Yes and No
Posted by MB on December 12, 1997 at 12:33:09:
In response to Is P&P a love novel?, written by Mark on December 12, 1997 at 10:52:29
] No, that is not a typo. We gaily go on here at Pemberley as if P&P were a love novel. Andrew Davies, the P&P2 screenwriter said that P&P is one of the sexiest books written,
]... and that the main engine that drives the story forward is the sexual attraction between Elizabeth and Darcy.
] But is it?
] Allister Cooke, who was hosting Masterpiece Theatre when P&P1 was first broadcast stated, "Pride and Prejudice is not a love novel. It is a parody of a love novel." I have often meditated upon what he meant by that.
Pedantic interlude....according to Scribner's (definition abridged; I didn't want to take up three pages!) :
"humorous or farcical imitation, as of a literary or musical work; a parody changes the subject matter of some work, usually well known, but retains the style, especially in its tricks and affectations (as opposed to a travesty, which retains the subject matter, but so alters the style that the effect is ridiculous)"
With this definition in mind, I'm not sure that I totally agree with our buddy, Alistair. If P&P were a parody, JA would have used different subjects than love and matrimony to tell her story. And, at least as far as I can tell, it didn't retain the style of previous "love stories", which had everyone fainting and dying all over the place, as she had characters do in her parody Love and Friendship. But she didn't do that in P&P. In this sense, it is much more a travesty (a word which has become pretty pejorative). It kept the subject matter, but altered the style somewhat. For instance, we still have elopements, but everything is handled in a much more "civilized" way. Another author would have had Darcy fight a duel with Wickham, rather than reason with him. Does this make sense?
I think that P&P is a satire, a (Scribner's, again) "literary composition in which vice and folly are held up to ridicule, in which sarcasm and ridicule are used to expose vice and folly." Doesn't that seem more like the P&P we know and love? And, to my mind, satire is more subtle and gentle than is parody. I think Alistair was inhaling the residue of too many moldy books...
] Consider that the book revolves around one Miss Elizabeth Bennet. We see nearly everything through her eyes. We go through the day with her. We listen in on her conversations with others. We read her correspondance. We are privy to her innermost thoughts. So, why is it that in this book supposedly about love, do we not know when she fell in love? We simply are not told. (snip)
Exactly! It's gradual, just as if it were happening to us. We follow the story along with Elizabeth. That's why it's so brilliant, IMO. Don't you think that this is how most of us fall in love, or at least realize that we have fallen in love? I'm not talking about the lightening-bolt of attraction or infatuation, but true long-lasting respect, affection, and passion.
] We can fairly easily trace Mr Fritzwilliam Darcy's journey to love, and HE is considered closed and aloof!! Is this not irony at its best?
Yes, but remember that we only see Darcy in relation to Elizabeth, so of course his attraction seems obvious and seems to preoccupy his (and our) thoughts. We only see and hear Darcy when Elizabeth is present, or when she has just left the room (as in his conversations with Caroline at Netherfield and Pemberley). We only get "inside" his head (via JA) when he's thinking about Elizabeth ("the beautiful expression of her dark eyes", "he began to wish to know more of her", "he had never been so bewitched", "he saw the danger of paying her too much attention", etc.) AND, although his progress is obvious to us, it's not obvious to him ("I was in the middle before I knew...").
] It has been said that Pride and Prejudice is really a book about social commentary masquarading as a love novel. While I do not feel comfortable putting P&P into any pigeon hole, I can definitely see the validity of the argument.
] So, in the final analysis, just what is Pride and Prejudice. Besides it arguably being the greatest book of fiction ever written in the English language, I can't answer that.
] Can you?
I can try. I think it is both a love story AND a brilliant satire of manners and society. It's a love story in the same way that, say, Howard's End is a love story. Or that Gulliver's Travels is an adventure story. Or that Alice in Wonderland is a children's fantasy story. You can read it for plot and dialogue alone and enjoy it, love it even. But if you read between the lines, there is so much more. Treating it as either one or the other would be incomplete.
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