September 14th, 2005


Pride and Prejudice

I managed to get an English degree while avoiding most of the literature between 1650 and 1900. Those are what I referred to in college as "the years of really long sentences."

But I borrowed my brother (or sister-in-law's) copy of "Pride And Prejudice" to read on the plane back from NYC, and have been enjoying it quite a bit. Some places the meanings of words have drifted enough that I have to re-read a paragraph a few times to get what's going on, but it's wonderfully written, and Elizabeth Bennet was probably one of the first really strong female characters in English literature. It's obvious how much propriety affected Austin in writing it -- people in the book allude rather than blurt for the most part, and when they do blurt, it's as shocking as it was meant to be. It's also almost science-fiction-esque because of how little is mentioned of the poor, or people working. She's also absolutely uninterested in clothing -- there's mention of people being interested in fashions, but the fashions themselves are beneath mention. While there's plenty of rural English atmosphere, the meat of the novel is completely removed from the quotidian. No one works, no one really pays for anything, no one takes a bath. After a while it's a little like the characters are balls bouncing off each other on the frictionless plane of high school physics. The dialogue, while not always seeming like things actual humans would say, is brilliant -- I found a 'Jane Austen Quotes' website and the quotes for Pride and Prejudices comprise almost all the dialog from the novel.

There's a new movie of P&P coming out starring Kiera Knightly. From the trailer I think I'm with optic --they've done great violence to the dialog from the book. Without Austen's dialog I'm afraid the movie will end up being Couple Meets Cute In Costume. Luckily there's a miniseries version from the BBC, with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy -- the role he was born to play. I might try to grab a used copy of the DVD to watch.