17 February 2008

The Withdrawl Is Always Fierce

I have mentioned previously that reading Jane Austen is the literary equivalent of crack. And I am full blown addict. I have been giddily watching the Masterpiece airing of the BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. Honestly, how hard is it NOT to grin like a doofus while watching Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet awkwardly meet at Pemberly? It fills me with delight and false expectations to watch the story unfold. Delight because they are wonderful characters and false expectations because, well, the story is a fiction that feeds into one of the most elementary of female fantasies.

Why is it that I can revisit Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion, and Jane Eyre (and the rest of their kin by Austen, Bronte, Glaskell et al) in both their literary and film versions repeatedly? I find these three novels deeply satisfying in a way that is, perhaps, not completely healthy. They are, all three, stories of women who, while neither the great beauties nor wealthy heiresses of their worlds, inspire grand passions in strong, intelligent, desirable men. Despite not possessing the two things (great beauty and wealth) highly prized by society, these heriones completely enthrall the gentlemen in question. It is not just a passing fancy or a genial respect. The heroes of these novels determinedly face down class distinctions, familial and societal disapproval, and even eternal damnation, to earn and own their lady's love. That, my friends, is a strong fantasy indeed. I gave up on being a great beauty long ago and have no fortune to speak of, which makes the fairy-tale endings of these novels all the more alluring. I identify with Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre and, most especially, Anne Elliot. And I'm looking for my Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, or Captain Wentworth.

I am 29 years old and have never inspired a grand passion. I have had a creepy psychostalker or two, but that wasn't so much inspiring a grand passion as exciting an unbalanced psyche. I would think that at some point in the past ten years or so, some member of the male species would have seen something admirable enough in me to inspire a grand passion. But, alas, one has not. So I will content myself with living vicariously through the fictional experiences of the Elizabeth Bennetts and the Jane Eyres and the Anne Elliots and the Eleanor Dashwoods and the Emma Woodhouses and the Margaret Hales of the literary world until reality crashes in, yet again, and I have to face the real world.


esperanza said...

Funny you should post on this, I was going to do a similar one and perhaps will in the morning. I just finished Wives and Daughters, and I realized, fantasy-novel-love is probably my favorite drug as well! Somehow after finishing a love story all seems possible!

katharine said...

i don't know any men capable of the 'grand passion' we can read about, I think this is what makes these works such great fictions.

aquamarine said...

Okay so every time I read, "grin like a doofus" I have to laugh because I am sure I have been caught more than once sitting on the couch in front of said movies in just that state. LOL

Scully said...

Katharine, I think maybe they are until they get the object of their affection. I'm sure Messrs. Darcy, Rochester, Wentworth & Company were capable of taking their ladies for granted once they were married, that is just the nature of men. I am quite realistic about relationships and marriage. I just want to inspire that kind of passion for at least a week or two. ;)