Sense and Sensibility

What do you think is the reason why Colonel Brandon did not inform Marianne earlier about Willougby's past?

willougby's past --> this pertains to the past relationship of Willoughby and the adopted daughter of Colonel Brandon wherein Willoughby did not take responsibility in the pregnancy of Colonel Brandon's adopted daughter

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The reason he doesn't tell her goes back to the age old story of "he loved her and didn't want to hurt her." C. Brandon doesn't want Marianne hurt, but he also doesn't want to hurt his adopted daughter....... he loves her. He also believes Marianne and Willoughby to be engaged....... and he doesn't tell her the truth until after he finds out they're not.


Sense and Sensibility

I have been pondering this question for years and can't for the life of me figure out why. I am pleased that at least one other person had this question...I began to think I was the only one to even think of it. I've read Austen's reasons but they don't make any sense. He loved her and didn't want to hurt her!? He thinks allowing her to go ahead and marry Willoughby might NOT hurt her? Brandon admits knowing how wicked Willoughby is, I mean he's just seduced his teenage ward. And he confirms to Elinor that he DOES know he is extravagant and dissipated (intemperate in the pursuit of pleasure; dissolute, wasted or squandered, irreversibly lost) AND WORSE before Marianne was humiliated at the party. In fact it is likely he knew of Willoughby's true character BEFORE the Dashwood girls left for London. If Willoughby's rich relative had not had the presence of mind to confront Willoughby, he'd have very likely married Marianne...and Brandon would have stood by silently and watched. He could have protected Marianne from much humiiliation in front of her snobbish relatives and the world at large by saying something. He might have kept her from becoming deathly ill. He might have saved her from a marriage to an uncharactered man. I mean he already knows, firsthand, the outcome when a woman is married to a dissipated man...his brother. It's disaster and ruination. So WHY WHY WHY would he not tell Mrs Dashwood ASAP. How can we conscion that sort of behavior? Yet multitudes view Brandon as...the epitome of manliness, honesty and integrity, Austens best hero. Austen tells us he is always concerned with other people feelings. Personally I see it as a huge plothole in an otherwise good story. Austen tells us he's afraid he might not succeed...might not succeed at WHAT? IS this a valid reason to remain silent while a tragedy unfolds? He also tells Elinor that her sister might reclaim Willoughby...RECLAIM him? He already judged him dissipated, which by definition means irreversibly lost. SO how can he believe she would reclaim him. Indeed, if she had married him, she'd be "reclaiming" him every Monday morning after a weekend of debauchery. Besides, is this how women want to be thought of? As someone whose job it is to "reclaim" faithless and philandering men? Willoughby is selfish and cold-hearted, vain and extravagant...yet Brandon tells Elinor he thought her sister might reclaim him. I have yet to hear any reasons that justify such negligence and carelessness toward a trusting and honorable family as the Dashwoods.

Most adherents of the Christian faith would have been trained to refrain from mentioning or discussing the bad behavior of another person. To speak in this way would have been to commit the sins of gossip and detraction. Other characters in the novel, such as Mrs. Jennings gossiped incessantly without giving it a second thought, but Colonel Brandon seems to have been a man haunted by his own long-ago affair with Eliza Williams and its unhappy outcome; such men frequently are at pains to "clean up their act" later in life. Knowing that others, including Mrs. Jennings, took delight in recounting the story of his relationship with Eliza must have irked Colonel Brandon; to refrain from gossiping himself about others must have been one way in which the Colonel hoped to atone for his own past. Furthermore, Brandon had made no secret of his feelings for Marianne; he probably felt that to denounce Willoughby, his rival, to her family would be a self-serving act, something beneath the honor of a gentleman. All his instincts as a Christian and as a gentleman, therefore, would have induced Colonel Brandon to remain silent about Willoughby's past. It was not until he realized that Marianne's mental anguish over losing Willoughby might be lessened if she were made aware of the whole story, that the Colonel finally decided to speak of what he knew about his rival.