09 January 2009
And for something completely different.
As I think about my review for Willow, by Julia Hoban. I was thinking of faults in characters. But what really struck me was how even though characters have these flaws (well because if they didn't, we wouldn't really be into their story, now would we?) So that got me thinking, Elizabeth Bennet calls Mr Darcy on his faults. And so begins a famous tête-à-tête that is world famous and perhaps made Austen a star. I'm going to quote from perhaps my favorite scene in all of Pride and Prejudice "But upon my honour I do not. I do assure you that my intimacy has not yet taught me that. Tease calmness of temper and presence of mind! No, no -- I feel he may defy us there. And as to laughter, we will not expose ourselves, if you please, by attempting to laugh without a subject. Mr. Darcy may hug himself." (Caroline Bingley speaking) "Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!" cried Elizabeth. "That is an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintance. I dearly love a laugh." "Miss Bingley," said he, "has given me credit for more than can be. The wisest and the best of men -- nay, the wisest and best of their actions -- may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke." "Certainly," replied Elizabeth -- "there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without." "Perhaps that is not possible for any one. But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule." "Such as vanity and pride." (Elizabeth speaking) "Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride -- where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation." (Mr Darcy speaking) Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile. "Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume," said Miss Bingley; "and pray what is the result?" "I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise." "No," said Darcy, "I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding -- certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost is lost for ever." "That is a failing indeed!" cried Elizabeth. "Implacable resentment is a shade in a character. But you have chosen your fault well. I really cannot laugh at it. You are safe from me." "There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil -- a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome." "And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody." "And yours," he replied, with a smile, "is wilfully to misunderstand them." How can you NOT love that? Elizabeth's faults are to see what she wants to see. She's been snubbed by Darcy once (at the Meryton assembly), but notice how Darcy pays particular attention to her when Jane falls ill at Netherfield. When Caroline notices, she uses Elizabeth as a prop to walk around the room so that Darcy may watch her, but in fact, by using Elizabeth, she is showing off-- Elizabeth! Caroline has her own faults, jealousy, vanity, vexation. Elizabeth's faults are perhaps jumping to the conclusion because of the slight. Darcy's faults are (and if I hear he's shy, I'll scream, because Darcy is ANYTHING but!) a propensity to misunderstand and miscommunicate. He's proud, he's very rich and being in a country-type setting isn't what he's about. We see a very different Darcy when Elizabeth visits Pemberley with her aunt and uncle. He is charming, affectionate and clearly in love. Elizabeth is now the one who must overcome the prejudices of what she knows about him. We know that he IS a good man, a just owner of his lands and a just owner over his tenants. So where does his fault fall in to place here? Does Elizabeth start to see a new and improved Darcy? or is this the same Darcy who slighted her a few months earlier? Yeah, I'm deep. Let's move on to Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester... Jane's faults is that she's poor and was abused growing up. She doesn't really trust anyone. Mr Rochester's faults are similar, with the exception that he grew up wealthy. He was a second son who never should've inherited, but with the death of his elder brother and owing a plantation in the West Indies brought him wealth as well. He is forced into a marriage by his father and the woman's brother. Why should he trust anyone? His wife goes crazy, then he's dumped with an orphan that may or may not be his. Obviously, Mr Rochester's faults outweigh Jane's by 100, but isn't his most biggest fault falling in love with Jane? Knowing that he cannot, should not have her, because he is still married and keeping the woman locked away in a secluded part of the house? But does he see reason? Does anyone see reason when they are in love? I was going to also use Fanny and Edmund from Mansfield Park, but they annoy the hell out of me so much! Fanny would rather do what is easy and good than what her heart tells her she should do. Edmund is blah. No romanticism in his bones. Or Cathy and Heathcliff, but they are probably the two worst characters in all of literature. Self-indulgent Cathy and self-hating Heathcliff, ooh, how in the hell did they love each other when their world was so miserable? Let's get a debate going about faults and character's that you love what you perceive is their faults. If you're an author, what are your character's faults that you tried to highlight in your book? Why do you think it IS a fault? If you haven't read Austen's Pride and Prejudice or Bronte's Jane Eyre, I highly encourage you to do so. They really are wonderful and romantic and beautifully written.
Posted by Laura Benson
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