Sunday, January 27, 2013
When Pride & Prejudice lead to Love
I realized yesterday that I haven’t talked of books on this blog for quite some time. And that surprised me, considering how much time I spend with books, in books and around books.
So, I have decided to make this post about books. Or specifically, one book, which perhaps has spawned an entire industry by itself – of spin-offs, fan fiction, movies, cartoons, merchandise and even pilgrimage, as it celebrates its 200th publication anniversary tomorrow.
It has to be Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.
I had first read this book – an abridged version – as a part of our syllabus in Class VII. It was after I finished reading the book that I realized that I had seen this story on TV before. On our own Doordarshan, as a Hindi adaptation called Trishna. I don’t know how many of you have heard it or even seen it, but it was pretty popular in 90s afternoon TV. I tried to locate it on youtube but it’s nowhere to be found. I saw the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth much later – I think in college.
But, I get ahead of myself. Back to Class VII.
Even as a 12 year old, I was fascinated by this romance, quite unconventional going by Hindi movie standards, to which I was used to. Yet at the same time, I could see the Bennets’ dilemma of marrying five daughters playing out in various ways around me all the time. After all, match-making mamas are found dime a dozen in India – trust me, I know.
I was indignant at Darcy and quite in agreement with Elizabeth’s view that he was an arrogant, unpleasant man but by the end of the novel, he had won me over. The man is just painfully shy. Otherwise he is perfect – rich, handsome, caring and willing to learn from his mistakes.
In the abridged version also, I could see the fine nuances that Austen had lent to each character. Jane was Ms. Perfect but too naive. Bingley was charming but easily led. Wickham is a wicked charmer. Mrs. Bennet and her nerves are grating het her worry is not totally unjustified in those days. Mr. Bennet is a scholar and a tad too detached. Elizabeth is intelligent, vivacious yet stubborn, opinionated and therefore susceptible to prejudice. Darcy was proud – easiest to slot but also easiest to misinterpret.
I remember seventh-grade teacher asking us at the end of the novel: Who was proud and who was prejudiced in the novel? I remember being so sure that Darcy was proud and Elizabeth, prejudiced. So, imagine my surprise when she explained how pride was not just Darcy’s flaw. It was quite equally Elizabeth’s too. After all, it was her pride which was stung by Darcy’s infamous remark, which she had inadvertently overheard: She is not handsome enough to tempt me. And hell of course, hath no fury like a woman scorned!
There have been so many interpretations, sequels, prequels, homage to this book. The most successful ones, to my mind, are those which capture Austen’s humour and wit along with that amazing grasp of human psychology and emotions. But I will not bore you with a critique / appreciation of this classic and its versions – I am sure all of you have a very definite opinion on that, quite like our vivacious Ms. Lizzie Bennet.
Whenever I read this book (and I have read it many, many times – the unabridged version, now), I can almost visualize Austen narrating this story in the family parlour in an amused voice to enthralled guests, after a lively dinner. And after she ends, she turns to her husband and says, “Now isn’t that how it played out with us, dear?”
Of course, that is just a fantasy, since we know that Jane Austen never married and died quite young. I think she might have been surprised by the amount of fame and success that her first novel about first impressions (that incidentally was the original title) garnered after her death.
Anyway, I shall close this post with a list of my favourite and not so favourite Pride & Prejudice things:
· Favourite scene: Elizabeth and Darcy dancing after she hears Wickham’s account. Or, their unexpected meeting at Pemberly, after her feelings have begun to change. And oh, I must mention the second proposal. Gosh! it’s difficult to choose.
· Favourite character: Duh. Darcy, of course.
· Least favourite character: Close three way contest between Wickham, Lade de Bourgh and Mr. Collins
· Favourite adaptation: BBC with Colin Firth, though the Lizzie Bennet Diaries have me hooked, big time (if you are a fan of the book, you must watch this 21st century, youtube vlog adaptation, set in the US. Each vlog is about 5 minutes in duration). Here’s the link:
· Least favourite adaptation: Bride & Prejudice, starring Aishwarya Rai. Atrocious and a travesty.
Do tell me what are the things that you love / hate about Pride & Prejudice because it is a truth universally acknowledged that no discussion on this mother of all romances is ever enough. (Sorry, couldn’t resist pilfering that line :-)).