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|The Art and Nature of Lizzy and Darcy (Long)
Written by BarbaraB
(5/20/2010 3:01 a.m.)
First of all they have a great deal in common, obviously, which is what will make them a compatible couple if they can ever manage to get themselves together. They are both intelligent, love to read and enjoy music. They share a love of walking and the beauty of nature. They can engage in witty repartee on an equal footing. I think these conversations in which they banter show them both to be very articulate and "the verbal fluency and precision of their speech is one of the great delights of the novels." The dialog between them just bristles and sparkles---they don't miss a beat---some of my favorite parts. (What extraordinary wit and talent one must have to write this kind of dialog.) On the other hand their banter is also a sign of their opposition.
"What is at the bottom of the antagonism that separates Darcy and Elizabeth, then, is the clash between "art" and "nature" in their comprehensive eighteenth-century meanings." Using this scale must be relative to who is placed on it. As I showed in one of the earlier posts, Darcy and Lizzy in general when place on a scale with others are close to the mean but when placed on a scale with just the two of them they appear at opposite ends. "Elizabeth…is quick intelligence, strong feeling, spontaneity, [has] a regard for people as individuals, [and displays an] indifference to or distrust of rank and wealth. Darcy, at the opposite end of the scale, is slower moving, cautious, rational, attentive to considerations of propriety, and much alive to class distinctions. Their growth toward self-knowledge and one another is growth away from extremes. Darcy sees the attractions of Elizabeth's "nature" and through his experiences with her, modifies his class pride. Elizabeth sees the worth of Darcy's solid qualities and acknowledges the positive side of class orientation. Neither reverses his or her temperament completely, of course." Lizzy herself saw their differences and how they would compliment each other: His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved; and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance. (50)
Lizzy deals with people naturally and without regard to rank or position. Wickham, who lacks money, family and connections is treated as an individual. The same with Lady Catherine; Lizzy is not in awe at the prospect of meeting her as are Maria and Sir Lucas. People are people. Darcy, as we know, is "conscious of, and is a strong advocate of class distinctions"---the distain at the Meryton assembly and the 'degradation proposal' come to mind.
The author points out that the naturalness that Lizzy enjoys at Pemberley shows that Darcy is not so extreme that he can't reach a more desirable mean. Reading Bettina's response to Part 1 got me to thinking about Pemberley in the scheme of things, how it is the perfect blend of art and nature, so much so that I believe that it actually represents the mean. It reminded me of having read something in one of my books and I got it out. (Mastering the Novels of Jane Austen/Gill and Gregory):
"The grounds of Pemberley have been carefully tended. The significance of that tending needs to be seen in the context of the contemporary debate about landscape gardening.
This was the art of shaping the grounds of an estate. This form of horticulture planning was popular throughout the eighteenth century, and the landscape architects created a number of distinctive fashion.
By the time Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, [these] designs were criticized for lacking variety and looking artificial. A political element was present in this debate. Brown (a famous landscape architect who helped popularize this practice) was associated with the Whig landowners, who saw landscape gardening as an expression of their power and wealth. The significant word that was used of Brown's kind of landscaping was 'improvement'. Nature (literally) in itself might be wild, untidy and rough. The improver's aim was to introduce reason and formality.
This training of nature…was not to the taste of those writers and planners who might be called tory….Their ideal was the picturesque…What they…insisted on was that the picturesque was achieved by allowing nature to be herself….
Pemberley is picturesque….The stream has been dammed at some point to make it swell, but the work has been unobtrusive so it appears natural. The reader might see that the landscape does not express pride; it does not draw attention to what the Darcys have done." (Seems to fit in with the Moler's art/nature theme rather nicely).
Pemberley is the location of the pivotal plot point in P&P, the place where Lizzy and Darcy are reunited and a more meaningful relation can begin. Looking at it now, I think it is foreshadowing for the eventual harmonious blending of art and nature in two people as well as what is already in the landscape, the place where they end up physically, mentally and emotionally.
"The art-nature dialectic, in various forms, underlies all of Austen's other novels, as well and Pride and Prejudice." Think Sense and Sensibility for one. The title screams art-nature. "…reading the novels in terms of the art-nature contrast enables us to see the extent to which Austen is in touch with the larger intellectual and social currents of her generation…"
Finally, focusing on the art-nature contrast, has had me looking into real life, at people and relationships. I can see it at work all around me to some degree or other. I look at how my husband and I started out as opposites in so many ways but have moved closer toward the center over the years. I look at people who have admitted to some shortcoming/defect in their personality and/or character and worked on improving themselves---moving themselves toward a more acceptable mean, when you think about it.
Well, I realize that this has all been a bit rushed, chopped, and sliced. Take from it what you will but with what I have been able to share in these three posts, I am hoping that it has given (or will at some future time, on letting it simmer for a while) a new perspective on the story or provided something different to chew on in this journey to improve our understanding of Jane Austen's writings. Let me know if there's anything I can clear up and I will do my best. :)
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