She obviously didn't read P&P "creatively" enough
Posted by Erin on January 15, 1998 at 20:01:42:
In response to Ms. Bronte apparently had never read P&P, written by Patrick on January 15, 1998 at 17:12:47
...as per your concept. ;-)
Well Patrick, I don't know how to illustrate my point re. balance better than I already have --except to fully explicate how Elizabeth in the end possesses balanced features of Being (i.e., of intellect, passion, "liveliness", prejudice) --no characteristic could be considered extreme. The story seen from without is balanced with smucks, darlings, bimbos, and heroes in every sense: psychologically, morally...every aspect of human existence within Austen's realm. It's an aesthetic of balance, if you will. This notion is not as quantifiable, objective as you want to make it.
But you don't seem to accept what 'proof' I've offered to shape my point (e.g., Elizabeth's marital choice contra Charlotte's; or contrast between Elizabeth and Mary's intellectual approach, in my view each example discloses --on the part of Elizabeth-- a balance of sensibilities, a "happy medium" of will). I'll offer more here (although I do it with some pessimism, since I know you'll ultimately reject them).
On balance and rationality...on choice grounded in rational reflection versus choice based on the immediacy of sexual attraction: Lydia contra Elizabeth's marriages (even Mr. Bennet --ala Lydia-- vs. Elizabeth). In the former's debacle, clearly Austen is critical of Lydia's mode of attachment --she offers no true relief, movement (psychologically) for Lydia or Wickham. Why? I contend Austen disapproves of the way in which Lydia becomes attached to Wickham, out of lust, selfishness, and pride. (In this case, I'd emphasize the concept of 'lust' since selfishness and pride can result from reflection, however distorted).
As for Elizabeth, I refer to Austen's own justification for Elizabeth's 'turn' and her ultimate attachment to Darcy:
If gratitude and esteem are good foundations of affection, Elizabeth's change of sentiment will be neither improbable nor faulty. But if otherwise --if regard springing from such sources is unreasonable or unnatural, in comparison of what is so often described as arising on a first interview with its object, and even before two words have been exchanged -- nothing can be said in her defense, except that she had given somewhat of a trial of the latter method in her partiality for Wickham, and that its ill success might, perhaps, authorize her to seek the other less interesting mode of attachment (Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery
The bold is my emphasis. Elizabeth's choice of mate is grounded not in lust; rather out of products produced through detached (cf. period after Darcy's letter and her first visit to Pemberley), reflective thought.
Another balance-aesthetic can be seen (IMHO) in the Charlotte and Lizzy contrast: Charlotte capitulated too quickly to social mandates, whereas Elizabeth holds out and, in the end, is true to her individual ethic, even though she also does not completely ignore propriety, and indulge her needs, like Lydia. I see a balance here. :-)
Although "balance" has a nice ring to it, we need not suppose that it is always good. We can make a case that objectification of the world in various ways - quantifying, measuring, analyzing the world - are bad, or at best, neutral, but certainly not good for humans. Consider the rose. [snip] This idea seems to me to be what JA had in mind when she wrote P&P. The rose is "other people." The major characters in the book can be divided into two classes: Lizzy and Darcy, and everybody else. (A word about the Gardiners in a moment.) Lizzy and Darcy smell the rose, everyone else measures it.
I now understand your resistance to the idea of balance. "Too confined and unvarying!" ;-) But I'm not quantifying it as much as you seem to think. Again, it's more of a general aesthetic of balance. Consider the fact when a smelling the rose, it inherently possesses a balance of fragrance and shape that appears (to most) pleasant to the nose and the eye. A rose contains certain characteristics that make it such...now whether we can verbalize via description all of these qualities to convey to an individual who is blind and/or without the sense of smell is another matter entirely --an issue that gets into the nature of consciousness and the subjective character of experience, e.g., what is it like to experience reality like a bat --an organism whose perceptual apparatus is akin to radar, and hence whose experience of reality is fundamentally different than ours. The answer is no, we can theorize what it's like to be a bat, but we can't experience it as such.
However, what's important in this context is what Austen would think...she, probably not thinking of roses or bats. Rather fore her, authentic relationships are grounded in thoughtful, rational reflection. Again, re-read the steps Elizabeth begins to take after she reads Darcy's letter, read the scene where Elizabeth stands before Darcy's portrait at Pemberley...see how carefully Austen articulates those moments, she uses words like "discernment", " [she stood] in earnest contemplation" "gentle sensations [in her mind]", "every idea" "he represented", "she remembered his warmth"...all of these words/phrases imply acts of the mind, acts of reflection which are guided by the heart, open to itself. (Another example of the balance-aesthetic.)
I think you're often correct in your intuitions, Patrick. I don't necessarily our views as mutually exclusive. I think you're right to say that Elizabeth and Darcy represent a 'victory' over the tyranny of social roles and rituals; but I don't think Austen attempts to show how one might renounce society, rather she presents a picture of how to receive relief within it.
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