Adventures in Reading


Pride & Prejudice

Before I begin with more Pride & Prejudice disquisition, I have to point out a variety of changes to the site. Certainly nothing too extreme but I think I have finally (or almost) achieved a layout I can live with. For anyone picky about these things it is a rather nice success to achieve this with a newly obtained blog.

One of my favorite sections from the book and scenes from the A&E version of Pride & Prejudice is when Mr. Bennet tells Elizabeth (after Bingley & co. have left the neighborhood) that in short it is good for every woman to experience some jilting in love. While in Mr. Bennet’s way this could certainly be read as a sarcastic off the cuff situation directed at his moping daughters but I began to look at it more as advice.

With so many strict rules and social structure when it comes to men and women having relationships in this period, this degree of jilting could perhaps be seen as beneficial. Now by degree I mean that the woman’s reputation has not been harmed but it has allowed her some experience in male-to-female relationships she would otherwise be quite naïve of. Of course in Jane’s situation it seems far less important that her experience has been broadened as much as in retrospect not heeding Charlotte’s advice (though it was given to Elizabeth about Jane) to be more aggressive in her (Jane’s) love making.

On that note, particularly half way into the book terms such as love making begin cropping up more regularly and these terms absolutely do not have the same connotation that we derive from them in today’s world. In What Jane Austen Ate & What Charles Dickens Knew, Daniel Pool aptly describes the respectable female sexual contact prior to marriage as “a hand around the waist, a kiss, and a fervent pressing of the hand was probably the accepted limit in most cases.”

Something I am also trying to do with Austen is to pay as much attention to what is not said as I do to what is said. Fairly early on I said even coming into this reading frenzy that I never counted myself as an Austen fan (though admittedly it is changing). It was so easy to poo-poo her books and leave it at that. In The Myths of Motherhood by Shari L. Thurer a brief passage begins to describe some of the reason to notice what is not said:

Others have ransacked the literature trying to prove that mothers did indeed manage to tell their stories, but that their accounts were, more often than not, in the gaps, in the contradictions and omissions of the novel. Women authors, they argue, have had to use subversive strategies to inscribe their subjectivity into what is a “male” narrative frame. Because the traditional narrative structure is unwelcoming to the female experience, women have been forced to devise creative and unconventional ways to tell their stories. To recover an author’s subjectivity, the reader must read subversively, that is, attend to silences and absences, the unspoken and encoded, to look for repressed mother-daughter relationships, to foreground subplots. Such a reading might interpret the typical example, to represent a profound if ambivalent connection between mother and daughter. So, from this perspective, Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet, who ordinarily are viewed as mutually remote, might be considered highly enmeshed. Elizabeth needs her mother to butt up against. She uses her mother as a standard against which to distinguish her own personality. Her purposeful distance is a form of connection. A true lack of attachment between mother and daughter would be indifference, and Elizabeth is not indifferent.

Other opinions: Blogging My Books, A Fondness For Reading, Books Lists Life, Trish’s Reading Nook, Deliciously Clean Reads, So Many Books So Little Time, Library Queue, Ramya’s Bookshelf.., The Bookworm, Storie Delle Sorrelle

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