Saturday, February 26, 2011

Theatre and the Art of Acting in Mansfield Park


Of all the forms of entertainment in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, the theater proves to be the most enjoyable and yet disastrous for the characters. In fact, one of the most nerve wracking moments in the entire novel is upon Sir Thomas Bertram arrival at home from Antigua. At this very moment, the group is in the middle of rehearsal for the play, The Lovers Vows. The entire party becomes tense and the actors feel “absolute horror” (121).

As readers, it is almost a source of comfort that the play has come to an abrupt halt because of the animosity it creates between the characters. For example, Henry Crawford in electing Maria for the role of Agatha reveals his preference to her over Julia, making the latter suffer “a sore and angry” heart (113). Meanwhile, Maria “felt her triumph, and pursued he purpose careless of Julia” while also ignoring her fiancĂ©, Mr. Rushworth (113). Fanny also suffers as she watches her love Edmund engage in a role in the play for the sake of another woman, Mary Crawford.

This one production sparks a number of conflicts and emotional distress amongst the characters. Is Jane Austen offering the reader a critique of the theater, or rather a critique of the characters involved with the play? In other words, do all of the problems and conflicts originate in the play itself, or is there an inherent problem of selfishness or vanity in the characters? Also, do any of the character’s roles or behavior in the play reflect traits that can be traced in their everyday lives? Keep in mind, some characters are superior to the rest in acting and there are also numerous moments of deceit throughout the entire plot in Mansfield Park.

Also, the only two characters that are firm in their disapprobation of the play are Edmund and Fanny. Both do so on grounds of immorality and the predicted disapproval of Sir Thomas. While Fanny remains vehemently against the production, Edmund eventually falters and gives in to the group’s entreaties by taking the part of Anhalt. However, he again makes his decision on a moral ground as to prevent Mary Crawford from acting with another acquaintance that is not part of their immediate circle. Seeking Fanny’s opinion, he visits her in her room and reflects on his change of heart, “No man can like being driven into the appearance of such inconsistency. After being known to oppose the scheme from the beginning, there is an absurdity in the face of my joining them now, when they are exceeding their first plan in every respect; but I can think of no other alternative.” (108) Thus, Edmund presents this as the only option to protect Mary and the rest of the group from a wider social circle.

How should we read this argument of Edmunds? Is this the only moral option as he claims, or is he acting out of selfishness? Finally, as Fanny never indulges in the play and Edmund does choose to, does it show a moral superiority on either side?

Friday, February 25, 2011

"Place" and Place: Social Standing and Setting in Mansfield Park


In Jane Austen's era, social status was often linked to place of living. The conflict between city and country lifestyle is prevalent through the rigid class structure in Mansfield Park. This intersection of societal position and location create complexities within the lifestyle of Fanny Price. Fanny's removal from her hometown of Portsmouth into the Tory gentry class estate of her relatives, the Bertrams, is a culture shock, not only to Fanny, but to her relatives as well. Sent to the country to avoid the impoverishment to which her immediate family is subjugated, Fanny learns the accepted manners of the gentry, though she does not always conform to them. London at the start of the 19th century was beginning to undergo a vast economic and geographic transformation, in which it saw an influx of people looking for employment. While the city was a place of vast class diversity, the country was made up of the gentry, who were looking to expand their wealth and develop their own private spheres away from the bustling and crowded city.
The novel highlights Fanny's adoration and appreciation of nature, while also drawing attention to the Crawford sisters' love of urbanity, particularly as told through their visits to London. Fanny’s love for the Mansfield Park and the countryside is evidenced through narration, glances into her mind, and when she verbalizes that she feels “as if there could be neither wickedness nor sorrow in the world; and there certainly would be less of both if the sublimity of Nature were more attended to” (80). On the other hand, the city could be viewed as a taboo, as it is only made known to the reader through conversations Julia and Maria Crawford have about going there. The reader is not given a look into a characters’ personal thoughts, but rather, only what is mentioned in public conversation. While the estate is located in the country, it reveals traits of the city, which is portrayed as a vile place to those characters concerned with morality.
Portsmouth, Fanny’s town of origin, serves as a sort of balancing point between Mansfield Park and London. A thoroughly working class, (and, as in the case of the Price family) impoverished city, Portsmouth is Fanny’s constant, to which she compares other settings. While the country, by nature, seems to be a place of honesty and virtue, without vice, it has been corrupted by the city, and becomes a place where improvement of character is necessary and virtue is questionable. In a conversation between Edmund and Miss Crawford early on in the novel, the latter asserts that “The metropolis, [she] imagines, is a pretty fair sample of the rest” (66), exemplifying her ignorance of the greater society. Edmund’s response, “Not, [he] should hope, of the proportion of virtue to vice throughout the kingdom. We do not look in great cities for our best morality. It is not there, that respectable people of any denomination can do most good” (66) implies that the country is the more proper setting. The rigid class differences are manifested through the characters and their respective experiences, travels, and times spent in various locations. While Fanny was not brought up in a setting that emphasized her role, the gentry class structure which she is placed enforces elements of social consciousness, such as the concept of “coming out” to society and that “girls should be quiet and modest” (36). She only learns these concepts at Mansfield Park; when she returns to her family, she recognizes the need for her younger sister to change. Furthermore, this return to Portsmouth in the third volume of the novel is seen as a direct punishment. If returning home is a punishment, then is being at Mansfield Park assumed to be a privilege? This seems to imply that returning there, because it is a place of poverty, is a negative experience.
Overall, the novel’s concern with place-whether a specific location at Mansfield Park, elsewhere in England, or the family’s Antigua plantation- correlates with ideas of social status and morality. How does Fanny’s experience spending the first ten years of her life in a poverty-stricken setting affect her views on the social structure forced upon her at her arrival at Mansfield Park? Is the countryside really a sort of “Eden”? If so, given the characters’ thoughts on the country versus city, would it be considered Eden before or after the fall? Finally, given the eventual marriage between Fanny and Edmund, what is the significance of Fanny’s elevated social status, and do you think it plays a pivotal role in her life (after the end of the novel)?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Accomplished Woman: Female Education in Pride and Prejudice


The idea of education for women within Pride and Prejudice seems to focus around the idea of the “accomplished woman.” Characters have highly differing opinions on what it means for a woman to be educated, and how this education plays a role in her role within society. In a conversation with the Bingley siblings and Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennett faces a variety of definitions for an educated woman. Charles Bingley, in accordance with his genial personality, claims that he is “sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished,” (39). Darcy, on the other hand, “cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished,” (39) echoing the high standards of the Miss Bingley when it comes to identifying the various skills that accomplished women might possess. The list Miss Bingley provides includes a number of artistic capabilities, along with a “certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions,” (39). What, then, is an “accomplished woman” within this society, in light of these varying opinions? How is the title of accomplishment important to women?

The high standards that Darcy and Miss Bingley advocate for in terms of female accomplishment are echoed by Lady Catherine, who expresses condescending shock at the Bennetts’ lack of formal education. She, in turn, suspects that the Bennetts “must have been neglected,” (161) and uses their lack of accomplishments to justify her ultimate disapproval of the union between Darcy and Elizabeth. How is the title of accomplishment, or lack thereof, a symbol of social status within the novel?

Finally, the education of men does not play as large of a role within this novel (Although Jane Austen has touched upon the subject in other novels: for example, the Ferrars brothers differing circumstances of education in the novel Sense and Sensibility). Since the idea of “accomplishment” in terms of education discussed throughout the novel is focused solely on women, how does this concept speak to the place of the woman within society?

Pride and Prejudice: A Novel of Letters

In Jane Austen’s time, letters were the only long distance form of communication. So it makes sense that in a novel where communication and miscommunication play a huge part, that letters would be integral to the story. It is believed that when Austen first wrote Pride and Prejudice, then titled First Impressions, she wrote it as an epistolary novel. Even though the novel is told almost exclusively by an outside narrator in its final form, letters play a huge part in the plot. There are a total of twenty one letters, quoted in part or in full, included in the text as well as many other instances where letters or letter writing are mentioned.

A unique aspect of Pride and Prejudice is that almost all the major plot point are introduced via letter. The most famous of these is Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, which describes his involvement in separating Jane and Bingley and his relationship with Mr. Wickham (191). Because of what the reader knows of Darcy’s character, it is not surprising that he would prefer to reveal this information through a letter rather than face to face confrontation. If this were the only incident of a major plot point being introduced by letter, then it would be rather unextraordinary. But, as stated above, nearly all of Austen’s major plot points come by way of letter. The report of Jane’s sickness (32), Mr. Collins’ impending arrival at Longburn (61), the Netherfield party’s departure to London (114), the news of Lydia’s elopement (260), and Darcy’s involvement in Lydia’s marriage (304) are all revealed to the reader in letters. There are only a few instances that were not recorded in a letter: Mr. Collins’ proposal to Elizabeth, the marriage of Mr. Collins to Charlotte, Mr. Darcy’s first proposal, Lady Catharine’s objections to Darcy marrying Elizabeth, and Mr. Darcy’s final proposal are the ones that come to mind. And even these were not so much catalysts in the plot as they were the result of such catalysts- the ones recorded in the letters.

These letters function like small first person narratives and as such allow for a more personal emotional exchange with the reader. They are the only pieces of the text that the narrator cannot touch and as such become our window into each person’s true character. For that reason they are Austen’s most useful tool in dispelling any prejudices that the reader may have formed regarding a certain character. But the reverse is also true; because letters are such a truthful dialogue, anything written in them, including one character’s prejudice for another, carries much more weight than statements made by the narrator. Because letters are “true”, they can better influence the reader’s opinion regarding certain characters.

Pride and Prejudice is a novel almost completely based around one character’s opinions of another. So why then, did Austen abandon the form that would have presented her readers with the character’s true feelings best? And why did she choose to have many of the text's turning points introduced via letter?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pride and Prejudice


One of the more recent adaptations of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice was directed by Joe Wright in 2005. Starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfayden as Mr. Darcy, this film was only the second faithful film version to be produced, following the 1940 adaptation that has already been reviewed on this blog. This film certainly had high expectations, for the 1995 television series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle was much beloved and considered to be the standard adaptation of this particular novel. While there are some plot details that are left out of this film for time’s sake, such as the inclusion of minor characters, the dialogue of the film follows very closely to that of the novel, often with particular lines being used verbatim in the film. Just one of these many lines is the response that good-natured Mr. Bennet gives his daughter when he finds out about Mr. Collins’s marriage proposal: “Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do” (Austen 110). The class distinctions, the relationships between men and women, and the importance of marriage are just as important and evident in this film adaptation as they are in the original Austen novel.

The casting of this film was particularly well done, with each of the actors bringing alive the traits of Austen’s characters. Mrs. Bennet is constantly fretting and a bit embarrassing, but it is clear she loves her daughters and only wants to secure their futures with advantageous marriages. Mr. Bennet, played wonderfully by Donald Sutherland, is the agreeable and doting father who manages to put up with Mrs. Bennet’s nerves with just the right amount of subtle humor. Tom Hollander plays the bumbling Mr. Collins to perfection, capturing the man’s awkwardly rehearsed manners in a very comical performance. One of the major differences between the novel and this adaptation is the addition (of course!) of more romance in the film adaptation. For example, Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth for the first time outdoors in the middle of a rainstorm and then for a second time just as the sun begins to rise. The final scene in the film in which the engaged Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth share a romantic conversation and a kiss, is not in the novel.

In addition to the excellent acting and realistic costumes and settings, another well done aspect of this film is the music. Similar to the Bollywood version, the musical score in this movie is not simply background music, but just as much a part of the movie as anything else. The importance of the social gatherings is evident by length of the ball scenes and the musical selections for these scenes. The classical pianoforte music throughout the film really helps the viewer to place him or herself in the world of Austen’s characters. In terms of critical reviews, the film did fairly well, earning four nominations at the 2006 Academy Awards, including best actress, achievement in costume design, achievement in art direction, and achievement for music written. For readers who enjoy faithful film adaptations, this is most definitely the film for readers who love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Parenting (or lack of)

Throughout the novel we are presented with several situations that expmplify good parenting and downright awful parenting. Interestingly, we do not have to think of parental guidance as coming only from one's biological mother and father. The narrator is quite critical of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet at having failed in providing a proper upbringing for their children. This fact makes us admire the heroine, Elizabeth, even more for it appears as though her character and personality are very much self-made.

On page 161 while Lady Catherine is grilling Elizabeth about her personal history, she is horrified to learn how "neglected" Elizabeth and her sisters were during their childhood. Through her incredulous questioning she harshly criticizes Mrs. Bennett's parenting philosophy. She is concerned that the girls have not been taught enough skills (such as singing, playing the piano and drawing) nor been properly educated and is therefore in awe of the shar[ness and composure of Elizabeth's character.

Mrs. Bennett is exclusively interested in marrying her 5 daughters off so that she no longer has to deal with them. The narrator relates this at the end of the first chapter, (p. 7) characterizing Mrs. Bennett as "a woman of mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper... The business of her life was to get her daughters married..." She goes about this process in a most irresponsible and obnoxious way, most of the time neglecting her daughter's actual desires. She also embarrasses the family several times while trying to impress the prestigious men around her.

Mr. Bennett confesses to loving Elizabeth more than the rest of his daughters which, in a way, is slightly disturbing. We can appreciate his sarcasm and the way in which he chastises his wife for acting so foolish all the time. His contribution to the development of his children, however, appears quite minimal and it is implied that he has hardly exerted much effort in their upbringing.

We must also keep in mind that the possibility for mobility of young women in 19th century England was very limited; therefore, the five girls growing up in rural Longbourn would have very little worldly experience.

So where do these 5 daughters (particularly Elizabeth) get their cultured personalities? With very little effective guidance from their biological parents, who plays the role of mother and father for the Miss. Bennett's? Is it entirely possible to construct one's character based on what your parents are not? How do the Bennett's compare to other parental figures that we have encountered in Austen's other novels?

The Gardner's are very helpful, specifically in their treatment of Jane and Elizabeth. The Gardner's generously allow Jane to travel with them to London in order to take her mind off of losing Mr. Bingley and Mrs. Gardner offers valuable council to Elizabeth concerning her relationship with Mr. Wickham. Do these types of gestures make them more efective parental candidates than Mr. and Mrs. Bennett?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Narrative voice in Pride and Prejudice


While reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, it is difficult for the reader to look past the narrator’s initial judgments, or prejudices of the characters and begin to form one’s own opinions.  Although the novel is written with a 3rd person omniscient narrator, the descriptions of the characters and even of their actions are very clearly tainted by the narrator’s (and other characters’) opinions.

For example, the reader is almost immediately encouraged to despise Mr. Darcy’s very essence because of the way by which he is first introduced.  While the narrator’s opinion of Bingsley is obviously quite high, the subsequent description of Darcy and comparison between the two men is almost laughably biased.  In fact, the only actual introduction to Darcy the reader gets during the first ball scene is extremely negative and very brief. Austen describes him largely by explaining the other characters’ reaction to him, saying,

 “Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.” (32)

This introduction leaves little room for positive opinions to be formed.  The conversation between Darcy and Bingsley, overheard by Elizabeth, further encourages the reader to viscerally dislike the latter gentleman. 

Even as Darcy’s feelings toward Elizabeth become known to the reader through the narrator’s omniscient nature, he does not become any more likeable.  Instead, he somehow manages to come off as more repugnant.  When Elizabeth and Darcy share a dance at Bingsley’s ball, the argument that ensues leaves him once again appearing to have little conscious. 

 Towards the end of the novel, however, after Whickam’s intentions are revealed and Elizabeth visits Pemberly with her aunt and uncle, the reader finally begins to see a more positive side of Mr. Darcy.  His housekeeper’s description of the man, coupled with Darcy’s reception of Elizabeth and her relatives, inspire confidence in Elizabeth and in the reader to re-evaluate prior judgments on the man’s character.

Since it appears that Darcy’s characterization is executed almost entirely through the work of the narrator, is it safe to assume that this narrator is supposed to be either Elizabeth or heavily influenced by Elizabeth?  Why did Austen choose to steep Mr. Darcy so heavily in her other characters’ prejudices? 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pride and Prejudice (1940)


This black and white film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Robert Z. Leonard, stars Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy. Taglines for this film included: “The Gayest Comedy Hit of the Screen! Five Gorgeous Beauties on a Mad-Cap Manhunt! With the Stars of "Mr. Chips" and "Rebecca"...and a Superb Cast!” and “When pretty girls t-e-a-s-e-d men into marriage...” (imdb.com).



One of the most striking features of this film is the portrayal of the Bennet women. First, both Elizabeth and Jane seem particularly old; in fact, Greer Garson was 36 and Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane) was 29 at the time of the film’s 1940 release (imdb.com). The use of older actresses, compared to 20-year-old Keira Knightley in the 2006 film, exaggerates the unfortunate situations of the unmarried eldest Bennet sisters. Accordingly, Mrs. Bennet’s desperation regarding her daughters reaches near hysteria in this adaptation: she races Mrs. Lucas home in order to inform Mr. Bennet of the Bingleys’ arrival, complains of her “poor nerves,” collapses on the couch with her smelling salts, and even smashes a table and china when greeting Lady Catherine. The costume choices for the women are also interesting, for they feature long puffy sleeves, big skirts with layers of petticoats, and bonnets. The costumes seem overly dramatic compared to historical accounts of Regency dress, which describe the silhouette for women as “classically inspired” and “long, narrow, uncorsetted, and high-waisted” (Jirousek, “A Brief History of Fashion (1795-1970)”).

Of the alterations between the novel and the film, the portrayals of the antagonistic women, Miss Bingley and Lady Catherine, are particularly important. Both women’s outfits are very dark, thus they stand out as looking black amongst the whites and grays of the other women. Their characters start out equally dark; for example, in one scene Miss Bingley takes pleasure in reading a letter describing the Bennet family’s disgrace regarding Lydia. However, both women show unexpected changes of attitude towards the Bennets by the end of the film. Mr. Darcy informs Elizabeth that Miss Bingley encouraged Mr. Bingley to return to Jane, and we see Lady Catherine actually tell Mr. Darcy that she approves of a strong-willed woman such as Elizabeth to be his wife. This contrasts noticeably with the novel, where Miss Bingley’s congratulations to Mr. Bingley are “insincere,” and Lady Catherine remains “extremely indignant” about Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth until she finally “condescended to wait on them at Pemberley” (362, 367). It therefore seems that the film tried to create the happiest of happy endings by removing the lingering hints of prejudice from the novel.

Indeed, if Austen’s novels seem intent on tying up all of the loose ends nicely, this film takes it one step further, for even the awkward Mary is shown at the end playing a piano duet with a gentleman on a flute, suggesting that yet another happy marriage is not far off.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bridget Jones's Diary

The film Bridget Jones's Diary is an adaptation of the novel Bridget Jones's Diary, which is an adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. This 2001 British romantic comedy takes place in modern day London and stars Renee Zellweger as Bridget (Elizabeth's role), Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver (Mr. Wickham's role), and Colin Firth as Mark Darcy (Mr. Darcy's role). It is interesting to note that Colin Firth also starred as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Most of the major events in Pride and Prejudice have been entirely eliminated from the movie in favor of developing and focusing on Bridget's relationships with Mark and Daniel. The love triangle between the main characters is loosely based on the love triangle between Wickham, Darcy, and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. Bridget is initially attracted to Darcy, but is then turned off by Darcy's snobby manner. She is further steered away from Darcy by the comments of Daniel. But as the story goes on, it comes to Bridget's attention that Daniel is not the true love she thought him to be, and has in fact lied about his past with Darcy. In detail, Bridget Jones's Diary follows Pride and Prejudice almost exactly.

As a film on its own, this was a very clever piece. But as an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, it was disloyal to the source material and, aside from the potion focused on above, presents an almost entirely different story. But this film was not trying to be an accurate retelling of Jane Austen's story. In truth, this movie and the book it was based on are not really adaptations of Pride and Prejudice at all. They were unquestionably inspired by Pride and Prejudice, but they tell their own story in their own way, drawing on the conventions that people expect from romantic comedies and modern day aspects of society to tell their story rather than taking ideas from Pride and Prejudice.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Marriage in Sense and Sensibility



In many of Jane Austen’s novels, marriage is used as a plot device at the end of the novels to wrap up the characters’ stories and to tie up all of the loose ends. In Northanger Abbey, this is especially evident. Some of the marriages seem forced and implemented not because the matches are particularly inevitable and fitting but because there is no other logical way to end the story. Sense and Sensibility also ends with several marriages. Of the four of most consequence (i.e. Mr. Willoughby’s marriage to Miss Grey, Robert Ferras’ marriage to Lucy Steele, Edward Ferras’s marriage to Elinor Dashwood, and Colonel Brandon’s marriage to Marianne Dashwood), are the marriages in Sense and Sensibility also forced? Or, are they more natural in that they have either been cultivated throughout the novel or match two like-minded people?

Punishments and rewards through marriage are referenced several times throughout the text. Colonel Brandon’s marriage to Marianne in particular is referred to as a reward; it is a reward for Brandon’s suffering as well as his “character as an excellent man” (255). Near the end of the novel, the narrator explains, “They each felt his sorrows, and their own obligations, and Marianna, by general consent, was to be the reward of all” (287). On the other hand, Mr. Willoughby’s marriage to Miss Grey is also referenced in terms of punishment and reward. Unfortunately for him, his marriage to Miss Grey is a punishment for his poor behavior in regards to Eliza and Marianne; indeed, as the narrator suggests, “Each faulty propensity in leaning him to evil, had lead him likewise to punishment…. The connection, for the sake of which he had, with little scruple, left her sister to misery, was likely to prove a source of unhappiness to himself of a far more incurable nature” (251). Do Colonel Brandon and Mr. Willoughby deserve their respective rewards and punishments? Are their marriages effective methods of reward or punishment? What does this say about the women they marry, and the roles they are meant to play? Are the women treated fairly by their marriages? Do the women equally deserve their subsequent reward or punishment?

The Meaning Behind the Title; Sense and Sensibility

'Cut off a long lock of her hair'
C.E. Brock

While reading Sense and Sensibility, one of the main things I noticed was the different ways in which the title of the book could be interpreted. From the footnotes of the novel, we learn the definitions of the two words;

Sense – possessing judgment and intelligence (303).

Sensibility – capacity for refined emotional response to feelings and experiences, involving delicate sensitivity to moral and aesthetic issues (303).

From one perspective, the character of Elinor could be considered as having ‘Sense,’ while Marianne would be acting out of ‘Sensibility.’ Austen begins the novel by describing her two main characters and how they appear in comparison to each other.

“Elinor… possessed a strength of understanding, and coolness of judgment, which qualified her, though only nineteen, to be the counsellor of her mother, and enabled her frequently to counteract, to the advantage of them all, that eagerness of mind in Mrs. Dashwood which must generally have led to imprudence. She had an excellent heart; – her disposition was affectionate, and her feelings were strong: but she knew how to govern them” (6).


“Marianne’s abilities were, in many respects, quite equal to Elinor’s. She was sensible and clever; but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation. She was generous, amiable, interesting: she was everything but prudent” (6).

This description of her characters sets up the basic personalities of the sisters for the rest of the story, and is important in showing their growth. Later in the story, we start to see the traits blend together as the sisters develop and mature.

When Elinor finds out that Lucy married Robert and not Edward, she acts more like you might think Marianne would respond.

“Elinor could sit no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease” (273).

Marianne also grows and begins to reflect on her behavior, such as Elinor might do.

“My illness has made me think… I considered the past; I saw in my own behaviour since the beginning of our acquaintance with [Willoughby] last autumn, nothing but a series of imprudence towards myself, and want of kindness to others. …My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself, by such negligence of my own health” (262).

Another possible interpretation of the title appears in the first footnote, which explains that it is unknown whether Austen had decided upon the name after reading an allegory in Lady’s Monthly Museum, in which Sense (male) rescues Sensibility (female) from Susceptibility (male).

With these in mind, how would you interpret the title of Sense and Sensibility? In what other ways could it be viewed? How do you think the other characters in the novel portray these behaviors, and how does this affect the story?

Bride and Prejudice (2004)


Bride and Prejudice, set in modern day India, is an amusing twist on Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps India is the perfect modern day setting for such a film, as Mr. and Mrs. Bakshi (Bennet) search for husbands for their daughters. Their expectations are in line with parental husband hunting in Austen's day. Though the Bakshi girls are free to choose whomever they wish to marry, they are still searching for a handsome man who will be able to support them comfortably. Such men come in all different forms in this film (rich and traditional, rich and snobbish, or rich and charming), just as they would appear in Austen's novels.

The plot-line is situated amongst the lavish celebrations within India, complete with Bollywood style dance and up-beat musical numbers (even with an appearance by Ashanti!). Balraj Bingly is the perfect Indian husband for a girl like Jaya (Jane) Bakshi looking for a traditional marriage to good wealth. Mr. Kholi (comparable to Mr. Collins) serves as a comical twist on the upper-class, the Indian who strikes in rich in Los Angeles. His pompous arrogance is a turn-off for Lalita (Elizabeth) and he is constantly mocked throughout the film with his "hip american" one-liners and overall outlandish behavior. It is no wonder that Nelly's "Hey Must be the Money" is playing when the Bakshi's visit Mr. Kohli at his extravagant home in L.A.

William Darcy, however, the rich, charming American hotel owner new to Indian tradition, serves as a love/hate interest for Lalita. Their relationship develops just as in the novel only with modern day predicaments impeding their road to marriage. Darcy's discontent with Mr. Johnny Wickham stems from the fact that Wickham impregnated Darcy's sister at sixteen; Lalita is cautious about Darcy turning India "into a theme park" by building an American hotel there; and Darcy's rich American mother does not want him to marry a second-rate Indian girl like Lalita. But in the end, like any Austen novel, Lalita finally marries Darcy (and they ride off on an elephant into the sunset.) The Indian tradition prevalent throughout the film serves as a new perspective on marriage while maintaining its comparability with marriage in Austen's day. The contrast among the men in the film illustrate the choices which young women had and have in husbands today (at least in India). Intertwining such traditions and expectations with the music, dance, and beautiful actors and actresses of Bollywood film bring a refreshing new light to Pride and Prejudice.