Should we analyze the rose?
Posted by Patrick on January 19, 1998 at 15:57:22:
In response to That old Austen see-saw..., written by Helen on January 16, 1998 at 13:00:22
Patrick, if you still don't agree with this thesis, where do you stand on S&S?
That's the only one of the novels I haven't read yet. I really disliked the recent movie, and so did not include S&S in my Austen-reading marathon last year. Not a criticism of JA, I hasten to add. Only of the movie.
] ] 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.
] Patrick, are you saying that we should not analyse the rose? Isn't it an important thing to collect that data, to try to discover exactly what makes us react to it as a beautiful experience?
Important? I don't know. I think it can be dangerous, it can make you think you're achieving wisdom, when you're not. Why do we have to "discover exactly what makes us react to [the rose] as a beautiful experience"? Is it not sufficient simply to experience the rose?
In principle, such objectification of the world might be useful. For example, if you want to grow roses, it might be useful to have objective measurements of various rose qualities. The problem arises when, instead of you having the science, the science has you. Our ability to measure things has become so important a part of our interaction with the world that, after 500 years or so of measurement, we live in a different world, a world in which things are real to the extent that we can describe them quantitatively. We are measurement-aholics, and we apply our addiction to people as well as roses and how fast cars are going and what time sunrise is tomorrow.
] One reason why we have kept settling on balance as a key concept in evaluating P&P is that different people keep finding different methods of evaluation. And Elizabeth and Darcy keep cropping up at the centre of these evaluations as avoiding the extremes of others. Here G. Kay's nomogram concept, as outlined on the P&P board, is a very helpful one IMO.
As I have said elsewhere, the classification which seems most useful to me is the one that puts Lizzy and Darcy in one set, and everyone else (possibly excepting the Gardiners) in another set. For me, the novel is about how Lizzy and Darcy are different from everyone else, and how all those other characters are similar on important dimensions, no matter how much they vary superficially.
] One final point: Darcy is a major landowner in England: he is praised in the book as the perfect benevolent despot in his administration of his family and estate. This is never challenged in P&P, by the characters or by the author. If he is truly revolutionary, shouldn't the matter be questioned, at least?
Not really, since the revolution is about getting past how wealthy people are, or what their status is. I am not referring to revolution in the sense of political revolution - rather, to a kind that can occur in each individual. It is a revolution in how people relate to each other, at the heart of which is taking each person as unique, not as defined by membership in some group (such as landowner, or second daughters of gentlemen).
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