Sunday, September 23, 2007

Contrast And Comparison

Recently I decided to watch my all time favorite movie, Pride and Prejudice (1995) the BBC miniseries version. I have only watched this 5 hour movie in one sitting twice in my life. The first time was post final exams my first semester freshman year. The second time was right before my colonoscopy the day that I had to consume nothing but liquids and got to drink some really nasty prescribed beverages in the evening hours. Each time I watch this movie I notice something different. And believe me, I've watched it a lot. I almost have it memorized, there's no real reason for me to keep watching it I suppose. I still find it fresh and interesting, despite these facts. I still notice something new also. I believe the BBC version is truly the best because it portrays the subtleties of the book without making them too plain. The conversation behind the conversation is almost always there. The main difference between the miniseries and the 2005 -- short -- version of Pride and Prejudice is the aspect of subtlety. The 2005 version was not able to maintain it's subtlety and thus is somewhat lacking (although the cinematography and musical score are outstanding in comparison to the 1995 BBC version). I digress.

This time watching the miniseries I noticed something that I think a lot of people miss. Most of the time I hear people talk about how wonderful Mr. Darcy is. How much he gave to win Lizzie, what a gentleman he is. Women want to marry him and men are intimidated by him. He's basically supposed to be the sexiest, most ideal man in English literature. People leave out a few important bits of the story in forming these opinions of Mr. Darcy. Specifically, I find it interesting that at the end of the movie Mr. Darcy thanks Lizzie for saving him from a life of "pride and conceit." I cannot remember if that's in the book as clearly as it is in the movie. But I think it is still important.

The fact is, I have always wondered if no one else noticed the offensive manner of Mr. Darcy's first proposal to Lizzie. Lizzie was completely in the right to chastise him the way she did. Moreover, her response to his proposal proves what a strong character she is in the story. Any other woman would have gone for Mr. Darcy for his money and prestige alone. In fact, he expected Lizzie to do just that. This expectation shows the audience that Mr. Darcy was not the ideal man after all. He was far too arrogant to realize that love might be more important to a woman in his society than money and position, or security. Yes, perhaps Lizzie was blinded by her prejudices, but she had every right to turn down that proposal even without the prejudice bit.

Speaking of Lizzie's prejudices, I find it funny that so many people are so willing to judge her on that. We all know women who have succumbed to the male sob story. Some of us have even done that. Yet we automatically think ill of Lizzie for believing Mr. Wickham. Wickham did seem sincere in his attempt to win her sympathy. Furthermore, he was not stupid enough to think that Lizzie would have run away with him like Lydia did. It is clear to me that Wickham did admire, respect and even possibly love Lizzie. The only way he could think to get her attention and goodwill was the sob story. Yes, he used her to gain a general good opinion in her town. But he obviously knew he could not actually take advantage of her. I think that he had some idea that she was the unattainable woman; the one too strong for him to get. And I think in that sense he did want her. Besides all that, how could she have known he was a liar? Mr. Darcy was too proud to make his own matters public and show the world what kind of a man Wickham was. Lizzie had only the word of the one who seemed nicer to go on. Mr. Darcy did kind of insult her in public at a ball once and made no efforts to be nice anywhere she saw him.

No, I am not saying that Lizzie is not at all to blame. It does behoove us to consider with care the stories told us about what's wrong with other people. We should assess people's actions against their words. It is best not to believe ill rumors about someone before we get to know the person. But I do find it funny that people let Mr. Darcy off so easily just because he loved Lizzie. If he had loved her so much than he should have cared enough about her not to insult all her loved ones to her face when he proposed to her. He should have bothered to get to know her and realized that she would not marry a man who she did not love and who treated her like he did.

In the end, it is clear that Lizzie's obstinacy had a good effect on Mr. Darcy. He learned to have patience and he learned to set aside his pride. Lizzie is a very strong female character, one that women can appreciate and respect, yet one who is fallible. Why is this part of the story so often overlooked?


DoRenaBeana said...

I completely agree with your thoughts on Mr. Darcy. He certainly is an amazing fellow, but I've never thought he was compltely perfect and ideal (I'm happier with my own prince charming).

Very thoughtful post! Thanks Esther!

Esther said...

Thanks for the comment and the vote of support. I did not know that you read my blog at all. That's good to know.

Considering the ring on your finger I could only assume that you are very happy with your own Prince Charming. ;oD

Emily said...

I just discovered this post this morning. (at 4 am while up with the baby) I have been dying to write a response! First, kudos for writing the perfect corollary to my "Jane Austen Heroes" blog post. Second, I quite agree that Lizzie is a remarkably strong female character and that the main point of the book is sort of a "Taming of the Schmuck" with Mr. Darcy. Although, Jane Austen suited the hero to the heroine; Mr. Darcy with all his flaws is really much stronger than any of her other heroes. No wonder he was full of himself!

Finally, I must happily disagree (your analyses are so nice!) that all women idolize Mr. Darcy at Lizzie's expense. I think every woman would wish to be Lizzie, the perfect balance of emotions and reason, always speaks her mind with dignity, propriety, wit, and alacrity, and truly sparkles with humor and attractive good looks. It is with a wrench that I realize myself to be not so much of a Lizzie and more of the morose, tongue-tied, overly proud and depressed sort---thus my marriage to someone a great deal more lively and social than myself.

Now I want to go write a long post about all these great characters!

Esther said...

That's an excellent point. Perhaps not all do think less of Lizzie. I certainly don't and you don't. So that's two of us. I guess I have heard a lot of people go on and on about Mr. Darcy and not so much about Lizzie. I have watched this movie many times with various people since before I went to college and during college. Not to mention there are other movies and such where the characters idealize Mr. Darcy. It makes one think that Lizzie does not get enough attention after a while.

Mel Chickk said...

I saw Pride and Prejudice (2005 version) for the very first time about a year ago and I fell in love with it. I have never read the book though. Reading your post makes me want to rush out and buy the book!

Esther said...

Mel: Thank you! Yes, it's a very good book. It's actually kind of a fast read despite the fact that it was written in the late 1700s and contains a very different style of speaking and writing than what we have now. I think I read it first in my early teens and had no trouble finishing it.

Mel Chickk said...

Since I knew I wouldn't be getting to a town with a bookstore anytime soon, I did the next best thing. I went to the library.

It is a fast read, you're right. I forgot how nice it was to sit down with a good book!