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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

“SHE SMILED, and said how she had CHANGED HER NAME since she was IN THESE PARTS…” : The Three Devilishly Clever Hints at “Lucy Ferrars’s” Satanic Qualities in Sense & Sensibility

It was in mid-2005 that I first discovered the word game hiding in plain sight at the end of the letter (epistle) the recently married Lucy sends to Edward in Chapter 49 of S&S:

“"Your sincere well-wisher, friend, and sister,
"I have burnt all your letters, and will return your picture the first opportunity. Please to destroy my scrawls—but the ring with my hair you are very welcome to keep."

The word game, which I have spoken about in live presentations since 2007 and have blogged about on several occasions since 2010, in posts such as….


And Lucy Steele/Ferrars is indeed a Satanic character, in her ability, without taking action herself, to induce others to do what she wishes to have done, actions which her dupes take of their own free will (the same M.O., in other words, like the Devil in numerous works of literature through the ages, including most recently in popular films like Bedazzled and The Devil’s Advocate).

Since 2005, I’ve had countless conversations and email exchanges with other Janeites about this particular discovery, which I still consider of the highest importance as evidence of Jane Austen’s readiness to trick her readers with word games, by hiding significant information in plain sight in her writing, but never explicitly debriefing readers about these deceptions.

So many Janeites have said to me, in so many words, the same thing—Jane Austen would never deceive her readers in that way, she was a religious person who treated lying as a sin, etc etc.

So it has long since ceased to surprise me (as it did astonish me at first) when, even as recently as this year, about half the people I explain Jane Austen’s trick to, just smile, shrug their shoulders, and tell me that they’re still not convinced that this was an intentional word game on Jane Austen’s part.

Well, today, I am here to publicly reveal a couple of other pieces of this particular wordgame of Jane Austen’s, which I have hope will push my percentage of success in convincing on this particular point up a greal deal from a mere 50%. To get an idea if I’m right, I invite those of you who are so inclined to  respond (by comment at my blog, and/or in Janeites and/or Austen-L) and let me know whether you were convinced just by “Lucy Ferrars” and if not, whether the rest of my evidence did the trick.

Here goes.

The first extra piece, which I found in 2007, but did not have at my fingertips when I posted my above posts from 2010-12, has to do with the significance of the following line spoken by the servant Thomas in Chapter 47 of S&S, only two chapters before Lucy’s letter to Edward. You’ll recall that this is the scene in which Thomas informs the Dashwood women that Lucy has recently married “Mr. Ferrars”, and of course they all assume he means Edward, when (we learn two chapters later) the lucky guy is actually Robert Ferrars! Mrs. Dashwood tries to pin Thomas down on the precise facts, and so asks him whether he is sure that Lucy has actually gotten married, as opposed to merely being engaged to Edward, which by Chapter 4 7 is already very old news. But Thomas remains firm on that point and says:

"Yes, ma'am. [Lucy] smiled, and said how she had changed her name since she was in these parts….”

So, why is this a clue to the word game leading to “Lucifer”? Think about it---Jane Austen has cleverly written the dialogue here so that there will be a perfectly plausible reason why Thomas would tell Mrs. Dashwood that Lucy has changed her name. But that is Jane Austen’s classic M.O., she always hides her coded information behind a screen of plausible interpretation that has nothing to do with a secret.

And this instance, the reader who has learned to read against the grain in JA’s writing, recognizes that there might be some hidden reason for JA to explicitly alert her readers that Lucy has changed her name.  That could lead a proactive reader to think, hmm….why has Lucy chosen to confirm that she is married, by offering the odd “proof” that she has changed her name? It’s an indirect, strange way to say it, when she could just say, I am married now. 

And that proactive reader would then ask, so, how has Lucy’s name changed by reason of her marrying Mr. Ferrars? That would make her….Lucy Ferrars….and in that moment, such a reader might well hear “Lucifer” in his or her mind’s ear!

But even for a more passive reader, a subliminal cue has been planted, Trojan Horse-style, in the reader’s brain, where reading “Lucy Ferrars” two chapters later might just trigger a recollection of that earlier passage.

And I’m not done yet with that sentence spoken by Thomas, because there’s another clue hidden in it. Can you see what it is?

It’s that Thomas chooses to tell Mrs. Dashwood that Lucy smiled as she told Thomas she had changed her name. And, again, this smile can be explained as Lucy’s malice, because she knows that Thomas will report back to the Dashwood women, and she smiles as she imagines the knife blade that will cut through Elinor’s heart when she hears the news, which Lucy is careful to keep vague as to who her husband is.

But I suggest that this smile is also part of the Jane Austen Code, in that my research has shown, over and over again, that when a character smiles, especially a character who might be especially prone to deception, like Lucy, it may point to a cause that is not immediately obvious to the reader, but that requires thought to imagine what it might mean. Because, again, as with Jane Austen’s hidden word games, Jane Austen is in those instances not going to explicitly explain what hidden reason that character might have for smiling.

And in this case, I suggest that Lucy smiles because of what her name becomes when she marries, i.e., the name of the Devil! And, further, that gives darkly humorous meaning to “in these parts”—as if we were talking about Satan jetting in to Eden just in time to wreak havoc with Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost—“these parts” means,  the earthly “Eden” inhabited by human beings! And recall that Satan does not appear to Eve as Satan himself—in effect he changes his “name” by assuming the appearance of a serpent!!!

So…does all of that convince the skeptics amongst you that this wordplay leading to “Lucifer” is intentional on Jane Austen’s part? 

If not, then now I will tell you about the final broad hint which I discovered just this morning, as I was  rereading the above hints in Chapter 47---and, best of all, I realized immediately that this other broad hint was actually within “reading distance” of Lucy’s smiling change of name. Here, have a look for yourself, see if you can spot it yourself:

[Thomas] "Yes, ma'am. SHE SMILED, and said how she had CHANGED HER NAME since she was IN THESE PARTS. She was always a very affable and free-spoken young lady, and very civil behaved. So, I made free to wish her joy."
"Was Mr. Ferrars in the carriage with her?"
"Yes, ma'am, I just see him leaning back in it, but he did not look up;—he never was a gentleman much for talking."
Elinor's heart could easily account for his not putting himself forward; and Mrs. Dashwood probably found the same explanation.
"Was there no one else in the carriage?"
"No, ma'am, only they two."
"Do you know where they came from?"
"They come straight from town, as Miss Lucy—Mrs. Ferrars told me."
"And are they going farther westward?"
"Yes, ma'am—but not to bide long. They will soon be back again, and then they'd be sure and call here."

Can you see the other hint, hiding in plain sight?  If so, bravo! In any event, when you’re ready, scroll down for the answer:






It’s in this sentence:

"They come straight from town, as Miss Lucy—Mrs. Ferrars told me."

It is the perfect subliminal cue, because there are only two names in that sentence, and look what you see when you put those two names in ALL CAPS:

"They come straight from town, as Miss LUCY—Mrs. FERRARS told me."

There, separated only by an inconsequential dash and a nondescript “Mrs.”, is Lucy’s married name, LUCY FERRARS, which we will see again, but then with no intervening verbiage,  in Lucy’s letter in Chapter 49!

So step back now and consider the whole of what I have presented, above, and really think about it. Observe what a super-sly, riddling puzzle-mistress Jane Austen really is here! She does not merely give us these visual clues as to Lucy’s Luciferian persona, she adds several winks---winks which, in the Jane Austen Code, are standard operating procedure.  The ambiguous smile, the interrupted sentence, the partially fragmented name, all designed with exquisite care to create a subliminal effect—a Trojan Horse Moment in the reader’s mind.

And the final wonderful aspect of all of the above is metafictional. We have Jane Austen, in effect, smiling herself as she plays this clever game with us. We have Jane Austen, in effect, interrupting herself just before she explains her game to us. Jane Austen is Lucifer herself, in effect, whispering in the reader’s ear, “Lucifer, Lucifer, Lucifer”…..

So….does anyone who was previously skeptical about my claim that “Lucy Ferrars” was Jane Austen’s totally intentional code for “Lucifer” still not believe I am correct even now? 

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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