Adventures in Reading

Pride & Prejudice
September 9, 2007, 4:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The picture in this post does not have much to do with the topic at hand but I thought it was pretty terrific and I had to post it. Now back to the book… Finally, Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, which either came as a great surprise or a sigh of pleasure that it has finally happened. Of course things do not go so smoothly. During his proposal Mr. Darcy is… blunt. He makes it no secret that he tried to resist his emotions and that he is entirely aware he is marrying beneath himself. While one may respect Darcy for his honesty and forthright attitude but simultaneously (perhaps we can blame it on his awkward social graces) this perhaps is not the best way to go about declaring one’s love.

Here all of the gossip and intrigue of the book coagulates from the hypothetical to Elizabeth’s firm accusations. First and foremost (and one any reader likely agrees with) is accusing Darcy of interfering with Bingley and Jane. Much earlier in the story Charlotte foreshadowed that Jane’s reserved behavior would not win her the hand of Bingley. As a result of what was interpreted as stand offish behavior, Darcy encouraged his friend to stay in town and ultimately quit his relationship with Jane. This interference created months of unhappiness and depression for Jane.

Second, Elizabeth has a complete outpouring of the gossip Wickham fed her. Now, the A&E film adaptation takes great steps to encourage the audience to doubt Wickham’s behavior; however, Austen really only uses Jane to directly disagree with Wickham (of course in her positive way) and somewhat subversively uses Wickham’s own bantering gossip and ill-talk of Darcy to create speculation in the reader. After accusing Darcy of these unfounded rumors he retaliates in exasperation that perhaps if he had not been entirely honest in the presentation of his proposal she perhaps may have accepted. Here Elizabeth pulls out the daggers by assuring him there was never any chance no matter how he proposed.

This is such an amazing scene! Through much of the book emotions are fairly reserved and eloquently executed. Here we finally have a scene of passion. The next morning Darcy finds Elizabeth on her walk and delivers a letter as a response to her accusations. While I am not overly familiar with the literary period prior to Austen I have been assured that a popular writing method was use of the epistolary fashion. That is, entire books would be based on a series of letters rather than any direct dialog. A modern example of this would be A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey.

Throughout Pride & Prejudice are some exchanges in this fashion but as of this point Austen makes further use of this technique. In some manners the technique is very useful and one that reminds me somewhat of a soliloquy. Now the definition of a soliloquy (i.e. think of Hamlet) is a character speaking to themselves without having a particular audience this is directed at. The epistolary format is certainly somewhat difference but it does allow a character to express themselves entirely without interruption though the one substantial difference is that it is directed at an audience – the recipient of the letter.

The letter in short further explains his behavior with the Jane and Bingley love affair but ultimately spends a great deal of time explaining his version of the story with Wickham. Wickham has a history of carelessly living and taking advantage of any good situation he is presented with. His story of being denied a parish has more to do with him leaving the religious occupation and requesting money from Darcy. Once the money ran out Wickham takes advantage of the situation with Darcy’s sister. Darcy’s sister lives in London and at an early time with a woman who was friends with Wickham. Wickham arranged matters so he and the sister were poised to marry (thus forcing Darcy to help him) only to have Darcy find out. To press his explanation he extends Elizabeth the use of his cousin to confirm or deny these facts.

Of course Elizabeth realizes exactly how silly she has been and how much she has allowed her own prejudices to describe her thoughts on Darcy.

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