Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Young Bluestockings Read Pride and Prejudice!

Welcome to the Young Bluestockings read (or re-read) of what is probably the world’s most popular English classic novel, Pride and Prejudice! We just couldn’t let its 200th publication anniversary pass without taking a post or two to talk over Jane Austen’s masterpiece (and her own favorite of her works!)

I think I was probably in college when I read P & P for the first time...I’d tried to read it at age 14, and it was not a success, which is why I always cringe when I hear of its being assigned to high school kids to read. I think it is one of those books best appreciated by slightly older readers, ones more schooled in the history and culture of early 19th century England who have also developed an appreciation for ironical humor...and of course, who can appreciate a good love story. When did you first read it, dear fellow Bluestockings?

I’m not going to go over the plot here...but I would like to share some observations I made on this reading for purposes of discussion...and would love to hear what those of you who read along ran across. One of the joys of Pride and Prejudice for me is that different things seem to come to light every time I re-read it...and so, let’s get started.

1. Let’s hear it for Charlotte Lucas

I’ve always liked Charlotte as a character, and have always applauded her decision to marry Mr. Collins, odious as he is. As she herself says, “I am not romantic you know. I never was.” But what she is is twenty-seven years old and nearly an old maid...which could mean a later life of poverty and being forced to rely on family members for a home and support. As we see later on when Elizabeth visits the Collinses at Hunsford, Charlotte manages her life with her husband quite nicely, and even seems to have him tamed slightly, as when she arranges to introduce Elizabeth and her father and sister to Lady Catherine, rather than allowing him to (with his usual groveling long-windedness). Charlotte has decided that being married to Mr. Collins is fair exchange for a comfortable future.

But what I noticed on this reading was how Jane Austen sets all this up long before Mr. Collins arrives on the scene: in Chapter Six of the first volume, she makes clear her opinions on marriage: “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar before-hand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.” Lizzy laughs and scoffs at Charlotte, of course...just as later she’s appalled that Charlotte accepts Mr. Collins’s offer. But she can’t say she wasn’t warned!

2. Darcy smiles.

Maybe it’s from having watched Colin Firth so many times, who barely reveals that he possesses a fine set of teeth until almost the last frame of the Pride and Prejudice mini-series...but I was struck by how many times Jane Austen has Mr. Darcy smiling—stating outright “Mr. Darcy smiled” multiple times over the course of the book. I totally did not remember this from previous readings, and it humanized him for me and made him a much more love-worthy hero.

3. Oh, Lady Catherine.

Of course, we all remember how dreadful she is. But one sentence during her apocalyptic visit to Longbourn made me laugh out loud at her sheer awfulness. After she commands Lizzy to come for a walk with her, they prepare to go outside. And, “As they passed through the hall, Lady Catherine opened the doors into the dining-parlour and drawing-room, and pronouncing them, after a short survey, to be decent-looking rooms, walked on.”

Can’t you just completely see that happening—the nosy old lady poking into rooms without so much as a by-your-leave? It’s almost cinematic!

So there are a few things I noticed...now it’s your turn, dear Nineteenteen readers. Any special Pride and Prejudice moments you’d like to discuss? Favorite scenes, characters, or lines? Was this your first read, or your fifteenth?



Regina Scott said...

Goodness but we are a quiet bunch lately! Finals? Graduation? Summer coming too soon? Not soon enough?

One of the things I love most about Pride and Prejudice is the language. From the first often-quoted line "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife" to the dialogue between characters and the wry description of events, Jane Austen's language pulls you into the story. And you find yourself never wanting to leave.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons I still write romances set in her time. :-)

QNPoohBear said...

We've been busy with graduation here (my brother and I both finished graduate school this year).

I've read the book more times than I can count. Each time I find something new that I didn't pick up on. I remember when I first read the book, I couldn't put it down even though I knew Elizabeth and Darcy ended up together in the end. It was so obvious! However, I wasn't sure Elizabeth really loved Darcy but accepted him because he really was a nice guy and rich and maybe she could love him. It's subtle but I think Elizabeth truly did fall in love with him.

I agree that Jane Austen's beautiful language is what makes her writing so special and why I don't like the 2005 movie version. I love her wit. Who else can create such buffoons as Mr. Collins and the imperious Lady Catherine? I love Mr. Bennet's dry wit My favorite lines are "`An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. -- Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do." and
"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?"

Regina Scott said...

Congratulations on finishing grad school, QNPoohBear! By some of your comments, I can guess at how hard you have been working. Well done, and congrats to your brother too!

DangAndBlast! said...

Heh - I actually picked up one thing from the otherwise-unliked 2005 film that I hadn't gotten in many readings (does that count? I did go back and make sure it was a valid reading!) - that Darcy, at the point of his apology for his aunt's behavior, can no longer be pridefully above Elizabeth's embarrassing family, as his own can be just as bad.