Adventures in Reading

Some Historical Influence on Austen Pt. 3
September 4, 2007, 9:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

No reason to be concerned – I have not forgotten about the remainder of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice but was merely taking a needed and brief interlude from writing up my remaining thoughts on the book. I left off somewhere around chapter 17 I believe where Mr. Collins was attending the Netherfield ball with the Bennet family.

First, here is a perfect opportunity to once again mention What Jane Austen Ate etc. by Daniel Pool. Certain social intricacies are occurring constantly throughout this chapter that I failed to be aware of until reading Pool’s book. For example, Elizabeth is quite taken aback by Mr. Collins presumption to introduce himself to Darcy. I wrote it off as Elizabeth simply wanting to avoid Collins publicly embarrassing himself but it is more than that. It was simply not the thing to do socially and was considered quite rude to introduce yourself to a person. Proper etiquette would mandate that a third party be present to perform the introductions. Even though both Collins and Darcy are men it is still considered bad form. (Other interesting tidbits from Pool to Austen include how to play whist, how to dance the quadrille, why it is Miss (Jane) Bennet but Miss Elizabeth Bennet, to exactly how many people are necessary for a ball versus a dance.)

So Collin successfully embarrasses the Bennet family and secures the first two dances with Lizzie – he might as well have proposed already! Lizzie does have one dance with Darcy where the reader can almost feel the electricity crackling between the two and all of Merytown become quite aware of Bingley and Jane’s relationship. Perhaps the most interesting part of all occurred in chapter 19 during the “no means yes” conversation. Collins proposes to Elizabeth who refuses him. Collins misinterprets this as Elizabeth refusing him in the popular fashion and assuming he will ask a second time where she will give her consent. It is somewhat odd to see how long this “no means yes” debacle has been going on. I think it is safe to saw however in all areas of life that a no means a no and if the negating party actually meant yes then there is no one to blame but themselves.

At this point in the book I also began wondering a lot about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s relationship. In class someone made a comment that perhaps Mr. Bennet did not want to immediately introduce himself to Bingley in an attempt to steer Bingley away from marrying silly girls – such as Mr. Bennet himself did when marrying his wife. While I do not subscribe to that notion myself, I did wonder more about their relationship than I had previously. What were they like before having children? Was Mrs. Bennet always as silly and foolish as she is? At this time I tried to give her more credit than I previously did but by the end of the book Mr. Bennet quite clearly indicates that she had always been a silly woman and that it was not a match of love and respect.

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