07 May 2013

Spontaneous only on Tuesdays

So I'm reading Pride and Prejudice for English Literature class for the first time. I was a huge fan before because my friends in Oregon are making a movie about it. Now that I've read it, I kinda side with Donald Miller in that I'm disappointed that nobody dies. There needs to be an explosion somewhere. Wickham and Darcy should of had a knife-fight. But anyway, I wrote an essay on it and I pretty proud of it, as I usually am in this class, and as Mrs. Rowe usually isn't*

*I am referring to the time I faked my own death at the end of my Macbeth essay. I'm still not sorry I did it.


***


In spite of the fact that the characters depicted in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice appear to speak effortlessly and fluently in the tongue of dictionaries, the motives, passions, thoughts, and insecurities that lie underneath their spoken words is what makes Austen’s book earn its place on the shelves of classic literature.  Pride and Prejudice has stood the test of time because the characters within it seem like real people.
            Unlike Nathaniel Hawthorne’s decision to start The House of the Seven Gables with thirty pages of incomprehensible and boring family history, Pride and Prejudice takes off with an entertaining dialogue that couples today are still known for exchanging.
“‘My dear Mr. Bennet,’ said his lady to him one day, ‘have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?’
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.
‘But it is,’ returned she; ‘for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.’
Mr. Bennet made no answer.
‘Do not you want to know who has taken it?’ cried his wife impatiently.
‘You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.’
This was invitation enough.”
Even before the first page is turned, you already understand the personality of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet.  You can almost see Mr. Bennet sitting on his Elizabethan sofa and absorbing himself in a newspaper, serving his wife with cold, automatic responses out of his mental refrigerator when he senses that she is taking a breath.  Anybody who chooses to marry a chatterbox will become familiar and proficient in this art.
Another interesting behavior the characters demonstrate that transcends the time period is the silliness of their etiquette. For example, the whole community harshly judges Mr. Darcy because of his unwillingness to make small talk like everyone else.  I can relate to Mr. Darcy, because like him, I find it tiresome to make small talk with anyone unless it is a female and I have a major crush on her.  (I embellish for the sake of proving my point, but this has occasionally rung true).  Everyone in the book at some point reveals a little show of pretentiousness that we’ve all been guilty of.  Take this little quirk of Miss Lucas’:
“Miss Lucas perceived [Mr. Collins] from an upper window as he walked towards the house, and instantly set out to meet him accidentally in the lane.” (Chapter 22)
Imagine how that went. “Oh, Mr. Collins! Fancy meeting you here! I was just on my way to the bakers, at least, I was thinking about it—but what a pleasant surprise that you just happened to be walking by! How do you do?”  I half cringe and half smile at the thought, cringe because the phoniness is disgusting, and smile because who hasn’t tried to make their life look more spontaneous than it really is? Humans crave things that are organic—we want things to be natural and unplanned, like wind and water and sunlight. But out schedules are packed and we just don’t have time to be spontaneous—except on Fridays at four in the afternoon, of course.  Our natures are torn between our craving for spontaneity and our craving for control—and the result is a scheduled accident.  Seriously?  Give me a break.
But perhaps the most pertinent of these examples is in the title itself: Pride and Prejudice. These are the two barriers that keep any relationship from blooming, and they are embodied in the two main characters of the book. It might as well have been called “Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.”  The resentment between them is revealed in Chapter 11, where Mr. Darcy attempts to propose to Elizabeth.  Since Mr. Darcy expects Elizabeth to fall into his arms even though he views her as an unintelligent middle -class wench and Elizabeth fails to see Mr. Darcy as anyone else but a spoiled rich boy, they continue to bicker and misunderstand each other until they learn to set aside their pride and prejudice.  The Irish songwriter Julie Fowlis grapples with understanding relationships in her song “Into the Open Air”
I try to speak to you everyday
But each word we spoke, the wind blew away

Could these walls come crumbling down?
I want to feel my feet on the ground
And leave behind this prison we share
Step into the open air

How did we let it come to this?
What we just tasted we somehow still miss
How will it feel when this day is done
And can we keep what we've only begun?

And now these walls come crumbling down
And I can feel my feet on the ground
Can we carry this love that we share
Into the open air?

This was the struggle between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth—this “prison that they shared”. They really cared about each other. They wanted to speak to each other so badly, but they couldn’t escape this prison of pride and prejudice.  The characters in Jane Austen’s book come alive because we wrestle to communicate with our loved ones in the same way. Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn’t have given a thought to a book about set in the 1800s about a house full of flighty women.  But the problems, pet peeves, pains, and pleasures they face make them matter.  Our relationships with other people and with God will never stand until we let go of that craving for control…and step into the open air.

-The Minstrel Boy
 

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