Downton Abbey as a Morality Play, Part V: Lady Edith’s Treachery

12 Feb

In Season One of Downton Abbey, Lady Edith, the middle Crawley sister, shows herself to be absolutely conscienceless with her letter to the Turkish ambassador when she cajoles from Daisy, the cook’s assistant, the secret of how a Turkish diplomat died in her sister’s bedroom.  Rather than going to her sister and talking with her about her sin in any sort of redemptive way, she writes to the Turkish ambassador and busts London wide open with rumors about her sister’s reputation.

It is said that envy is the deadliest sin, for it has nothing of good in it at all, but sheer unadulterated evil.  For example, lust can have some elements of love.  Greed can include an appreciation of the finer things in life.  Gluttony can begin with an actual knowledge of and appreciation for good food.  But envy . . .

It is plain that Lady Edith lives in the shadow of her two sisters.  Only at Downton Abbey can this blonde girl come across as plain, in comparison with her two stunning, accomplished brunette sisters.  But . . . that is just the point, isn’t it?  God cautions us again and again in the Scriptures against comparing ourselves to others.  If Lady Edith were to just be herself, she would be an interesting, rich girl with much to offer a potential suitor.  When she lives a life of envy toward spirited Mary and gentle Sybil, she becomes a monster.

And she becomes a monster with no idea of proportion nor propriety in her responses.  Edith has found out suspicious circumstances that strongly suggest Mary has sinned so, in her desire to elevate herself by casting her sister down, she just goes with that and smears Mary’s name.  If there might be any alternative explanation, Edith doesn’t care to hear it.

Sexual sin can produce shame when found out, but that shame might have come as a natural consequence of what happened.  Instead, Edith plays God and spreads Mary’s shame all over the capital by telling the Turkish ambassador about it.

Two wrongs never make a right, but how often do we see people, even in the church, whispering wildly about others, and not in any redemptive way?  It even seems as though people enjoy repeating the more salacious details of the lives of others, as though they can get a secondary thrill by the mere reporting of the information.  The Bible clearly says there are some things so shameful they should not even be mentioned among us . . . Meanwhile, we seem overjoyed to kill people’s reputations.

In the end, Lady Edith becomes my least favorite character in the series.  I am never upset when her suitors leave her.  She is dull, both in looks (because she doesn’t carry herself as a child of God, but rather as an envious little drudge) and in intellect (because it takes so much time and effort to feed envy that she doesn’t come up with much else).

What a boring, pathetic little life.  But such is envy.  Boring (the most boring of sins) and pathetic.

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