Part 3 and conclusion
Trying to Be Important, What Mistakes Do People Make?
Meanwhile, Lady Lufton is concerned that her son shows no sign of interest
in the beautiful and impassive Griselda. And despite herself she
begins to see Griselda as the stuffy, cold girl she is, and wishes that
she would "give some signs that she is made of flesh and blood."
With humor and style Trollope shows he is critical--and the best thing
in Lady Lufton is too--of the non-agog, impassive manner of Griselda, the
feeling nothing is good enough to stir her. In the lesson I had,
I learned about my desire to feel I was distinguished from others.
Mr. Siegel said: In The Egoist of George
Meredith, a lady is described as having an air...some manner that sets
her off from other people....Well, do you think it's the most important
thing in life, having that air?
I was surprised by this question but it rang a bell and I immediately answered
"Yes." While my family background is various, part English and Irish,
and a little Welsh, Scottish, and Dutch, I had liked thinking I was from
fine, pure aristocratic English stock that "set [me] off from other people."
And Mr. Siegel explained with imaginative, critical humor, "You know, in
certain families in Virginia, FFV (First Families of Virginia), the more
they can dislike, the more they feel they're triumphant." I am so
grateful to have seen that this snobbish air of superiority is the most
ridiculous, vulgar, bourgeois, stupid thing a person can cultivate.
Importance Is Through Good Will
In her commentary to
issue 757 of The Right Of, Ellen Reiss writes that we are truly
"through seeing that
we are related to every person and thing in the world and that justice
to them is the way to take care of ourselves. [This is] is good will,
which Mr. Siegel showed to be the biggest power there is."
Despite Lady Lufton's tremendous effort to have her son against Lucy, including
telling him she is "insignificant," "unfit" to be his wife, he has fallen
in love with her and sends a message through her brother, of his intention
to ask for her hand in marriage. Trollope shows that Lucy Robarts
thinks the way to take care of herself is through trying to be fair.
She doesn't think, "How important I am! I'm going to be proposed to by
a Lord!" She is thoughtful about what his request will mean, and
not just in relation to herself. She asks her brother to tell Lord
Lufton that she "loves him dearly;...But tell him":
"...that I will never
marry him, unless his mother asks me....If I thought it probable that she
should wish me to be her daughter-in-law, it would not be necessary....She
would hate me, and scorn me; and then he would begin to scorn me, and perhaps
would cease to love me. I could not bear her eye upon me, if she
thought that I had injured her son."
Meantime, Lady Lufton has asked to meet with Lucy to put an end to any
idea of marriage to her son, to explain to her "that people placed by misfortune
above their sphere are always miserable." However, with beautiful
dignity and pride, Lucy tells Lady Lufton of her love for her son and the
reason for the only terms on which she would marry him--"when you would
ask me, and not before." And Lady Lufton cannot help but respect
Lucy. Trollope writes:
"She began...to understand
what it was that had brought about her sons's love...Lucy had grown bigger
in her eyes while sitting there and talking, and had lost much of that...want
of importance--that lack of social weight--which Lady Lufton in her own
opinion had always imputed to her...."
But Trollope shows the
ego can put up a tremendous fight in its wanting to mistake false importance
for true. Despite her increased respect for Lucy, Trollope writes:
"much as she might admire [her], she could not sacrifice her son to that
A turning point in the novel is when Lucy learns that her very poor neighbor,
Mrs. Crawley, has come down with typhus, and she goes to assist her at
once. For many weeks Lucy is useful to the Crawley family, and Mrs.
Crawley lives. When Lady Lufton learns of this, she sees Lucy Robarts'
real value, and that she has been greatly mistaken. Lady Lufton orders
her carriage immediately to go to Lucy and asks her to be her son's wife.
And Trollope writes: "[she] now hardly knew in what way she might sufficiently
show her love, regard, and solicitude."
Aesthetic Realism shows--and the great literature of the world backs it
up--what true importance is in a person's life: to want to be fair to other
people and to things in the world itself, which is the purpose of our lives.
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