Friendship forms an alternate network of alliance to family in the novel (it's like Facebook and Myspace – there's some overlap, but they're separate systems). The main difference between the two is that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your friends. This element of choice makes friends just as important as family, if not more so, in figuring out who a person is: the kinds of people a character likes reveals something about his or her values. Friends step up when family fails in the novel, providing another contrast between individual merit and blood ties.
Questions About Friendship
- How is friendship contrasted to family in the novel? Do friends take the place of family, and if so, why? How do the social networks structured on friendship compare to those based on family?
- Are the friendships among men different from those among women? If so, how? What about friendships between men and women? How does this relate to how the novel deals with gender overall?
- Sir Walter approves Elizabeth's friendship with Mrs. Clay, but not Anne's friendship with Mrs. Smith – why? What makes the two friendships different in his eyes?
Chew on This
By making Anne's friendships with Mrs. Smith and Captain Harville necessary to her ultimate reunion with Wentworth, the novel suggests that segregating friendship by class closes off beneficial opportunities.
The failure of Elizabeth's friendship with Mrs. Clay and Mr. Smith's friendship with Mr. Elliot suggests that equality is necessary to a successful friendship.