Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Time for Discussing

I must admit that before Oct. I had never read Pride and Prejudice. Now that I have, I think I have a crush on Mr. Darcy!
Do you think my husband would mind that I also have feelings for a fictional character?

On the serious side here are some of the thoughts that occurred to me while reading.

#1 In the beginning of the story, I found the book fairly hard to read. It wasn't the large vocabulary, or the more "old english" way of speaking. I can read that fairly easily. My problem was that Jane doesn't use many "he said" or "she exclaimed" or "they interupted"'s. She just starts a new paragraph with a new set of quotation marks. I found myself having to re-read half a page, a couple of times, just to figure out who said what.
If this hadn't been a book club selection, and I hadn't heard almost every friend I know tell me how "GREAT" of a book it was. I don't know that I'd have gotten past chapter 3. By chapter 5, however, I either got used to it, or it got better in that regard, because that was when I started to get hooked. I had a very hard time putting it down. In fact, as soon as I finished it I read Sense and Sensibility and devoured it just as quickly.

#2 Was the change of times

Man did those people like to play cards! Every time it spoke of pulling out the card tables I laughed. But then I thought, if someone were to document my everyday life, people would probably laugh every time I clicked on the television. At least their after dinner past time could involve some personal conversation.
I also longed to be invited to one of the balls. I have always been a dancer, and I wish that the social balls were still apart of our social life.

#3 I LOVED how Jane pointed out that shyness is often confused for Pride. I myself, have been accused of being "stuck up" by people who have then changed their minds once they got to know me. And even though that is the case, I have thought the same of others, just to find out later that they are frighteningly shy. I think it is usually the case that when someone is thought of as prideful, it is usually that they just don't have the guts to prove otherwise.

#4 On a personal note, I very much admired Elizabeth's spunk. I found her character and myself incredibly alike, however, I am VERY non-confrontational and I hardly ever speak my mind to anyone other than my VERY close friends and family. For her to be so bold with her opinions, especially to the wicked Lady Bourdough, in times when most women of that day would have stayed quiet, or conceded was wonderful to me.

#5 As far as the message about marriage I was surprised by how many things have changed and how many things have stayed the same over the years.
People do in fact still marry for status or money. Some people still stay married even though they aren't at all happy. Some people still try to talk relatives out of the marriage they want. However, I don't think many people would even blink at Lydia and Mr. Wickham's situation. Sadly, there is almost no such thing as a dishonorable marriage anymore. (I however, still detested him and do not hold him in any high regard. The little weasel.) And it is much more likely that people who aren't happy do not stay together. Divorce is no longer looked upon as an evil.
It is fascinating to see where all the differences, or lack of them have taken place. Whether they be for the better or the worse.
The one thing that I think very much still rings true is her point of the book: That the only way to truly be happy is to marry the person you love and not to let the other worldly influences sway you from that.
I was very struck by an observation that was made on the inside cover of my copy of the book:
"The making of a suitable marriage was the great theme of nineteenth-century English literature, from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens, from George Eliot to Henry James. and no one has ever pointed out the pitfalls and stumbling blocks on the way to the alter with more verve, wit and sparkle than the UNMARRIED Jane Austen."
Married or not, I think she, obviously, spent a lot of time watching people and was one of earths true romantics. Like I said, I love Mr. Darcy!


Amy said...

I loved reading this book, it's one of my favorites!

The character you have to feel sorry for is Charlotte. I couldn't believe it at the beginning of the book when she said that "happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance." It is hard to believe, but that is really how it was back then. So many people had to marry because of status or money that often you weren't able to marry the one you really wanted. I am so grateful that we have the freedom now days to marry who ever we please. And I do believe that happiness in marriage, and in life, is a choice that we make...not a matter of chance.

It is amazing that the Bennets raised daughters that all turned out so different...but I suppose that is the way it always is. One party I liked was when Lady Catherine was being critical of Elizabeth's education, and the fact that she never had a governess. Elizabeth replied, "Such of us as wished to learn, never wanted the means. We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might." So again it's about the choices we make. Elizabeth and Lydia both had the same environment and the same parents, but they made different choices. Lydia obviously chose to be idle and to waste away her time with flirtation. I also like the message that we are in charge of our own education. We are not victims of circumstance.

The last quote I'll mention is when Mary says that "vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonimously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us." So, pride isn't always a bad thing, it's more important to avoid vanity.

Mr. Darcy may have been a proud man, but I don't believe he was vain. Sure he had some lessons to learn and he needed to humble himself some, but he only knew the life he had been raised in. At least he figured it out, once Elizabeth told him that he wasn't behaving like a gentleman! :) He finally realized that he didn't need to be so judgemental of her family.

I think this book has some great lessons about the way we treat others, and to not always go with our first impressions (good or bad). We also need to humble ourselves when we realize we have been wrong about someone.

Anonymous said...

OK, here goes. I'm so very rushed right now and will be for a few days with my Mom in the hospital recovering from a mastectomy, my dryer out of commission, my daughter needing x-rays of her foot, and relatives coming TOMORROW for her birthday party...and the house is NOT clean...and probably won't be. All of that is to say I wish I could develope my thoughts better than what follows. I apologize ahead of time for sounding...I don't know...something not good.

This is the third time in my life I have read Pride and Prejudice. As at the other times, I read quickly because the story drew my along. I didn't want to put it down. So, on the one hand, I do enjoy reading Jane Austen.

I tried a bit harder to be aware of how very different the 1850's culture of higher society England was from my world of today. It was not Jane Austen's or any of her characters' faults that their culture was structured so that a woman's great goal in life was to marry "well", meaning money first and hopefully a decent fellow too.

But I somehow felt empty or shallow for having enjoyed the story. In some ways, forgive me, it reminds me of soap operas. Very little work of keeping a house, of managing an estate, is ever mentioned. And, to me, other than Mr. Darcy (who is my favorite and a most noble character), no one "grows". Elizabeth seems to change her mind as she acquires new information but has she really been transformed?

Pride and Prejudice feels to me like a story about the outside of the cup and polishing that cup and choosing the right cup and lining up with all the other cups with only occasional little glimpses into the contents of the cups. It is romantic but it lacks depth of soul for me.

Sharon in KY

Anonymous said...

I checked again today, the 8th, to see if anyone else has posted. I'm very interested in your feedback. I feel like, for some reason, I have a blind spot with this book. Correct me where you feel I'm wrong. Tell me how Elizabeth really does grow as a person, how the story goes deeper than appearances.

Also, the house is still a wreck BUT the birthday party was fantastic! I got to spend a wonderful hour alone with my grandmother preparing a fruit salad and meat and cheese plates. My Mom was able to come for a while even though she's obviously still recovering from surgery. My Dad and his wife are still with us and may go to church with us before they leave tomorrow. And my daughter was thrilled with everything - the food, the toys, the books, and even the clothes. I've enjoyed getting lots of hugs from my Mom and my Dad.

Sharon in KY

Amy said...

It is hard to see where any of the characters really develop and become better people, besides Darcy. Austen doesn't seem to go into much detail with it, but I think Elizabeth is definitely affected by her false impressions of both Wickham and Darcy. I would think that she learned a pretty hard lesson from that experience, and I don't think she will be so quick to judge people, based on first impressions, in the future.

It is strange that Lydia never learns anything, she just goes on behaving silly and thinking she hasn't done anything wrong - but that is where the irony comes in. As readers we can see the idiocy of the various characters behavior, and that should in turn inspire us to take a look at our own lives and see if we have any of these negative behaviors or attitudes. That is how it is for me anyway. I think about these characters and the traits I like and the traits I want to avoid - and how I can become a better person That is the lesson I learned.

I also learned to be really grateful that I was able to choose my husband, and that I am married to someone I love. :)

Mrs. Mordecai said...

I have to admit that I haven't finished the book yet, having lost it under the couch until the end of the month, but I'm enjoying it this time around (my third time, I think).

I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was in eighth grade, and I had such a hard time getting into it that I had to renew it several times. I got everything from raised eyebrows to a "You'd better finish this sometime" from the school librarian, but I did finally finish it. I didn't love it, but I felt a sense of accomplishment at having read a "grown-up" book.

The next time I read it was in college, in a Jane Austen class that I took. Talk about a fun class! I liked it much better the second time around, not being so bogged down by the language and the slowness of the story.

I have to admit now, though, that the third time around, it isn't quite as exciting (at least so far). I think it was more fun when I was single, at least the whole marriage aspect.

I think that it must be awfully boring to be in the upper classes in Jane Austen's time. I know that she probably would have enjoyed it, being poor, but it seems to me that they did little other than eating, chatting, playing cards, and going to balls. Especially living in the country, they didn't have parties every day, and I think I would be dying for some work to do. No wonder Kitty and Lydia go a bit wild. Their parents didn't see to their proper education, and don't give them anything productive to do.

When I read this book in college, I came to the conclusion that Elizabeth and Darcy are the only ones who really change: the others in the book are just static, steady characters. Lydia and Wickham don't reform, Jane is as steady as ever, and Mrs. Bennet will always be silly. Lizzy and Darcy, I think, will give people more of a chance in the future before they judge them, and Darcy will not count class as so important.

Shimmy Mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shimmy Mom said...

(Sorry I had a major typ-o and my first sentence didn't make sense because of it. I erased the last comment. Let's try again shall we?)

I agree with both Amy and Mrs. Mordecai, I don't think that this book is as much about characters growth as it is about marriage and social classes of the time.
I do think that Elizabeth learns not to judge based on first impressions. I think that Darcy learns the most of any character and does do some changing, but everyone else stays the same.

Mrs. Mordecai, I love your observation that you would be bored in the upper class. I NEVER thought of that. In the case of Elizabeth I think you may be right. As for myself, I have a little lazy part in my that thinks, I could live with it. haha. Other people cooking my meals, and sewing my clothes etc. While I just read, or play piano, or have company to dinner, sounds kind of fun to me. But I think you are right, even that would get mundane, if that was the only life you knew.

I am so excited that this is becoming a real chance for discussion, and that we are answering each others comments. Thanks everyone!

Shimmy Mom said...

Oh, and Sharon, I am so glad to hear that things went well for you. As for the house, I'm sure mine looks worse and as my mom has told me. "They will remember the emotions, the events, the feelings, not how clean the house was."

Anonymous said...

Shimmy Mom, you are right; the house won't be remembered but the relationships are treasures.

I'm grateful too for the back and forth. I appreciate everyone's comments.

I'm well into Jane Eyre so Elizabeth and Darcy are fading as Jane and Mr. Rochester take the stage but I believe you who say Elizabeth will not be so quick to judge others in the future are right...we just don't get to see that. And I believe that Darcy and Elizabeth will be very happy together, though I can imagine the misunderstandings of the early years of their marriage continuing along the same lines of class/family happens today as well!

And thank you Shimmy Mom for your summary of what others have said. You are all correct - Jane Austen has written about marriage and social classes of her day. She has taken a photograph of what it really was like and created some characters to give us their insiders' views.

As far as being content or not in the upper classes of the time, I'm guessing I would be just as content there and then as here and now. We are all shaped by the culture we live in and respond to it based on our temperament. With my sober spirit and spiritual hungers, I would then as now, probably walk near the edges of that culture. Then as now too, it would depend very much on my husband how much of my deepest feelings would ever be expressed in actions and how many would only be expressed in prayer.

Sharon in KY