and probably would soon have learned

Category: Education | Type: Discussion | Title: Sense and Sensibility (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Ch: Chapter 47

Elinor describes a grim paradox of the sort Kafka dwelt upon. Deep moral learning in an adult occurs after such self-immolation that what we've learned cannot be applied to the situation that's been significant enough to us to teach us what we need to know. Willoughby must harm and lose Marianne and marry Miss Grey in order to understand the meaning of real happiness. Now it is in some way too late to do anything but suffer from what he knows and knows he cannot have. Or as Byron writes, "Knowledge is sorrow."

Alternatively, Elinor predicts, Willoughby would "probably" have remained selfish and shallow if he had married Marianne, for he'd not have had the contrast to grasp his good fortune.  

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