Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

Part 3 and conclusion of
In 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. 

Real Importance Is Through Good Will

In her commentary to issue 757 of The Right Of, Ellen Reiss writes that we are truly important,

    "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 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 admiration." 

      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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  2000 Lynette Abel

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Lynette Abel