I am combining two hypochondriacs in one post because they are so similar they deserve to be together. It’s interesting to note that in Jane Austen’s original Sanditon another sibling named Susan is not in the television production. It must have been a creative decision on Andrew Davies’ part to keep the siblings to a minimum to maintain the storyline.
In the original novel, Tom Parker states, “Susan, Diana, or Arthur would appear by this letter to have been at the point of death within the last month.” Each are beset with their illnesses from headaches, deranged nerves, liver problems, eating disorders, a cough, rheumatism, and three teeth pulled. Complaints of ill-health abound. All three visit Sanditon, bringing with them their ailments.
Below are a few excerpts from Jane Austen’s text about these siblings.
Miss Diana Parker was about four and thirty, of middling height and slender; delicate looking rather than sickly; with an agreeable face and a very animated eye; her manners resembling her brother’s in their ease and frankness, though with more decision and less mildness in her tone.
(Tom, speaking of Arthur) Well, well, my dear Mary, I grant you, it is unfortunate for poor Arthur that at his time of life he should be encouraged to give way to indisposition. It is bad that he should be fancying himself too sickly for any profession and sit down at one and twenty, on the interest of his own little fortune, without any idea of attempting to improve it or of engaging in any occupation that may be of use to himself or others.
She (Charlotte). . . was astonished to find him (Arthur) quite as tall as his brother, and a great deal stouter, broad made and lusty, and with no other look of an invalid than a sodden complexion.All quotes from A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook
Arthur is so easy to love. Though Lady Denham and a few others think he is ridiculous and a buffoon, to us, he’s the humorous element of Sanditon and a lovable character. The endearing toast scene came straight from Jane’s text and is worth posting below.
“I hope you will eat some of this toast,” said he. “I reckon myself a very good toaster. I never burn my toasts, I never put them too near the fire at first. And yet, you see, there is not a corner but what is well browned.”
The relationship between Arthur and Diana is definitely one of mutual co-dependency. As defined by the dictionary, it’s an “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.” Arthur and Diana are joined together with a common ailment of being hypochondriacs. They declare their many ailments, fear the ailments that await them, and talk of nothing else when together. It’s the “sickness” that binds them as siblings. No doubt if we knew people like this in the twenty-first century, we’d send them to therapy for sure! However, in Sanditon they are both entertaining and hopeless to help, as Dr. Fuchs agrees.
Beyond their commonality with physical matters, they are a strange pair of individuals with no love interests. Although Arthur reaches out to Miss Lambe as a friend, for which we all admire him for, he does confess to Diana he will never marry. His admission that he doesn’t understand how women work makes the inference he may question his own sexual orientation.
You’re in love with Miss Lambe, aren’t you? And you’ll marry her and I’ll be left all on my own. ( He laughs ) No. No, no, no, no, no! We… we’re just pals, that’s all! Love and marriage, it’s… it’s not my style of things at all! Wouldn’t have the least idea how to go about it. Don’t really know how ladies work. No… you have no worries about Arthur Parker on that score. Lifelong bachelor.
Diana is unhealthily dependent upon Arthur. She expresses no desire to marry herself or interest in any man. We do not see her dance at any of the balls. Instead, like a wallflower, she watches Arthur dance with Miss Lambe with concern rather than agreeableness that he’s enjoying himself. How she sees herself as a woman in society is unknown, and she expresses no interest either way in marriage. Her personality in the series isn’t focused enough for us to make further conclusions about Diana’s character. However, she does have “Parker” pride if anything, declaring after the fire:
No. No, I won’t have it! Of course this is a setback, but I refuse to let you be defeated by it! Sanditon must not be allowed to founder and fall. We will find a way. We are Parkers. We stand together.
As we watch the series, it’s interesting to see how Tom and Sidney react to Arthur. Sidney appears aloof and uninterested in Arthur, almost to the point of embarrassment. There are no meaningful discussions between them at all in the series.
Tom, on the other hand, is caught occasionally smiling at his antics but clearly states to Lady Denham that he’s not responsible for how Arthur acts, thus maintaining his distance. Tom leans on Sidney for everything and doesn’t engage Arthur at all in the building of Sanditon, perhaps thinking him useless as Austen originally described his brother’s feelings.
Yet Arthur also possesses a kind of wisdom and quiet understanding his brothers do not recognize. His kindness toward Miss Lambe is commendable. His advice to Sidney is notable.
Do you know, for years, all I knew about my brother Sidney was that he was driven to the West Indies with a broken heart. I admire your spirit of forgiveness. That is all. If it were me, I do not think I could bring myself to trust her again.
Arthur and Diana Parker are a comedic pair in Sanditon we have grown to love. With Turlough Convery returning as Arthur Parker, we have been told that Alexandra Roach, who played Diana, will not return to Season 2 as Diana Parker. How they write her character out of the story is not yet known. Regardless, I’m happy that Arthur will return to give us more chuckles.