I had thought about doing individual posts about these young men, but it made more sense to put them on the same page side-by-side because they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Justin Young created two vastly different characters who arrived in Sanditon as love interests. Here are a few of the obvious differences between the two men:
- Conceited about his appearance
- Lacks honor
- Lacks experience and skill as a soldier
- Privileged background
- Hasn’t a clue about poetry
- Not observant
- Cannot make amends
- Fails at romanticism
- Overly conscious of his scars
- Experienced and skillful
- Shows humility
- Family of farmers
- Reads and writes poetry
- Very observant
- Makes amends
- Scores at romanticism
Did I miss anything? It is quite obvious that these two men have nothing in common except for their uniforms. Let’s talk about Captain Carter first, and his instantaneous attraction to Alison.
Ah, young love. According to Fraser, it appears that Carter has fallen for other young ladies in towns where they have set up their tents. With Alison, however, Carter is tongue-tied and doesn’t know what to say. He wishes to impress her to gain Alison’s affections, while Fraser admonishes him to be honest about himself. That advice, however, falls on deaf ears as Carter embellishes his tales of heroism. His motivation to prove himself worthy of Alison, makes you wonder if the handsome young man with sky-blue eyes suffers from low self-esteem.
Even though he may be handsome, he isn’t the brightest sword in the unit. Carter definitely knows nothing about poetry, thinking Handel is a poet but he’s a composer. As Maxim Ays confessed in a BritBoxUK clip, Carter pretty much fails at everything – sword fighting, shooting, horse riding, rowing, boxing, archery. With such a low success rate at whatever he tries, it’s no wonder that he attempts to build himself up on Alison’s opinion in order to win her heart for fear of failure.
Perhaps underneath his faults, he possesses decency and compassion, as Maxim claims about his character. In some ways, he was decent with Alison and did not take advantage of her as we don’t even see him kiss her in season two. Nevertheless, the most shocking deficit of his character is revealed in cowardice as he sits in the rowboat and watches Alison struggle for her life. He calls for help (and thank goodness Fraser came to the rescue), but cannot find the courage to jump in the water to save the woman he supposedly loves. (Definitely, another “I could hardly choose” moment in the young man’s life.) Even if he could not swim, his lack of action says volumes about his personality. Since he’s never been in battle, I think it’s safe to say that he would show no more courage taking up a musket or sword when he can’t even wield a paddle well enough to save Alison.
Throughout the season, Fraser encourages Carter to do the right thing. He scolds him for attempting to win her under false pretenses and admonishes him to give her an explanation after failing to save her life. He cannot even give her the “A frank apology is the remedy that she needs. That honor demands.” Instead, Carter shrugs it off, displaying to Fraser what an ass he really is and definitely unworthy of Alison’s affections.
On the flip side, we have the spartan, coarse, and unrefined Captain Fraser. Even in the first scene, he comes across as a bit cheeky. After meeting Alison for the first time, Captain Carter asks if he got her name, and he claims he did not with a smirk on his face. He certainly did, because Charlotte introduced her sister by name to the Colonel along with Miss Lambe. I’d like to think he suffered from love at first sight.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Carter, being the Colonel’s right-hand man, also had his hand in the seating arrangements at the mass dinner. My intuition tells me that he made sure that he sat next to Alison while placing Carter across the table and far enough away that she could not have a conversation with him during dinner. He knew that Carter would be dancing with her that evening, and enjoying dinner with her gave him time to converse. His interaction with Alison is lighthearted, although she considers him rude, assuming that he is mocking her. His intentions, of course, are pure-hearted as he attempts to hide his feelings for her knowing full well Alison has set her sights on Carter.
Naturally, Fraser is well aware of Carter’s faults but takes the honorable road by not discrediting him to Alison in order to win her favor. Instead, he lets the scenario play out, even helping Carter by writing a poem and giving him advice on how to win her heart. When Fraser learns that Carter has been embellishing his heroic actions to Alison, he becomes miffed at him for deceiving her. He knows that Alison deserves much better, but he cannot dissuade her from her blind affections toward the immature Captain Carter. No matter how many times Fraser encourages Carter to fix the situation by either telling her the truth or at the very least apologizing for his inability to save her from drowning, Carter doesn’t do the right thing.
At the garden party when Alison tells him that she believes Carter will propose, his concerned look leads to an admonishment to use caution. He questions Carter has “true love,” because he barely understands who she is. It’s the best he can do, without revealing the truth about Carter. In a bold move, he reminds Alison that she’s not the refined girl she pretends to be but a farmer’s daughter. I think his motivation in bringing it up is that he has more in common with her than she does with Carter. She doesn’t know that Fraser comes from a farming background. Carter, on the other hand, has a sense of privilege and she wouldn’t fit well with the flashy captain as his wife. It doesn’t end on a good note, and I’ll talk more about Alison in another post.
Eventually, his honorable actions are revealed to Alison when they take a stroll on the beach and he confesses that he couldn’t betray Carter’s confidence but that he did encourage him to tell her the truth. He then humbly asks for her forgiveness for his part in the deceit. Fraser cares about Alison deeply, and he reveals his stellar character in so many subtle and also evident displays of affection, including saving Alison from drowning. Yes, he is quite undone in her presence.
Well, I will admit that Carter does have an ounce of compassion in that he encourages Fraser to tell Alison the truth about his affections and to stop acting like a coward. After witnessing the true colors of Colonel Lennox as well, Fraser has no qualms about resigning his commission and pursuing a more honorable rank of being Alison’s husband. He returns and proposes, and the audience gets at least one happy pairing and a wedding for season two!
As always, you are welcome to chime in with your comments about the two. I love different perspectives as it gives us a more colorful analysis.
Next up, Alison Heywood.