Throwing off the 'shackles' of reason?
Posted by Erin/mr on January 11, 1998 at 11:36:54:
In response to What did JA think of her society?, written by Patrick/mr (moved from the PP board) on January 11, 1998 at 11:30:18
[snip] did she seek to overthrow the rational and balanced? In my own humble view, JA thought that order was a large part of the problem with society.
Oh yeah, you had to twist my arm Patrick. ;-)
I'll grant that in P&P, Elizabeth and Darcy provide examples of Enlightenment autonomy --individuals who shirk the tyranny of their respective roles. However, I also believe that (in P&P) Austen does not sketch a method of how to renounce one's social context. Rather she proposes alternatives that permit the individual to remain in society (or relief from), while at the same time preserving one's autonomy (or sovereignty of the self) so painfully achieved. It's a freedom with committment.
As for her attitude towards rationality, I'll use the Austen Happy Medium scale. With the character of Mary Bennet, Austen criticizes an extreme form of rationality that lacks sense and is not tempered with experience. But Austen counters this sketch with an extreme view of 'experience' (decision- making) that lacks rationality, in the form of Lydia...and in Elizabeth, we have the ideal union of rationality and emotional expression.
It's becoming apparent that balance is a motif. I strongly believe that Austen (in the spirit of Aristotle) supported a notion of balance in all matters, eg., balance of emotion, modes of expression and condemned anything that dipped into an extreme. But she also realized the importance of a life lived in accordance with one's ideals.
I'll provide another contrast to illustrate the concept of balance in: 'Lydia versus Charlotte' (sounds like a prize fight). The choice of mate for these women was primarily motivated by lust and mercernary reasons, respectively. Whereas Elizabeth's (representing the Austenian ideal) choice is characterized by a mixture of a rationally-based attraction and risk, which I think falls somewhere in between the Charlotte and Lydia methods.
I recall Patrick your comment (to me) that you find such delineations to be a 'paint-by-numbers' interpretation. I think we have to realize that, in constructing P&P, Austen was buttressed by a philosophy of the world that proscribed clear definition and explication. I detect that you dislike over-arching interpretations that lack ambiguity (or more grey as opposed to black and white). But personally, the only ambiguity (generally speaking) I detect in P&P is Austen's attitudes towards sex and sexual attraction.
I also wonder to what extent Austen wished that her society to be otherwise.
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