Adventures in Reading

Reflecting on Pride & Prejudice
September 11, 2007, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

I greatly envy those who can easily recollect passages or simply the odd line from texts. It is a talent I am lacking in and in the future I may sprinkle my posts with more quotes than before. I would also like to thank everyone who has commented. I very much appreciate it and am pleased at how many people have noticed my blog. Before leaping into anything new I did want to take a moments to reflect on my reading of Pride & Prejudice and wrap up any loose ends I have.

In some of my remarks I have been perhaps too harsh on the Bennets or at least Mr. Bennet. At least by the end of the novel Mr. Bennet realizes his errors when it comes to raising his daughters and he certainly provides good advice when encouraging Elizabeth to marry a partner she respects. Austen’s interesting conclusion allows for a brief synopsis of the lives of the characters after all the events have finished. This conclusion assures us that Mr. Bennet’s relationship with Elizabeth continues after her marriage to Darcy and he finds himself visiting frequently.

Mr. Collins is also an interesting character that I spent little time with. Collins spends most of the novel groveling to one person or another. I stumbled across a discussion in some forums about him and how much of his personality was genetic (I am really struggling to remember this discussion now!) but exactly how much of his upbringing and molding was designed to establish him as a man of little consequence. That is, his financial worth would be entirely based on Mr. Bennet not having any sons (particularly as I believe Collins is the son of Mr. Bennet’s sister). So it is easy to look on Collins with ridicule (he certainly is an amusing and annoying person) but part of me certainly wants to applaud him (or at least pity him) for being as successful as he is at Rosings.

Something else that struck me is that Wickham so early in his acquaintance with Elizabeth so openly gossips about his “misfortunes” with Darcy. In many ways this seems to go entirely against ideas of the Enlightenment philosophy that encourages reservation and discipline. Elizabeth, for whatever reason, does not see this and the reader can even call Elizabeth’s decorum into question as she, perhaps not quite as openly, spreads this gossip. Darcy in contrast to Wickham is very stoic but I began wondering about his letter to Elizabeth after she has refused his proposal. While they certainly know each other better (he did propose) this definitely displays some problems with the Enlightenment philosophy. He does apologize for the letter later and, after all, the intention was to clarify the situation but in some ways he breaks this code. He even reprimands Enlightenment, to a degree, when he acknowledges his own fault for not publicly accusing Wickham of taking advantage of Miss Darcy.

This afternoon I concluded the A&E adaptation of the book and it was exciting and brilliant. I love the directors use of people’s expressions in the background of scenes and I must admit to adoring some of the additions of the film. Two of these include the more physical scenes of Mr. Darcy: fencing and swimming. Now, at first it seems relatively easy to write these shots off as somewhat needless and doing nothing more than paying some face time to Colin Firth. While I will not say this is entirely untrue they are scenes that help develop at least some historical truths to the novel. As a gentleman subscribing to the Enlightenment philosophy it would make perfect sense that Darcy would maintain great physical as well as mental and spiritual shape. Fencing and swimming would be two such exercises for a man of Mr. Darcy’s standing. While this is of course untrue to the book it is a nice bit of homage to Darcy that helps round out his character in ways that 19th Century readers may have been able to simply assume.

That is, I wonder how much Austen in Pride & Prejudice wrote for her own generation. Such as in modern novels that reference now things (i.e. Meg Cabot’s reference to Diet Coke in The Queen of Babble) perhaps Austen took the other direction and discreetly failed to mention any of those items. After all, her audience at the time would already be familiar with anything we, as a modern audience, have questions about.

1 Comment

Thanks for providing an insightful review on P&P. Lately I’ve found a new way of keeping in touch with the Bennets…more in my new post. Just like to know what you think. Once again, great reviews and an excellent Blog!

Comment by artidkc

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