How does the relationship between Marianne and Colonel Brandon change over the course of the novel?
While it is true to say that Marianne has no attraction toward Colonel Brandon because he is too old and wears "flannel" waistcoats, it is not true to say that, as a consequence, she rejects his suit: Colonel Brandon makes no suit for her love--thus no suit can be rejected--until well after Edward and Elinor are married and settled in the parsonage at Brandon's estate of Delaford. It is equally untrue to say that at any point Brandon continues a courtship of Marianne: Colonel Brandon never has the heart to initiate a courtship until Marianne spends considerable time in visits to Elinor and Edward at Delaford, and then only with Mrs. Dashwood's assistance and encouragement.
Marianne Meets Brandon
How does Marianne meet Colonel Brandon and on what is her long-lasting first impression formed? Marianne and all the Dashwoods are invited to take dinner at Barton Manor. It is at this dinner that Marianne meets Colonel Brandon. Her first assessment of him is that he, at thirty-five, is "old," "infirm" and in "declining life." She finds a modicum of respect for him because he is attentive, although not rapturous, about the music she sings and plays. She considers him an unfortunate man of "advanced years" in a "forlorn condition as an old bachelor." So, had he been, in her opinion, pretentious enough to advance a suit of marriage, she indeed would have rejected it. Yet pursuing a courtship of Marianne was not a possibility Brandon even contemplated because of Marianne's decided disinterest in him.
Second Attachments and Flannel
Although, as Mrs. Jennings and Sir John noticed, Colonel Brandon had an immediate "partiality" for Marianne (we later learn the immediate nature of his partiality was due to her striking resemblance to Eliza), Marianne has, as shown above, an immediate disdain for Brandon: Marianne was "prejudiced against him." On top of this dislike for thirty-five-year-old Brandon, Marianne was completely enamored of twenty-five-year-old Willoughby: "what could a silent man of five and thirty hope, when opposed to a very lively one of five and twenty?" In view of Marianne's sensibilities, it would take a bold and audacious man to pursue Marianne's affection, which we know Brandon was not; he was grave and "reserved."
In addition, Marianne's "romantic" ideas about love and attachments prohibit the existence of "second attachments," second loves in life. As Brandon's conversation with Marianne brings out, even if Brandon had overcome his gravity and reserve and had summoned the fortitude to dare to approach Marianne while her thoughts and affections were absorbed by Willoughby, he would have thwarted because of Marianne's rejection of second loves, especially second loves in "old" and "infirm" men who dare to wear flannel.
[Marianne said,] "[Colonel Brandon] may live twenty years longer. But thirty-five has nothing to do with matrimony."
Marianne's Opinion on Brandon
On the day of the group outing to the "very fine place about twelve miles from Barton," when Brandon is so suddenly called away to attend to urgent business that "cannot afford to lose ONE hour," Marianne agrees with Willoughby's diminishing pronouncement that Brandon probably invented the urgency as a rouse to avoid the "party of pleasure." Before Brandon mounted his horse to leave, he "bid [Elinor] farewell for a longer time than [he] should wish to do" but "merely bowed" to Marianne "and said nothing."
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