Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring Break Mean Freedom from Revision

The thing that makes Jane Austen so satisfying is that the lines are so clear. You know who likes who and for what reason. There are a finite number of characters and possible intrigues, and as an outsider it isn't all that hard to look them all over and make a judgment.1 The other thing about Austen that's so alluring is how readily every situation translates into one's present. Who knew Georgian England was the archetype for all romance past and future?

But when I think about those two points, I see that they really are at odds with one another. I have never known one minute of perfect certainty about who likes who for what reason, who is good, who is bad, or how many characters there are. Not even for myself. And it's never really been a matter of choosing good over evil in lovers; the decision is never that obvious for anyone I've known. It's never that simple, because all the possibilities are riddled with bits of both, and no one has the courtesy to allow a sordid affair or hidden past come to light, taking them out of the running for good. And it isn't all money vs. character, nor timing nor patience nor cunning nor confidence nor conversational wit nor fine letter-writing. It's all of that and none of that and more.

Scary thought: The reason it doesn't add up in my mind may be because I'm no Darcy after all. I could be Wickham or worse.

1 I'm tempted to go so far as to say everyone in Austen is clearly good or bad, or at least clear degrees of one or the other, that there aren't really any characters who are both good and bad. But I'm not confident enough to make that call without rereading, which is antithetical to the nature of a blog post.


Jennifer said...

I was just watching "Emma" on PBS (it is a version with Kate Beckinsale, and her John Knightley is NO Jeremy Northam). That is one example of a more ambiguous set of characters. Emma,herself, would be viewed as a bad guy if the story were written from someone else's point of view. And the dude that Harriet originally wanted to marry, whom Emma frowned upon, wait, no, that doesn't count. He was never bad. He was just badmouthed. Not the same. Okay, and then Frank who was secretly in engaged to Jane. No, he is painted as bad. You are right. Emma is the only exception, I think, on a cursory glance.

Elisa said...

Sure, as the reader it's easy to see who is good, bad, likeable, a fiend, etc. But the characters themselves are confused as heck (Lizzie[and everyone else] with Wickham/Darcy, Emma with Mr. Elton/Frank/Knightley, Marianne with Willoughby/Colonel Brandon). All the girls are falling for the WRONG guys! Sounds like real life to me. The difference is that we get the "whole story" (sorta) with a happy little conclusion, whereas in our own lives we don't know yet how all the loose ends will tie up.

Who's the female version of George Wickham?

Anna B said...

Oh my gosh!! Stop homogenizing and generalizing one of the most prolific novelists of all time!!! Mansfield Park? Very conflicted. Persuasion? Sense and Sensibility?