Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Bennet’

Kate MiddletonIn an attempt to criticize Kate Middleton, British radio host Sandi Toksvig has dismissed her as being ‘very Jane Austen.’ Now I cannot even begin to fathom how that could be construed as negative, but it gets worse. Toksvig complains of Kate, “I cannot think of a single opinion she holds—it’s very Jane Austen.”

Clearly Toksvig has never actually read any Jane Austen, because her books are almost entirely composed of characters giving their opinions.

In fact, Austen’s novels were actually rather progressive in her day because her heroines were so expressive. Spirited Elizabeth Bennet readily speaks her mind, much to the discomfiture of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who remarks “upon my word, you give your opinion most decidedly.” Mr Darcy notices this also, and it’s one of the things that draws him to Lizzy.

Emma Woodhouse also shares her opinions eagerly, even when, as noted by Mr. Knightley, they are completely off-base. “Mr Knightly loves to find fault with me,” she tells her father. “We always say what we like to one another.” Indeed, Emma dislikes Jane Fairfax precisely because “there was no getting at her real opinion. Wrapt up in a cloak of politeness, [Jane] seemed determined to hazard nothing She was disgustingly, was suspiciously reserved.”

Marianne dashwoodMarianne Dashwood, aka ‘sensibility,’ is most demonstrative about her romantic ideals. Her sister Elinor, who has more ‘sense,’ is equally ready to counter with arguments for reason. To Colonel Brandon she worries that Marianne’s openness is “setting propriety at nought.”

Also in this novel, the respectable and educated Edward Ferrars realizes that he cannot love Lucy Steele when her letters contain flattery but no substance.

While Persuasion’s Anne Elliot may be reserved, her opinion is well-regarded (except by her unkind father and sister). After Louisa Musgrove’s accident, both her brother Charles and war hero Captain Wentworth turn to Anne for advice and leadership. “‘Anne,’ cried Charles. ‘What is to be done next?’”

Even Fanny Price, the ‘Most Likely to be Voted a Pushover,’ takes a stand when her cousins plan to perform a risqué play. She also, despite enormous pressure, refuses to marry the disingenuous Henry Crawford, which gets her banished from Mansfield Park. Both Fanny and Lizzy Bennet decline financially advantageous proposals from foppish men, despite the very real threat of indigence and homelessness.

If Kate Middleton is like a Jane Austen character, it is because she exhibits a similar tempered resolve as well as much grace under challenging circumstances. Why all this Kate bashing? Ahem, Hilary Mantel.

P and P sistersIn addition to strong heroines, Austen liked to poke fun with a variety of foolish, ill-informed, and opinionated characters. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, though she has never studied piano, determinedly criticizes the finger work, style, and execution of anyone who plays for her. From the tiresome Mr. Collins, to the know-it-all Mrs. Elton, to the pompous Sir Walter Elliot, these caricatures opine confidently, and often nonsensically, on topics they know nothing about. Does this not seem rather like Sandi Toksvig in her disparaging of Jane Austen (and of Kate)? Perhaps it is Toksvig who is the Jane Austen character after all.

British Radio Host Hits Out at Duchess of Cambridge as ‘Very Jane Austen’

Author Hilary Mantel Calls Kate Middleton ‘Plastic’ and ‘Designed to Breed’

Hilary Mantel Defends Kate Middleton Comments

Royal Bodies — A Lecture by Hilary Mantel

Jane Austen Bio and Links via JaneAusten.org

Follow @WordHits on Twitter

Or Check Out WordHits on Facebook

Read Full Post »

P&P pen classicToday, January 28, marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and celebrations abound both here and in the U.K. For many years now, P&P has been one of my favorite books. I confess, however, that when I first tried to read it I simply could not get into it. I was 15, and having been primed on Judy Blume and Danielle Steele, I wasn’t ready to appreciate Austen’s refined language and her subtle, yet nice, plot pacing (‘nice’ here in its regency-era connotation).

The characters all seemed stiff and a bit dull. Austen does a great job early on of making Mr. Darcy seem like rather a jerk, nor was the landed gentry thing working for me. My taste in heroes ran more towards Indiana Jones. But my eldest sister made me promise to finish, so on I read … until I got to the letter that Darcy writes Elizabeth after she has refused his marriage proposal:

“Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you.”

I burst into laughter, caught myself, and read it again. I ran to ask my sister who said that yes it was supposed to be funny. Suddenly, Mr. Darcy had some spunk and personality. I won’t go into the letter, which has important plot points. But through that missive, both Elizabeth Bennett and I became acquainted with a different side of Darcy. He’s actually very clever and amusing, something that Colin Firth managed to bring out so perfectly in the must-see BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice.

Recent editions of Pride and Prejudice.

Recent editions of Pride and Prejudice.

Not only did I fall for Darcy, I finally fell for Jane Austen. I flipped back to earlier parts of the book. Aha. Now I saw Mrs. Bennett as silly comic relief (not just tiresome). I howled when Mr. Bennett, weary of hearing about Mr. Bingley at the ball, retorts “say no more of his partners. Oh! That he had sprained his ankle in the first dance!” I just loved the supercilious Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who scowls at Elizabeth’s piano playing and boasts: “if I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”

Aside from the caricatures, I grew to know the keen, observant, and witty ‘Lizzy’ Bennett. Instead of pining over sonnets, she quips, “I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!” Then, after her disastrous encounter with Darcy and her dear sister Jane’s own broken heart, Lizzy heads off on a walking tour. “Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains?”

I raced through Pride and Prejudice, with newfound enthusiasm, and then devoured Austen’s other novels. Like most Janeites, I’ve reread them so often that whole sections seem to be lodged in my head. My favorite keeps changing—sometimes Emma, sometimes Persuasion—really, must one choose? Still, Pride and Prejudice will forever be special to me because it sparked me to ‘get’ Jane Austen.

Austen Fans to Celebrate 200 Years of Pride and Prejudice

So Glad Jane Austen Made Me Do It

A Joyous Season for Janeites

Spoiler Alert: This Book Has No Ending

Follow @WordHits on Twitter

Or Check Out WordHits on Facebook

Read Full Post »