February 2012 meeting: Pride and prejudice, Vol. 2

English: Image at the beginning of Chapter 34....

Chapter 34. Darcy proposing to Elizabeth, illus. by Hugh Thomson in Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London: George Allen, 1894. (Public Domain: Via Wikipedia)

Prepared by member Bill

JASACT members – including a new member – met on Saturday February 18th to discuss Volume 2 of Pride and Prejudice (chapters 24 to 42 of many modern editions).

Before discussion of the novel several more general Jane Austen-related items of interest were raised. The 4th edition of Deidre le Faye’s The Letters of Jane Austen is available. Several members have bought the new annotated and illustrated Harvard edition of Persuasion. The male member present quoted an essay by Amy Heckerling, the writer and film producer who in Clueless placed Emma in modern Los Angeles. Heckerling in A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 great writers on why we read Jane Austen refers to the majority of women who say “Whoo!” or entreat everyone to “Party!” or otherwise “physicalize their joie de vivre” and suggests Lydia and Kitty Bennet are good examples. Heckerling proposes that it is “among non-whooping females that one finds a large portion of Jane Austen’s fan base”.

Participants had a discursive and fascinating discussion covering many aspects of Pride and prejudice. One member, perhaps to get discussion going, asked the perennial question: of Elizabeth and Darcy who is the more proud and who the more prejudiced? Are both the hero and the heroine proud and prejudiced? Lively discussion of this began with the observation that the letter Darcy hands to Elizabeth after she refuses his marriage proposal occupies the very middle of the novel. This letter is a watershed as it leads to her prejudice and his pride beginning to mellow.

There was discussion of various tensions confronting Elizabeth during her stay with the Mr Collins and Charlotte. Several members referred to the humorous description of Elizabeth, Mr Lucas and Maria’s introduction to the parsonage and its surroundings including Mr Collins pointing out every view with “a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind” and how Charlotte seemed to enjoy the “great air of comfort” throughout the house when “Mr Collins could be forgotten” with the narrator suggesting “he must often be forgotten”.

Some discussion concerned what a modern psychologist might call the “family dynamics” of the Bennets and what Elizabeth in Vol II, Chapter XIV calls “the unhappy defects of her family”. How was it that Elizabeth and Jane were such different characters from Lydia and Kitty who were “ignorant, idle and vain”. Mr Bennet would “never exert himself to restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters”. Mrs Bennet, it was speculated, was possibly in her early 40s, much younger than she has been presented in several film adaptations. One of the great achievements of the novel was the creation of this family of such diverse characters.

Other issues were discussed. Why did Jane Austen have the narrator describe Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth rather than use direct speech? Mr Collins’s earlier proposal was in direct speech and Elizabeth and Darcy’s subsequent argument is in direct speech. Maybe this was to better convey their emotions: “She stared, coloured, doubted…” , “He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security.” It was agreed the novel was replete with memorable phrases and observations such as Mrs Bennet’s “querulous serenity” and Mr Collins’s advice when speaking of Lady Catherine that “She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved.”

Business

A few business matters were discussed:

  • The JASACT blog will be amended to make details of monthly meetings more prominent.
  • Dr Mitchell from the ANU may be available to talk at a meeting later in the year.
  • An announcement of each meeting will be made on the blog a few days before the meeting, as a reminder. All who would like to receive this reminder should make sure that they have subscribed to the blog (via the “Follow blog via email” block in the righthand sidebar)

The meeting concluded with quotes and a quiz based on Pride and Prejudice.

The next meeting will be on March 17, to discuss Vol. 3 of Pride and prejudice.

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