Roses, roses all the way...
Posted by Helen on January 21, 1998 at 16:26:53:
In response to Should we analyze the rose?, written by Patrick on January 19, 1998 at 15:57:22
] 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. [snip]
Read it! you have to read it! That's where I get my most defined impression of Austen as very much in favour of balance, and very against emotional attachments formed without rational consideration or concern for society. And that influences my interpretation of her other novels, because I don't find anything in them to contradict the rather schematic opposition of the two in S&S.
But back to that rose...
First of all, I want to argue with something you said to Erin above - that in your opinion a rose does not necessarily possess balance - that balance is in the eye of the beholder. But surely psychological research all suggests that what humans have traditionally unanalytically defined as beautiful is in fact highly symmetrical?
] Old Patrick:
] ] ] 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?
No! Absolutely not! Any animal can experience a rose. What makes us human beings is precisely our ability to comment on our experience with something approaching objectivity. It is articulate analysis which has enabled us to produce our highest achievements and technological advances. Yes, creation sometimes achieves a synthesis without conscious rational thought, but this is surely in most cases the result of previous careful analysis. Just look at the many notebooks which lie behind the artistic creations of for instance Da Vinci and George Eliot. Or the letters which show JA constantly analyzing her society, and the juvenilia which deconstruct its literature, which precede her own artistic creations. Yes, slavery to objective measurement is wrong, but used as a tool and not worshipped as a master it is an essential part of humanity's capacity for greatness.
There are so many other aspects to critical analysis than the scientific objectification you outline in your post. For instance, you propose Elizabeth and Darcy as exemplary figures, achieving a certain kind of fulfillment denied to the other characters in the book. But what if one wants to find that fulfillment for oneself? Don't we have to try to work out how they achieve it to help us make our own attempts?
] 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.
I think this is an "agree to disagree" situation. As far as I'm concerned, your readings give me more balances to add to my collection, eg. your focus on the "sensory vocabulary" of Elizabeth's post-letter musings balances Erin's on her "rational reflection".
] 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).
But this I do take exception to: you can't have an internal revolution, IMO, without a corresponding external one. As far as I can see, you see Elizabeth and Darcy enjoying a fully satisfying mutual relationship. But if this is never extended to other people, isn't it in fact limiting?
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