New Takes on Jane Austen

'Good humour and good spirits' … Ann Rutherford as Lydia Bennet in the 1940s Pride and Prejudice film (The Guardian)

I've already admitted that Pride and Prejudice was not my favorite book.  I didn't even finish the thing.  I like the story of it, but I feel like Austen could have done so much more with her characters-- they had to possibility of really beautiful complexity.  I stumbled upon this article from The Guardian before I had even opened the book.  But now after having read most of Austen's book, I find what some of these authors say to be very insightful.  

My favorites include John Mullen's paragraph about Mr. Bennet's relationship with his wife:
"He married the idiotic Mrs Bennet because he found her sexy. He was "captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give". Having discovered his error, he has retreated into mockery of his wife. From the very first chapter, he is teasing and tormenting poor, stupid Mrs Bennet. She is desperate that he should visit Mr Bingley, the new single man in possession of a good fortune, and Austen tells us that he had always intended to do so, "though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go". It may be funny, but it is connubial torture. A psychologist would surely say that he is punishing her for his own folly in having been attracted to her in the first place. Late in the novel Elizabeth reflects that, because she is fond of her father, she has too often ignored "that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible."
 Zoe Williams on Elizabeth Bennet:

"Jane Austen directs our sympathies like a Beijing traffic cop – balletic and graceful, she is also very firm and unambiguous, brooking no argument. There's really no room for Elizabeth Bennet to be anything other than a feminist heroine, having such a pert wit and lovely eyes, commanding our affections the way she does.
However, her relationship with Mr Bennet, so often seen as establishing and ratifying her status as the smartest and most interesting of the daughters, certainly complicates – if not pollutes – her standing as our narrator's ego ideal.
The marriage between the parents is just one union serving as a counterpoint to the love match that all the daughters so ardently, subversively desire. Mr and Mrs Bennet are ill‑suited, and Elizabeth operates as the father's ally in an essentially very uneven domestic civil war. Mrs Bennet has the ballast – the younger daughters and her own sheer energy for filling the air with noise – while Mr Bennet has the precision missiles: his sarcasm and the challenging aspect of Elizabeth, his dote. Their relationship is conspiratorial, playful in a sense, but allowing in no other players."
And finally my absolute favorite that could just make me want to finish the novel, Paula Byrne on Lydia Bennet:
"Lydia could be described as a proto-feminist, as she refuses to conform to the protocols of courtship behaviour. She is honest to a fault, and is no victim. Nor does she pretend to be a prude or indulge in false shame. There is nothing fake about her. Furthermore, unlike the odious Caroline Bingley, she is open and forthright about her romantic interest in men, rather than devious and catty.Austen despised "pictures of perfection" – heroines who have no flaws. Lydia bounces off the page in all her glorious, noisy imperfection.


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Meet The Author

I'm Madysen, born and raised in Nebraska but now living out my dreams in New York City. I moved here to go to Columbia, but living in New York has become so much more to me. This blog is a space where I can share my experiences of reconciling my midwestern upbringing with the life I live in the city. But even bigger than that, this blog serves as a space where I can try to understand where I fit into the larger social world, where I want to go in life, and how I want to go about pursuing all of these endeavors.

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