Sanditon Season two introduced us to Alison Heywood. What can we say about this young lady? First off, let’s just say that Rosie Graham’s casting in this part as Charlotte’s younger sister was perfection. Although I’ve never seen Rosie star in anything else, I must say that she was adorable. She had all the physical characteristics of a young lady with her head in the clouds when it comes to love.
From the very beginning, Alison exudes excitement about her trip to Sanditon while sitting next to her subdued sister, who remembers her painful experience with her first love. From the moment Alison steps from the carriage, she is excited at the prospects that await. She has plans for both of them to find husbands in Sanditon because that’s what young ladies their age need to do. It’s that singular purpose in her mind not only for her journey to find love, but she also insists that Charlotte find it as well so she can be happy again.
The exuberance displayed by Alison is infectious but sadly misguided. She reminds me very much of Marianne in Sense & Sensibility, who declares that “To love is to burn, to be on fire.” Alison’s goal to find a husband is so intense, that it blinds her on all fronts. Even Charlotte fears, “All those books have warped your view of the world. Love is not as simple as you seem to think.” However, Charlotte’s counsel is questioned because Alison believes love should be a very simple thing indeed. She is about to find out the complexity of that emotion.
Alison loves Charlotte, and of that, I have no doubt. She knows somewhat of Charlotte’s pain regarding Sidney, but I do not think she realizes the depth of it. How could she? She has never experienced a broken heart. Her constant encouragement for Charlotte to move on and find love again is in Alison’s mind the quick solution to Charlotte’s heartache, but only causes Charlotte to resist the idea. It upsets Alison greatly when Charlotte declares she will not marry but will find a way to support herself. It will not do! She will not see her sister become a spinster, and points out to her what a lowly status she will have in society if she pursues such a course of action. Alsion came to Sanditon to find rich husbands for both of them, not to fend for themselves and settle. Marriage is how they will survive. It’s the only logical course of action for a young lady.
Of course, all things for Alison quickly change when the handsome blue-eyed Captain Carter saves her from certain death on the beach after the collapse of the carriage. As he hovers over her, thanking God she is not harmed, Alison falls in love at first sight. I mean, let’s face it. He’s a handsome young man, whose deficient character we are yet to discover. Yes, good looks and a red uniform can be deceiving, especially to a woman prone to romanticism at every turn. From that point on, Alison only has one objective — to receive a proposal from Captain Carter.
Alison is further encouraged by their romantic evening, reminded of the lines of Cowper, “I fly to scenes romantic.” Let’s all run to Amazon and purchase, “The Poetical Works of William Cowper,” so we can understand Alison’s love of poetry and how she bases her romantic images of love from the words penned by famous poets. (By the way, you should read about William Cowper, considered one of the “forerunners of Romantic poetry.” He also wrote hymns, being an evangelical Christian. Read more on Wikipedia).
As their time together increases, love is blind, and poor Alison has lost her vision when it comes to Captain Carter. He can do nothing wrong. He woes her, lies to her, makes excuses, and she swallows it hook, line, and sinker, not realizing the man she should be loving is in her peripheral vision. As far as Captain Carter is concerned, he has no faults and eagerly awaits the proposal soon to come her way.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We really cannot fault Alison, no more than we faulted Charlotte for falling for Sidney. Alison embodies the naive immature youthful female we all were once upon a time when it came to our first love. We dreamed about it, and when the first young man came our way, we fell hard, blind as Alison because our emotions got the better of us. Naturally, we didn’t listen to anyone either when that person’s character may have had a fault pointed out. No, we defended them and walked away in a huff angry that no one understood the love that the two of you shared.
Like Sense & Sensibility, sometimes it takes a hard realization that the first love may not be the love to last a lifetime. Suddenly, Alison, after Fraser saves her from drowning, realizes what a cowardly and insensitive man Carter really is. The near-death dip in the cold water brought sense to Alison, and sensibility arrived in Alison’s life when she learned the ability to appreciate and respond to a more mature and complex man like Captain Fraser.
Eventually, she confesses that she is a woeful judge of character where gentlemen are concerned. “Is it not peculiar how we can be strangers to our own affections?” she declares. Well, we know now that Alison has matured this summer, and realized that her affections now belong to Fraser because he has proven to be the better man. She has found her husband in Sanditon, although she said she would never marry a farmer, and we all rejoiced in the proposal and their marriage.
I will admit that I enjoyed Alison, even as dense as she was throughout the season. Nevertheless, like any good writer, Justin Young brought her on a journey. He developed her to the point where we saw her mature and realize growth. No doubt, Alison will have even more growth ahead, as she learns to be a wife and mother, now that she is no longer a burden to her parents. That is, of course, the goal for a young Regency woman to obtain. It’s very Austenesque, isn’t it?