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Written by Margaret S
(5/5/2007 11:49 p.m.)
"I did not know before," continued Bingley immediately [to Elizabeth], "that you were a studier of character. It must be an amusing study."
"Yes; but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that advantage."
"The country," said Darcy, "can in general supply but few subjects for such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society."
"But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever."
"Yes, indeed," cried Mrs. Bennet, offended by his manner of mentioning a country neighbourhood. "I assure you there is quite as much of that going on in the country as in town."
Every body was surprised; and Darcy, after looking at her for a moment, turned silently away. (29)
So much depends upon the demonstrative pronoun. At once vulgar and shrill, Mrs. Bennet's "that" hangs heavily in the air, technically without referent but unambiguous. The sexual innuendo chaffs against the previous conversation, and the novel itself turns away with Mr. Darcy, silent with horror and embarrassment. It is this turn, the turn away from that which cannot be represented, the turn that is the silent act of the well mannered body—the carefully averted eyes and the refusal to see what it already knows can no longer be tolerated—it is this turn that the novel will reproduce linguistically, thematically, and narratively. The realist novel of manners must turn away from the very thing on which its existence depends: the possibility of sexual pleasure untrammeled by love and marriage.
Darcy's superiority finds its instantiation in his manners, a code of behavior that, unlike etiquette, embodies both the entirety of Darcy's character and the character of the socioeconomic order to which Elizabeth aspires. It is this code of behavior that negotiates the body's appearance in the social space. Manners structure the interface between public and private; they govern human interaction to the degree that even the most trivial of events can assume theological import. Most importantly, they strike a balance between the needs of nature and the prohibitions of culture. Darcy's mannered body, for example, represents not the absence of sexuality and its passions but their domestication, their subservience to love, marriage, and family.
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