Friday, 29 July 2011

The Final Jane Austen Book Club: Pride and Prejudice


Wednesday night was the final meeting of the 2011 Jane Austen Book Club, and a big thank you to all who participated. It's been a lot of fun, and I think we've learned a lot.

I made the above cake in honour of the occassion, copying the picture from the sketch done by Cassandra, Jane Austen's sister. I'm not very good at drawing, and as you can see, I did take some liberties with her facial expression. I've made her smile!

We saved the best until last, choosing to do Pride and Prejudice in the last week. However, we did find that it was mentioned nearly every week!

Hopefully, you all know the story... It's a plot I've always likened somewhat to Beauty and the Beast, but perhaps I would be one of the few people who could understand that comparison.

Interestingly enough, we started the night's discussion with a question: Why Charlotte Lucas and not Mary? I have a vague memory of them playing on this very question in the Keira Knightley version of the the film and that may possibly be where I got the idea from. Collins comes to the house determined to be, what is by his standards, agreeable. Of course, he is by everyone else's standards, a pain in the you know what. He wants to make up for some of the hard feelings that may be caused by his inheriting Longbourn by marrying one of his fair cousins. Immediately, he settles on Jane. Why wouldn't he? Jane is so very good and so remarkably beautiful. But, he is warned by Mrs. Bennett, she is already soon to be engaged to the lovable Mr. Bingley. So, his choice skips to Lizzy Bennett, the protagonist. But she knocks him back, and so he marries their neighbour Charlotte Lucas.

Why Charlotte though? Charlotte is said to be very plain and she is quite old for an unmarried woman, something like twenty seven or twenty eight I believe. It seems to come down to the fact that she listens to Collins when no one else will. I'll just say, she must have a remarkable amount of patience in her. But I believe that Mary could have been just as good if not better for a wife. She would have youth and accomplishment to her name. While she is nothing to look at, she is extremely musical and very well read.

But the strength of my feelings on this subject are just testament to the strength of Jane Austen's minor characters, I suppose. This is actually one of the few novels where everyone doesn't end up paired off. The world of Pride and Prejudice is much like the real world, in that there are more women in it than men to marry them. This is exactly the problem facing the Bennett family, who have five daughters and no sons. And when it comes to the mother and the two youngest daughters, they also have no sense.

It is interesting to note the authorial devices at work in this book. For example, those true, good characters like Jane and Mr Bennett call Elizabeth Lizzy, which is her 'true' name in the mind of the reader, if you would. Those less likable characters (Mrs. Bennett, Caroline Bingley) all call her Eliza. And this is how we are let know that they are not in the same class of person as the very much liked Elizabeth.

Although, at risk of facing the literary firing squad here, I must make a note that we have a similar situation to that of Persuasion here, what with so many men all falling for Elizabeth. Mr Collins, Mr Darcy, there is some discussion the Colonel Fitzwilliam might fancy her, although that might be wishful thinking on her part.

There is lots I could say about this book really, but it's so much more magical for you to discover it yourself. I am indebted to CH for bringing a list of discussion questions to the session compiled from here, here and here, as it prompted much debate.

Happy reading, everyone. I would love to read your thoughts on Pride and Prejudice in the comments section of this post.

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