Monday Night Special #3: Delving in with Diagrams (to Pride and Prejudice)

3 Sep

Dearest Reader,

I forthwith submit for your kindly eyes–I hope, at least, they will look kindly upon this most base preoccupation of mine–the following application of certain processes to which I am sure you have become quite accustomed.  Indeed, our standing agreement to meet at this time each seven-day may be satisfied only in such a manner.

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen via 1995 BBC miniseries, which I watched with a middle-aged church lady friend from 9am-2pm on a Tuesday because neither of us work.  The perks of having middle-aged lady friends and being unemployed:  As Twitter would say, the limit does not exist.

I must admit this was my first foray into Austen’s cinematic world.  I’ve never read the book, either, and in fact the only Austen I’ve ever read is Emma for a clunkily titled college course called something to the effect of Periods of British Literature:  19th Century Women’s British Literature. In a discussion with the professor before the class had started, I revealed to her that I’d never read any Austen, and this exchange happened:

Professor:  So, you’re a Jane Austen virgin?
Me:  I’ve never even gotten to first base with Jane Austen.  Haven’t seen the movies or anything.

Because I am the kind of prude who chooses to only intermittently trade provocative witticisms with my professors, I will not continue with this metaphor, but I will say that I am still not very experienced with Jane Austen, but I am at least familiar enough with her to be very intrigued by the concepts she brings up in her novels although my proclivities run toward the Bronte end of the spectrum–especially Anne, if we’re talking women’s roles in society.

Quick Synopsis:

Elizabeth Bennett, the second of five daughters born to a middle-class Edwardian British family, snarks her way through life and eventually falls in love with Mr. Darcy, whom she had initially believed to be an insufferable bore/cad.  Various and sundry other things happen, including Mr. Darcy being kind of chased by his BFF’s bitchy sister, his BFF falling in love with Elizabeth’s older sister, Elizabeth’s youngest sister kind of being a slut and Mr. Darcy having to force a dude to marry her to save her reputation, a pretentious clergyman cousin (who will inherit the Bennett estate) trying to get all up in Elizabeth’s grill but then marrying one of her friends who is more business-oriented than romance-oriented.

Amid all this, we have plenty of class conflict and ruminations on love, marriage, companionship, respect, appearances, pride, and prejudice.  Duh.

Important Quotation:

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.

Charlotte Lucas, the friend who subsequently marries the clergyman cousin, says this to Elizabeth while they’re at a dance.  The “they” of the quotation, of course, refers to a hypothetical married couple, as Charlotte and Elizabeth are discussing their views on courtship and marriage.

While Elizabeth shows herself a romantic–albeit a funny, reasonable, sarcastic, independent one–Charlotte sees marriage as a business transaction, one in which the man gains whatever wife stuff he needs and the woman gains security for both herself and her family’s name.

In this time period, women had few options.  Elizabeth knows this and expresses this early in the work when she’s talking to Jane (her older sister) about what it will take to “induce her to matrimony.”  She’s sure Jane will get married before her because she’s the pretty one, and if a man isn’t someone she can respect and have stuff in common with and be totally in love with, she’ll resign herself to be Jane’s governess.  She says this jokingly, but that’s really the  only option–stay at home with parents/other relatives, get married, or be a governess (see Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey).

In this light, we see that Elizabeth is quite admirably very stubborn and an independent thinker, but on the flip side of that, she’s pretty selfish.  Charlotte, on the other hand, expresses that one can learn to live with anything if one ignores certain bad habits.  She’s ready to take one for the team so that her father–who has been knighted but does not have a whole lot of money–will not have to support her her whole life.

Elizabeth bluntly refuses a marriage proposal from her cousin, even though she knows that cousin, if he were so inclined, could potentially throw her entire family out on their collective ear after her father dies.  She refuses another marriage proposal later even though it looks as if her older sister may never get married.  She refuses to believe in inevitable vexations because she will choose her own mate or not have one.  Which could be all well and good if her family were a bit more well off.  But they are not.  They have a little land, a few servants, but no real name recognition and no really big inheritance.

Diagram:

 

Thoughts on Structure:

After a truly embarrassing number of drafts–though, to my diagramming credit, most were discarded for cosmetic reasons–I have finally diagrammed this sentence.  So, I suppose it’s a deceptive sentence, or I’m not as proficient at weird infinitive phrases and elliptical clauses as I thought I was.

And boy do we have a lot of infinitives!  First we’ve got “to grow unlike” functioning as the direct object of continue; “to have their share” functioning as an adverb on the adverb “sufficiently”; “to know as little” functioning as the appositive of “it”; and finally the weirdest of them all “to pass” functioning as a full verb with the auxiliary “are.”  Dude, that’s a lot of infinitives.  I’ve always suspected that infinitives used to be more popular than they are today.  The using-as-a-verb thing happens once in a while in colloquial speech these days, but it happens all the time in the movie (I was kind of listening for it.  Sue me.).

Final Thoughts:

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Elizabeth Bennett is wonderful.  I just would’ve liked to have seen a little more internal conflict from her when she was refusing marriage proposals left and right.

And while I am more inclined to agree with Elizabeth’s views on marriage (that a man and woman should mutually respect each other, love each other, and share interests and intellect), I found myself really respecting Charlotte’s resolve and unblinking devotion to her ideals.

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