Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A frivolous entry about
My Austenian Obsession
Bottom right picture Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow) dances with Mr. George Knightley (Jeremy Northam). Middle picture Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen) share a tender moment long after Elizabeth's prejudice has dissipated and Darcy's pride has softened.

I appreciate all things Austenian. I have read each of Jane Austen's seven novels at least once, and my favourites I have read several times. My volume of Austen is dog-eared and the cover is falling apart. Periodically I used to rent the BBC's 1995 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice at the local video store. It was the same as renting six seven day rentals as it comes in six volumes of one hour each. Eventually I bought the DVD, reasoning it would pay for itself after the fifth viewing. I enjoy every moment of the six hours---at least once a year. Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy is a happy combination that can give me hours and hours of viewing pleasure. I also own the Oscar-award-winning Sense and Sensibility and Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow and I would buy the 1995 version of Persuasion if I could get my hands on a copy. Recently I purchased the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley, a movie I saw twice in theatres and would highly recommend to anyone who appreciates Austen and/or Pride and Prejudice.
When I was a young teenager I read a lot of sentimental Christian historical romance, much of it extremely badly written, and I found Jane Austen rather dull. I'd like to think I have a refined literary appreciation of Austen's novels now, especially since I majored in English literature in university. The truth is, while I do appreciate Austen's wonderfully accurate portrayal of English society of her day and her deep knowledge of human nature, I mostly love the novels for their stories of love overcoming barriers and obstacles and love triumphing in the end with the marriage of the heroine and hero. Some in my family have suggested that perhaps I would have enjoyed living in that time and spending my days embroidering cushions, going for long walks in the English country-side, attending dinner parties, and performing elaborate dances at private balls. In reality English gentlewomen's lives were very limited, as they could not work or get the same education as men, and their only means of ensuring their future and their continuance in the manner of life to which they were accustomed was to marry and marry well.
Recently some friends and I were discussing how Austen's female characters had little to do but sit around and work with their needle, drink tea, and attend dinner parties and the occasional ball, and the irony that we all were sitting around crocheting, having just finished our tea, was not lost on us, but of course, as we told each other, our lives consisted of much more than that. I'm sure, however, that we all would love to meet the modern equivalent of Mr. Darcy and have him fall madly in love with us, bewitched "body and soul" by our irresistible charms. I think I would settle for mere possession of irresistible charms.


Christina den Boer said...

How deliously obsurd!

Rachel said...

You have so many irresistible charms! You're drowning in them! Your crocheting and tea-drinking are just two of millions, never mind your stunning looks, brilliant brains, and fine sense of literary appreciation.
~~You know I have to flatter you, because of the exceedingly flowery praise you posted on my blog.

Christina den Boer said...

How deliciously absurd!*