Friday, 23 October 2009

Pride and Prejudice Question 23

I won't post a response to yesterday's questions here, as I posted an exceedingly long comment already.

There isn't any consensus about whether Elizabeth sees Caroline as a rival. In many senses, asking whether Elizabeth unconsciously perceived Caroline as a rival goes against the time period. Since the idea of the unconscious didn't yet exist, JA herself, at least, wouldn't have thought about it that way.

Still, it's fascinating to look back and see if and how writers who are so very skilled at portraying human nature were able to portray this aspect even if the concept didn't exist. I think that's part of why the production of Emma is a bit jarring at the beginning. It's trying to bring in a psychological reading of the novel by giving a background to the characters. I don't think it works initially, but as the play unfolds I can see that it brings a new dimension to the character.

Should we interpret classics using modern concepts? It's a hard call to make, but the argument could also go the other way. Even when we think we're being very objective and historically accurate, who's to say that our twenty-first way of thinking (no matter how accurate we think we are) bears any resemblance to the original? Jane Austen was seen by the later Romantics as very much a part of the old world order, which balanced Neo-Classical concepts such as Wit, Reason, and Order against the cult of Sensibility. We have forgotten these concepts, and we translate Wit as being witty, but there was far more to it than that. It was a whole way of doing things.

This way of thinking is as alien to us as the way we think is to hers. To grasp some of these ideas you have to read Alexander Pope, who lays them out very nicely. But then Pope doesn't have a memorable character anywhere. Jane Austen, on the other hand, was able to create warm blooded human beings whom we can have a crush on in 2009!

I don't know what's up with me today. I seem to be going on and on...

I had better give you my question now, before I start up again. And since there's a general resistance to seeing Elizabeth as "flawed" in any way (though Jane Austen herself famously says: "pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked"), I'll give you the chance to sing Elizabeth's praise.

Pride and Prejudice Question 23

What, in your opinion, (in addition to her fiesty personality and her intelligence) are Elizabeth Bennet's best qualities? What makes us like her so much?

7 comments:

  1. I think besides her fiesty personality and intelligence, her best quality is her love for her sister Jane. She may feel ashamed of her mother and other sisters at times, but she really loves Jane and is always fighting for her no matter what.

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  2. In addition to everything Laura pointed out, I love her confidence. She can walk into Netherfield with a muddy gown without feeling self-conscious, get slighted by one of the handsomest guys at a ball and still manage to have a good time, and be insulted or proposed to (or both!) and still always have a snappy comeback.

    Loved your long comment yesterday, Monica!

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  3. This is an easy question for me! I love many things about Elizabeth, but what I love most is her determination to marry for love. Not many women her position would have refused Mr. Collins (Charlotte didn't) and she said NO to the Master of Pemberley when he was considered one of the most eligible and desirable bachelors!! She wasn't mercenary, and she wasn't conforming to the social norms of her time, she was unique in that she wanted to marry for love.

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  4. I love that, despite her strong feelings, she's not in the least sentimental. When her crushes turn out badly, she doesn't pine - just laughs and goes on. Even with Darcy, she has a life separate from him, and can freely acknowledge that their passion is less tender that Jane and Bingley's love. Or when she's done everything she can about something, she doesn't brood about it - e.g., when she fails to convince Mr Bennet to do something about Lydia. Feisty, unconventional young heroines are a dime a dozen - Elizabeth Bennet is something different.

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  5. Her determination to marry for love is important to me. She refused Mr Collins even though she knew that it would be a jackpot for her whole family if she would marry him. I also like the fact that she loves her sisters, especially Jane, but she is also aware of the fact that her sisters cannot go on in a society as they want and she warns them and also her father about that. She has common sense, she is smart, funny etc.

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  6. Actually, I think what makes Elizabeth so likeable is her faults as well as her admirable qualities. She isn't the prettiest Bennet--Jane is. She isn't the smartest--Mary alledgedly is. She isn't the nicest, the most fashionable, or the most loyal. She is the most real--I think we like her for the same reason we like Brigit Jones. Darcy, both the P&P and the BJ versions, like Elizabeth/Brigit just the way they are. I like Elizabeth because she isn't a paragon of goodness--she gets spiteful and angry, her feelings get hurt, she prejudges, and gets irritated with her family. And still, Darcy loves her the way she is. Her character and story is proof positive that you don't have to be the prettiest, nicest, smartest, or best dressed to attract Prince Charming :)

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  7. I agree with JaneGS. Elizabeth is the most real heroine in all of the Austen books. Everyone can identify with her. She's not a "saint" like her sister, but she keeps going no matter what. She sees at the end that she messed-up with Darcy and that makes her love him even more. His faults become her faults.

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