Mr. Darcy and Modern Dating??

Over the past two years I’ve been fascinated by this phenomenon on Facebook called “Subtle Asian Dating”. This is a Facebook group with over thousands of members that is centered around auctioning your friends off. That’s right auctioning your friends! It basically works by people creating dating profiles about their single friends listing certain traits and qualities people might find attractive or just laugh at.  Members who see the post can then comment, usually tagging their friends who they think might be interested. While it seems like a joke, and most of the time it is,  relationships have actually formed through the group and ended in really cute love stories.

This idea of auctioning off your friends reminded me of the marriage plot found in every Jane Austen novel.  We see characters constantly interfering in other’s lives to set them up with other people.  Individuals’ traits are discussed at length especially with relatives and friends.  So I thought it would be fitting to create a profile for Pride and Prejudice’s heartthrob Mr. Darcy, and make him a modern dating profile.

A Scalene Love Triangle

One scene that seemed particularly significant to me was the scene with the two gold chains. At this point in the novel Fanny is caught between Edmund and Henry Crawford, and the gift of the gold chains seems to symbolize this strange love triangle. I found the interaction between Mary and Fanny, as Mary gifted the gold chain to Fanny, as out of character for Mary.  A friendship had already formed between Fanny before this event and Mary acted in many ways to benefit Fanny, by conversing with her, asking her for advice, and inviting her over for dinners. With Mary’s help Fanny was able to form a friendship with the Crawford family and begin a social life. However, with the gift of the gold chain it seemed as though Mary was working in the interest of her brother, rather than her friend. While Mary explained that the gift was with the best intentions, it seemed to me that Mary was taking advantage of the friendship to benefit her brother Henry.

The gift itself is also extremely interesting, as the chain is not new but rather a secondhand gift. After seeing the relationship between Henry and Maria, Fanny cannot understand these new feelings that Henry has for her. Henry’s romantic feelings seem used already and now given secondhand to Fanny just like the chain. Additionally, Fanny sees Henry as less virtuous due to the sexual undertones of his relationship with Maria. This lack of virtue is confirmed when the chain given by Mary does not fit Fanny’s brother’s cross.

In contrast there is Edmund’s chain that represents the purity of his relationship with Fanny. The chain is bought new, the style Fanny likes, and fits her brother’s cross. All these attributes of the chain reflect not only the virtue of Fanny’s relationship with Edmund, but they also reflect that Fanny likes Edmund more. The chain is the style she likes and allows her to wear the cross that has a lot of significance for her. Although, ultimately Fanny wears both chains as it would improper to not wear the gift from Mary, despite her preference for Edmund’s chain. For me this represented society’s expectation for Fanny to accept Henry’s love due to his money and status even though she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. The two gold chains represent the two others in Fanny’s love triangle, but her preference for the chains illustrate one side of the triangle might be closer to her heart than the other.

 

Displaced Women

One theme that I found common between the openings of Mansfield Park and S&S was the theme of displacement and familial response. In S&S with the death of their father, Henry Dashwood, Marianne and Elinor find themselves with very little income and nowhere to live. Eventually they find themselves at Barton Cottage, but at the beginning of the novel they are displaced with nowhere to call home. Although they live at Barton Cottage, the Dashwood sisters remains guests and must navigate the unique social pressures that come with being in the care of Sir John Middleton. In Mansfield Park we see another case of a young woman being displaced with nowhere to go, and eventually put in the care of relatives. Fanny Price finds herself in the care of the Sir Thomas Bertram at a young age. The family ridicules Fanny for lack of fancy dresses and inability to speak French, and outcasts her from their inner familial circle. Something that I found extremely similar between these two opening was the cruelty of familial response to seeing a relative, particularly a female relative, in a tough situation. In S&S John Dashwood completely abandons his half-sisters, despite his promise to his late father to provide for them. With the encouragement of his wife he eventually decides to give them a pitiful amount of inheritance and has no remorse for the lack of support. In Mansfield Park, Fanny is first abandoned by her birth family and shipped off to her mother’s sisters to do with Fanny whatever they want. Mrs. Norris abhors the idea of hosting her, and by default Fanny ends up with the Bertrams, but throughout her stay she is constantly reminded of her lower status.

Throughout Austen’s novels the ties of family seem to be weaker than the ties of distant relatives or friends, and through these two openings this theme is evident. It is emphasized that familial support is not always present, especially for young women. In Mansfield Park it is particularly emphasized that women who are displaced and also lack certain proper qualities such as being educated and wealthy lack a place in a family. Fanny is outcast for her lack of education and propriety, but never given the chance to improve herself due to a lack of resources given by her new family. Marianne and Elinor do not face these same struggles as they have these elements of propriety that help propel them from their negative situation and give them the opportunity to marry into a stable family position. However, Fanny does not have that chance and remains outcast and displaced within her new family and the worst part is that the Bertrams are okay with this due to Fanny’s previous upbringing. Through the two openings we see the expectations women must reach in their families and the ease in which a family is willing to abandon an adopted daughter.

Fallen Women: Can They Get Back Up?

In both Sense and Sensibility and Belinda the fate of the fallen woman is something that is discussed and warned against. While in Sense and Sensibility, Marianne rejects that woman who stray will never return to their former propriety, Virginia in Belinda reinforces this idea.  In Sense and Sensibility this precaution is shared through the tale of Eliza and her fall from propriety due to her romantic relationships. It becomes obvious in Sense and Sensibility that the predicament of Eliza is something not to be admired, but rather to be cautioned against and that proper young woman should stay within the domestic spheres. This warning comes coincidentally as Marianne and Willoughby’s relationship pushes what is societally seen as proper, and due to Eliza’s tale, it seems as though Marianne may fall into the same path. However, Austen revises the plight of the fallen woman and shows that Marianne has grown in her maturity at the end of the novel, during her walk back at Barton Cottage with Elinor. Marianne describes that she is devoted to investing more time into her personal growth through reading, and eventually marries Colonel Brandon, indicating that though a woman may stray from the path, that does not mean she is permanently bad. Rather she can improve herself and grow from her mistakes, as Marianne shows.

In Belinda the repercussions of straying off the path are also discussed through Virginia’s backstory. Virginia’s grandmother takes extreme precautions to keep Virginia away from any men, as her daughter was led astray by a romantic relationship. This keeps Virginia without any education or connection to the outside world. Despite this isolation Clarence Hervey finds her, and she desperately falls in love with him. Clarence ebbs and flows in his love for Virginia. However, Virginia remains delusional in love despite everything Clarence does. She is portrayed as a woman who cannot control her feelings and emotions, and once fallen down the path of love cannot get out. Even with the intervention of Mrs. Ormond and Clarence himself, Virginia remains hopelessly in love.  The novel guides us to look at Virginia as almost delusional and pity her attachment to Clarence. Though in Sense and Sensibility we are able to see Marianne grow away from stereotypes of fallen woman, in Belinda Virginia exemplifies this stereotype.

As Belinda is described as a moral tale, it seems fitting that a caution against woman straying off the proper path would be in the novel. However, by showing Virginia as a helpless woman who cannot control her feelings, Edgeworth perpetuates stereotypes about the propriety of woman and guides them to act more like Belinda, a more cold and cautionary character.

A Lady of Fashion or a Lady of Transaction?

For many of the characters throughout Belinda, their relationship with others is more of a transaction then a friendship or a romantic relationship. It is evident that each of the characters in the novel has things that they hope to personally gain, and these goals permeate their choice of actions towards others. The word transaction conjures images of business trades and serious deals. While the boisterous, outrageous world of Lady Delacour does not necessarily reflect the stark business sphere, her interaction with Belinda after her accident is a transaction. Immediately as Lady Delacour enters her home after her horrific accident, the household becomes utter chaos. There are two things at stake, the health of Lady Delacour and then the secrecy of her injury, however for Lady Delacour keeping her health a secret is the most important. Belinda differs and chooses to convince Lady Delacour to allow her to call a physician to help her. Rather than responding to Belinda’s logic about the status of her health, Lady Delacour responds to Belinda’s threats. Belinda and Lady Delacour go back and forth, with Belinda threatening that she will leave and leave Lady Delacour without a friend to keep her secret. This back and forth between Lady Delacour and Belinda remind me of a business negotiation. Belinda offers a repercussion and Lady Delacour responds with a counteroffer, and then Belinda counters with an even more severe offer and the back and forth begins. Ultimately Lady Delacour succumbs to having a physician see her when Belinda holds their friendship in her hands. In this transaction both parties gain something, Lady Delacour a friend to keep her secret and Belinda a healthy mistress. While I would expect a situation like this to lead to an act of selflessness, this moment becomes a transaction even with the dire consequences. Lady Delacour is constantly striving to get what she wants and her trade with Belinda is ultimately not for her health, but rather to work towards her personal objectives of having a friend to keep her secret. With every interaction being a transaction, it becomes difficult to understand who truly cares for others or who is working for their personal gain.

The concept of transaction really negatively reflects on the morality of the characters in Belinda. The concept of altruism cannot be seen in the novel at all. Rather every character is working for their own personal gain. With each person looking only towards their goals, ethics and morality really don’t play a part in the making of decisions. Instead they only consider what can I gain and what am I willing to give up. This transactional society makes it difficult to trust and to see people for who they are. While the characters in the novel love going to masquerades, the masking of their character is seen every day through the transactions they have with other people. Lady Delacour most of all puts on a mask each day that causes her to only see what she can gain from other people.

The Stubborn Assumptions of a Stubborn Person

Elizabeth is one of the main characters in the novel who undergoes a series of changes about her initial assumptions of individuals who she meets throughout the novel. One of the biggest changes in the novel of course is Elizabeth’s opinion towards Mr. Darcy. Throughout the novel we follow the ups and downs of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s relationship, as Elizabeth continues to perceive Mr. Darcy as selfish and prideful. However, when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth this all begins to change as Darcy’s love for Elizabeth shines, and his true nature is illuminated. For me there were two elements of the novel that really incited this change: Darcy’s proposal and Darcy’s letter.

Darcy’s initial proposal to Elizabeth comes as a great shock. She cannot believe that a man who was so rude to her and her family could now profess his love for her. The proposal puts the seed into Elizabeth’s mind that Darcy may love her. Although internally she combats with this idea due to previous actions, the thought just being said out into the world makes falling in love with Mr. Darcy a possibility.

However, what truly convinces Elizabeth of Darcy’s true nature is the letter that Darcy sends her after the intense proposal scene. One thing that stands out to me about this event is that this information is passed on through a letter. I think it gives more weight to the words that are being transmitted, as it indicates that the writer has sat down and thought about what they were going to write. Additionally, in the case of Elizabeth and Darcy, their prejudice seems to overcloud their judgment in social interactions. They are both tempestuous and when speaking in person their immediate judgements tend to speak out.  With the letter Elizabeth has the time to carefully mull over what Darcy has outlined within the letter, which is quite a lot of shocking information.

The content of the letter is the final element that changes Elizabeth’s assumptions completely. She is shocked by the selflessness of Mr. Darcy towards Wickham after his father dies. His kindness towards Wickham and his aim to help him despite his misgivings is another side of Darcy that Elizabeth has not seen. By seeing him help another person, who she had assumed Mr. Darcy has mistreated, Elizabeth begins to rework her assumptions. Additionally, Mr. Darcy provides Elizabeth with a clear timeline of his relationship with Wickham, giving her a clear description that makes it difficult to argue with his actions. By presenting a selfless character and a clear description, Elizabeth has her assumptions challenged and must then come to terms with the information given to her.

 

101 Ways to Ruin a Proposal

One of my favorite moments in Pride and Prejudice is the moment when Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. During the proposal, Mr. Collins is more humorous than ever, and responds to Elizabeth’s stubborn refusal with even more absurd persuasion. In this scene we see Mr. Collins propose to Elizabeth with the intention of marrying one of the Bennet sisters in order to keep the family home with the Bennets. Although in most proposals one would expect beautiful affirmations of love, Mr. Collins chooses to go through a lengthy speech about his desire to please Lady Catherine de Bourgh by marrying a respectable woman, making his proposal seem more like a profession of his love to Lady Catherine. He then states that had hoped to choose any one of the Bennet sisters to marry him, showing Elizabeth that the proposal wasn’t exactly incited by her uniqueness. Mr. Collins goes on for quite some time, and it becomes evident that he is not expecting a no. Rather his confidence and the approval from Mrs. Bennet, illustrate that Elizabeth is expected to say yes, and it makes sense as her family inheritance lies in the hands of Mr. Collins. So, when Elizabeth ultimately refuses, she defies the societal expectation of marrying for status and wealth, rather than just love.

At first Elizabeth’s refusal of the proposal is polite and proper. In this situation it is clear that Mr. Collins has an unspoken power that comes from having the inheritance. Elizabeth toes the line of completely ruining the family’s relationship with Mr. Collins in the way she addresses the proposal. However, Mr. Collins responds by not even accepting Elizabeth’s rejection, claiming that women always refuse proposals the first time and that he will continue to keep asking until she says yes. In his mind it seems obvious that a game would ensue with the act of proposing, but to Elizabeth his response represents his view of her as a thoughtless robot, rather than a woman with a clear idea of what she wants. This goes on for quite some time and resolves in both parties not accepting the other’s opinion. This whole exchange illuminates the expectations Mr. Collins has for Elizabeth, as a woman in this society. His proposal to her is not special, but something general to say to any woman. Mr. Collins expects Elizabeth to fulfill the role of the obedient daughter by becoming the obedient wife. Through her rejection Elizabeth reclaims herself and erases the expectations placed on her.

The Two Faces of Lucy Steele

“The whole of Lucy’s behavior in the affair, and the prosperity which crowned it, therefore, may be held forth as a most encouraging instance of what an earnest, and unceasing attention to self-interest, however its progress may be apparently obstructed, will do in securing every advantage.” (266)

While it seems that Elinor and Marianne are both left to suffer the loss of their true love, the end of the novel brings the arrival of Edward Ferrars and a new twist. Edward comes bearing the news that Lucy Steele has broken off their engagement and has instead married Edward’s younger brother Robert, shocking both the Dashwood and Ferrars families. While it comes as a surprise, throughout the novel Lucy reveals two sides. The first includes a kindness and attention to the women in Edward’s life to gain their approval. While the other consists of sly actions to get what she has desired for so long: a husband with a fortune. Through this passage we come to understand this latter side, through the narrator’s use of free indirect discourse. In this passage we see the nuanced motivations behind Lucy’s engagement to Robert. The use of free indirect discourse allows us to see inside Lucy’s mind about the rationalization of her actions, rather than just judging the actions on face value. This view inside her head and what she gained gives insight into how Lucy can yes be selfish, but also how she is determined and unwilling to accept a negative fate.

In this passage the narrator both criticizes and applauds Lucy for her actions in acquiring Robert as a husband. The narrator calls out Lucy for acting in her self-interest and the lengths that she goes to achieving what she desires. While to other characters Lucy’s actions may seem confusing, we come to understand that Lucy has gone to any means to get the husband she desires. It becomes clear that Lucy never truly loved Edward, but rather only loved his money. Despite the constant descriptions of Edward’s endearing qualities to Elinor, in reality for Lucy Edward’s best quality was the size of his wallet. At the same time, we see from Lucy’s perspective about the advantages of her actions. Lucy has preserved through the negative reactions of Edward’s family to their engagement and the loss of his fortune. Though she is acting selfishly, it is almost admirable the lengths she goes to secure her dreams. It becomes almost comical that she is willing to completely drop one brother and convince the other brother to marry her. For Lucy anything goes if it means that has the future she craves. In a time when money and status was so important to woman it makes sense that she would act the way that she did.  There is a two-pronged result to this passage. Though Lucy can be criticized for the motivations behind her actions to the Ferrars brothers, ultimately for her these actions are justified as they allow her to have the life, she so desires.

 

 

 

 

1/21/20 Our Perception of Relationships

One of the moments that struck me in this most recent reading was the interaction between the Palmers and the Dashwood sisters. For me the most important part of this interaction was the difference between the reaction of Elinor Dashwood to the remarks of Mr. Palmer and Mrs. Palmer acceptance of her husband’s negative behavior. The introduction of the Palmers is a strange moment in the text, as their arrival is completely out of the blue. Though the Dashwood sisters entertain the Palmers, they have no choice as living in Sir John’s cottage has forced them to participate in his many social events. Through these meetings it becomes evident that the husband and wife pair have very distinct personalities.

While Mrs. Palmer appeared to me as extremely silly, optimistic to the point of not seeing reality, and determined to befriend the two sisters her husband is quite the opposite. The initial description of Mr. Palmer, “Her husband was a grave looking young man of five or six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased,” (78) paints him immediately in an unenthusiastic light. Mr. Palmer makes it clear from the start that he feels no need to interact with the Dashwoods, preferring to ignore them upon the Palmers’ visit to the Dashwood cottage. Later when Elinor and Marianne visit the Middletons, they witness this same negative attitude from Mr. Palmer. His insolence and discontent do not bother Mrs. Palmer at all. Instead she finds his remarks funny. Elinor on the other hand determines that his behavior stems from a need to prove his superiority. For Elinor his need to berate others comes from a wish to abuse others for their actions in order to make his actions the right ones. She also observes that because of this behavior he has no company other than his wife who is bound to him.

As a reader I also found Mr. Palmer’s behavior as a way to prove that he was better than the other individuals at the party. He dismisses the conversation between the Dashwood’s and his wife as trivial and instead wraps himself up in his newspaper. He also corrects his wife as she attempts to befriend the Dashwood sisters, making her wife appear more illogical and sillier than she has already proved herself to the Dashwood sisters. Despite his abuse, Mrs. Palmer still remains on his side and attempts to excuse her husband for his behavior towards the others by laughing his mean remarks off and stating that he is simply just trying to be funny. To me it seemed as though Mrs. Palmer defense of her husband was a means of coping with the obvious turmoil in her relationship. While she defends her reality of her husband, Elinor points to a more truthful explanation of his behavior and in turn criticizes the Palmers’ marriage. These two perspectives point to how an outsider’s perspective can shed light on the reality of a relationship.