Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It is a Truth Universally Acknowledged...

Rejoice with me, friends and fellow bibliophiles, for at long last I have conquered Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. :)

I think I'm going to have to read it again to get the full essence of it. Life chopped it up into so many bits and pieces that the grand reunion I was imagining after five years' absence simply didn't happen. But in spite of that, the closer I got to the end the more I enjoyed it.

This time I learned *gasp* that some of Mr. Bennet's best '95 lines were not in the book to nearly the same effect. I also learned *shock* that Lizzy never ate dinner with Darcy at Pemberley. Andrew Davies made it up. That whole scene just dripping with romance, where you know Darcy is going to pop the question any minute--it didn't happen.

Oh, dear.

The Plot

I'm not sure I need to give the plot--even those souls who never read a word of the classics in their life have heard of P&P. Say "Darcy" and you'll have fan girls swooning over Tall Dark and Handsome. (More on that later.) Mutter "A truth universally acknowledged", and pretty much anyone will finish the excerpt for you.

But let's, just for the fun of it. After all, there may be someone who hasn't yet read about it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of someone or other of their daughters. ~ P&P, Chapter One

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet originally intended to raise a son when they set up their establishment together. Five daughters and an entailed estate later, they realize that Longbourn will one day go to Mr. Bennet's young cousin. Plan B: marry their five daughters as soon as possible. When young and prepossessing Charles Bingley takes a lease at nearby Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic that surely he will marry one of her offspring.

But the course of true love never did run smooth.

Charles Bingley delights her by settling on her eldest daughter Jane (or at least, everybody thinks so. They seem to be attracted to one another) and all promises fair, even with little rifts
in the form of his insulting friend Darcy and his snobbish sisters, Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst.

But Mrs. Bennet, in endeavoring to advance the marriages of her five daughters, may be her own worst enemy. A silly, ill-informed, and occasionally vulgar woman, she somehow managed to raised two sensible eldest daughters and three very silly younger ones. While Jane and Elizabeth are worthy helpmeets for any man, Mary (the vain bookworm) Kitty (the weak-minded one) and Lydia (the wild flirt) join with their mother in impeding their sisters' chances of happiness with every embarrassing public display they can manage. Mr. Bennet, while a sensible man, is an uninvolved one, and shuts himself up in his library for a little peace and quiet.

Therefore, Lizzy isn't very surprised when tensions arise between Longbourn and Netherfield. While Charles Bingley seems blind in his infatuation, his friend Darcy is far from pleased at his choice of in-laws, not to mention repulsed by this country family. His pride disgusts Elizabeth, and the two are determined to see as little of each other as possible.

Then Charles Bingley takes a sudden leave of Netherfield, leaving Jane's hopes disappointed. Elizabeth receives a shocking proposal from the man she has sworn to loathe for all eternity (a la Kiera Knightley. Ahem.) and when her choice of happiness threatens to take an about-face, Lydia's flirtations with the regiment stationed in Meryton may destroy both sisters' chances at an eligible match.

Oh, and I nearly forgot Mr. Collins. You won't regret his acquaintance, I do assure you.

A Word on Mr. Darcy

To be honest, I never thought of Darcy as a paragon of virtue until I learned that girl's were being counselled to avoid Jane Austen because of her dashingly romantic men. To be honest, I think many of the girls 'waiting for their Darcy' are more likely to snub him on first acquaintance than fall head-over-heels in love with him, if he's anything like the book.

Jane Austen's men are real, because they have faults. Darcy's a snob, Ferrars keeps secrets, Wentworth cherishes resentment, Tilney teases way too much (even though he's almost perfect otherwise), etc. The point about Austen's eligible bachelors is that they have shining virtues and glaring faults all mixed together. But if you have difficulty looking past the blushing cheek and the melting romance, then yes, I would stay away from these and any other romantic book you can find. And that's pretty much all books ever.

It is so important to practice self-control when we read about literary men. It not only makes a lot more books available to us, it also gives us appropriate expectations for real life.

And note that there are a lot more romantic men then Mr. Darcy in literature. Rochester, though much worse morally, exudes romantic passion through all of Jane Eyre.  And I won't even touch on Christian fiction novels.

But if you want to read more about Darcy's imperfections, click here.

'95 Movie
We started this around the official 200th anniversary (January 28th) and I enjoyed viewing it again. The costumes are splendid, the sets are fantastic, and time and again I noticed the scripts' elocution was impeccable. Andrew Davies kept the spirit of the novel and even had to make up a great deal of conversation, much more than I thought. His continuity with the book was superb and some of Mr. Bennet's lines are better in the movie than in the book.

If you would like a review, this is available by email request!

'05 Movie
Yes, we watch this when we're so tired we want to laugh at something. But it's a ludicrous adaptation made to connect to a modern audience. The Bennets look like well-to-do pig farmers with a model-figure Lizzy wearing dresses that just don't fit. There are a few lines that are worth quoting but they are few and far between. Rosamund Pike is a very worthy Jane, and the only really good actor in the movie. Matthew MacFadyen showed his quality as Arther Clennam in Little Dorrit, so I think he could have pulled of Darcy just as well as Collin Firth, had he not been acting opposite to Kiera Knightley. She really pulled down his performance, coupled with his awful haircut. He looked like he had just recovered from a nervous collapse during the whole film. Mr. Collins is very well acted (Same actor who plays Osbourne in Wives and Daughters) and looks a much better age, though my personal favorite is still the '95.

 But the scene that causes us to roll on the floor with laughter:

"You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you."

"Well, then. Your hands are cold."

No, that wasn't a caption joke. They really did say it.

A proper young lady should not go walking around the fields in a long chemise and overcoat.

If you would like a movie review (including where to find the Scene to Avoid) then send me an email, and I will do my  best to remain neutral. Except in the accuracy section.

 My Thoughts
I find Jane Austen's writing style really fascinating. Her descriptions are quite sparse, and her writing is much more factual than you would think going into it. One person says their piece, then the next person says theirs, then a short paragraph gets them through the carriage ride to the next ball, and so on. She doesn't waste words at all. However, this is counteracted by her constant use of italics. In the various writing studies I take on, I have been trained to remove all italics and exclamations points, but Austen sprinkles them constantly throughout her conversations. Evidently the writing fashions change over time.
There is a mild amount of language (less than you'll find in the movie) and most of it comes from Lydia, who is supposed to be a flighty girl.
Jane Austen surprises you. She doesn't often mention God, but God is there all the same. Nor does she hire a clown and circus in her attempts to show you how her characters change over the course of the story. (He's not proud anymore! No really! Don't you see?) Certainly something which modern Christian fiction could take a point from. In fact, this method of the character arc is a little disconcerting. Occasionally I would listen to something Lizzy said, and think "Oh, my, she wasn't as eligible a heroine as I thought. In fact, she's downright wrong." Only to find that Austen thought so to, but she didn't call it out until later in the book. We need such books as these, where the morals aren't instant-serve, and the character changes aren't screamed in our face. Why? Because subtle literature forces us to think and grow. We have to evaluate rather than have the author hand the moral to us. And that is a very good thing indeed.

And of course, Pride and Prejudice will give you plenty of amusement with Mr. Bennet's wry comments and Mr. Collin's pompous commendations of his 'esteemed patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh" As well as just a smidgen of romance. ;)

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Mr. Darcy comes walking out of the mist..."You have bewitched me body and soul and I love, I love, I love you." (They should have put a rainbow over him :P) Alright. It *is* fun to watch sometimes, especially if you need a more comedic Jane Austen! ;)
    And of course, the excellent '95 movie! It's always fun to watch. That's probably one of my favorite Jane Austen movies.
    Awesome post! :D

  2. Oh, fun. P&P is so difficult to review.
    Thanks for the link.
    I'm reminded that I did really like the '05 Jane--she was very good.


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