It is a truth universally acknowledged that the modern woman has a lot on her plate. This is why the two-hundredth anniversary of Pride and Prejudice came and went earlier this week with nary a mention on this blog. But, as they say, better late than never (come to think of it, the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy is a perfect example of this maxim, is it not?). So grab your bonnets and pelisses and get ready for some Austen Love, RandomActsofMomness-style.
In the car on the way to and from the grocery store last night, I reflected on this anniversary, and what it means. I realized that without Pride and Prejudice in the world, many things would be different. To wit:
*We would not have a lovable heroine like Lizzy Bennett to show us that high spirits and intelligence are just as attractive to a man as a pair of fine eyes.
*We would not have Mrs. Bennett to show us how NOT to act in middle age.
*We would lack the cautionary tale afforded by Mr. Wickham, namely, “When a guy whom you have just met instantly starts talking trash about a third party, perhaps the alarm bells should go off.”
*There would be no Mr. Darcy. (I’d repeat that sentence for emphasis, but it harrows me to do so.)
*We would not have the satisfaction of seeing that catty girls finish last (Caroline Bingley, I’m talking about YOU.)
*Nerds like me would not have the joy of discussing, with similar nerds, the various fascinating questions raised by the many P and P adaptations. Do you prefer Colin Firth jumping into a pond or Matthew McFadyen strolling across a meadow at dawn? Do you like your Bennett girls to be dressed in soft spring pastels or earth tones? Why are Donald Sutherland’s teeth so white? (Seriously, in the nineteenth century?)
*We would not have pages of wonderful dialogue to teach us how to converse with economy, precision, and wit (or how to insult others with the same).
*We would not have the wonderful moral clarity of a story where authenticity and generosity trump artifice and meanness. I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of stories like that.
As my friend Jessie once memorably observed, Jane Austen is the “little black dress of literature.” It’s the perfect metaphor. For two centuries women have reached for Pride and Prejudice, felt empowered by it, recognized its class and elegance and timelessness. Here’s to two more centuries of the same.
Illustration by C.E. Brock from Mollands.