Due to technical issues with my kindle I had to reconsider my reading list and after last weeks Dvd review I was in the mood for rereading my favourite Austen novel. Written in 1797 it took sixteen years before Pride & Prejudice was finally published for the first time in 1813. (Hope for us all) The problem with reviewing the quintessential Regency romance is how does one begin. The story is so well-known that to discuss the plot seems unnecessary, the characters have been dissected by far greater minds than mine, so what to talk about.
I settled on discussing why Austen is still relevant to todays young women, why generation after generation pick up her books and fall in love with the Darcy’s of this world. The answer is simple things have not changed so much when it comes to dating.
In Austen’s world courtship is governed by strict rules introductions must be formally made, even calling between friends was scheduled but even though today in many ways we have it apparently easier you have to ask do we? Dating etiquette has so many rules now with each new piece of technology that is invented, how long before you ring someone, or text? The emotions we experience are still the same, the nerves the longing the only difference was back then it was for the most part simpler, you knew exactly what was expected of you male or female and acted accordingly.
We know from Austen’s own life she challenged the social conventions in her own life, this was mirrored in her work also none of the matches made for love in Pride and Prejudice would have been considered as socially acceptable both Darcy and Bingley would have been considered as marrying beneath them.
“I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. They are descended, on the maternal side, from the same noble line; and, on the father’s, from respectable, honourable, and ancient — though untitled — families. Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it must not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have been brought up.”
“In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter; so far we are equal.”
“True. You are a gentleman’s daughter. But who was your mother? Who are your uncles and aunts? Do not imagine me ignorant of their condition.” Jane Austen
The irony she shows is that the matches which are acceptable are not the happier ones, Charlotte Lucas marries Mr Collins for security is seen to be content in her situation only through the fact she has no higher expectations and has accepted her place without reserve, she has been raised to know what her future will hold and knows that love and romance do not feature only that she will become a burden to her parents should she not seize the first opportunity she is given. Wickham and Lydia’s match is more complex, though foolish there are no issues regarding wealth in that neither have any the match is equal though both would have been expected to attempt to gain wealth through marriage the actual scandal regarding their elopement is quickly forgiven by most upon their marriage despite the impropriety.
The duality of matches features strongly in all Austen’s novels for each agreeable match another less socially acceptable match is shown, the situations are influenced by the individual circumstances but the message is clear that where the match is not made for love then at best contentment rather than happiness can be expected.