I can't believe...
Posted by Erin on May 04, 1998 at 00:03:25:
In response to Aristotle and tragedy..., written by Helen on May 03, 1998 at 14:47:18
...you're mentioning Aristotle! Whatever happened to "those-who-like-Aristotle-are-blockheads" dictum? ;-) I'm only pulling your leg because in some fashion you're pulling mine. ;-p (BTW, below I get a Plato reference in there for ya.)
But it is an illustration of the common belief that Christians can't produce real tragedy - it has to take place in a pagan society, which has no possibility of redemption. JA doesn't believe that "as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods" - instead she conceives of a perfectly sensible universe in which people are always given a chance to make something good of their lives.
..."perfectly sensible" being the operative phrase. Well, I think you've managed to explicate the function of tragedy, as defined in Western culture at least. I agree with your statements, except that I don't believe that Austen's universe proposes the possibility for everyone to make something of their lives. It may be the case for the heroes --but what kind of statement is made with a character such as Charlotte Lucas? You've argued (as have I) that Charlotte is in essence unethical...she forsakes her freedom, individuality for material concerns (freedom and individuality possessing social and spiritual connotations). But suppose that Charlotte is incapable of the virtue that Austen posits; her personality is such that she is not constituted to "hold out" and reserve a place for herself. She's no Antigone! I believe that with Charlotte, Austen implicitly conveys the notion that we all cannot achieve the ideal, but we must nevertheless get on with "job" of living.
This is a more subtle form of tragedy…of the self.
Although Charlotte is criticized, there is some sympathy (on Austen's part) for her condition, her inability to affect virtue. And now let me go way out on a limb, I think that Austen "heroizes" Charlotte in the form of Fanny Price, in the sense that she rewards the seemingly deficient country girl, incapable in the world's eyes (i.e., Mrs. Norris, Lady Bertram, and Mary Crawford) of "making something good of her life". However, let you not think that I imply that Austen is inconsistent with her philosophy! Fanny has constancy of belief, unrelenting in a society that tempts her to do otherwise. In contrast, Charlotte is more easily "converted".
Will even you, Helen, listen to my drivel? ;-)
- Oh, don't stop!!!! Laraine 14:42:32 5/04/98 (2)
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