, too, and it's a sign of Brian's sharp intuition that he included Sir Thomas in an article that delves deeply into General Tilney's shadows, even though Brian did not know about JA's shadow stories.

I see the shadow Sir Thomas as practically a carbon copy of the overt General Tilney--they both oppress their families, both in the emotional sense and also in the sense of taking oppressive actions. Sir Thomas burns plays which expose his hypocrisy to the world, General Tilney burns the midnight oil writing fascistic pamphlets as part of the brigade of powerful hypocrites who "protected" England against "Jacobins". Two peas in a pod.

It is just that our perception of Sir Thomas is so heavily colored by Fanny's perceptions of him--Fanny, who is the ultimate turner-of-the-other cheek in her refusing to judge those who victimize her, and who gives the benefit of the doubt to her uncle on every one of his self-serving rationalizations---that the parallels between him and General Tilney are obscured.

Cheers, ARNIE

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