Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Jane Austen Question-a-Day 6

Yesterday's question clearly wasn't challenging enough. Too easy. Still, the answers were good. I perhaps should have asked it another way: does Jane Austen create a real character in Georgiana, or is she just a prop intended to show the positive side of Darcy?

This is a discussion question I've encountered a few times, and it came up again recently on a small group I was in, though I can't for the life of me trace it back. It's a general JA question, but since we're discussing Pride and Prejudice, I'd would appreciate examples from the novel. It's a long question, and might elicit some long answers, but hopefully some enjoyable ones.

Pride & Prejudice Question 6

Many people think of PandP as the epitome of romance. Yet Charlotte Bronte's famous criticism is that: "Anything like warmth or enthusiasm, anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstrations the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré or extravagant... The passions are perfectly unknown to her: she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood."
Would you agree? How does Bronte's concept of "the passions" differ from Jane Austen's (neither of them are explicit, so it's not that). Do you agree that Jane Austen scorns passion? (For those of you who know both authors well: where was Bronte coming from?)

8 comments:

  1. I don't feel like I know Bronte at all.

    I think that romance and passion are two separate things. There can be passion without romance, but I think that Romance always includes passion. (Note * for me, passion does not always refer to sexual feelings - or acts). I vote 100% for P and P being the epitome of romance!

    libneas[at]aol[dot]com

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  2. I don't know that Austen scorned passion, but she certainly didn't "embrace" it as the Bronte sisters did. Austen's protagonists all move within rather constrained society. Elizabeth can't even bring herself to look at Darcy as he is renewing his offer of marriage to her! Elanor bottles up her feelings, being sensible to the honor in Edward's choice. Certainly Marianne displays a wild abandon and a passionate nature, but in the end she has to "settle" for a quieter love (not that this is bad). And Northanger Abbey shows how ridiculous the gothic heroine is!

    When I think of a truly "passionate" love, I always think of Heathcliff and Cathy. Here is an "unearthly" love that consumes and destroys two families. Not for Heathcliffe to write "you pierce my soul" (my favorite Austen line). No, he longs to die with Cathy and haunt the moors with her.

    Jane Eyre doesn't evoke such strong imagery for me, but here was a women unafraid to make her own way, no matter how difficult. Her Mr. Rochester held all of the passion and she the restraint; she returns to him when he is broken. What Charlotte would say here about passion, I can't tell. But Jane Eyre was never about waiting for someone to "rescue" her. Lizzie Bennett asserted her independence, but in the end it was a good match that enabled this.

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  3. My friend Elina and I discussed this a lot in high school. At the time I was researching Charlotte Bronte and she was researcing Jane Austen for our senior papers. We were both avid fans of P&P and she heaped scorn on Charlotte Bronte for making such a statement about Austen.

    I believe that Austen's books have passion, but in a rather constrained society. The passion of Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne, has me swooning for one. Mr. Darcy making his surprising proposal halfway through P&P was unexpected and passionate in it's nature (as was Elizabeth's response).

    I think what Bronte meant was that Austen was writing about a constrained proper society, but Bronte wanted to write about the underside of that society. Truthfully Bronte's novels are not more passionate than Austen's (Jane Eyre does not give in to her passion for Rochester until they are properly married after all), and I often wonder why Bronte wrote that quote. I really need to read it in it's proper context.

    Great discussion!

    laarlt78(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  4. I think Charlotte Bronte is probably displaying the kind of hyperbole that Austen would have made fun of mercilessly. Both Bronte sisters' work is all about deep, obvious emotion that's just as stormy as the moors on which they're set. Their plots are wild and frightening and dark. For Austen's drawing room dramas, everything takes place in uber-polite society, so there's not a lot of room for wildness and darkness. (Can't see Mr. Darcy hiding a madwoman in the attic, for example.) In Austen's work, a main theme seems to be balance. So many of her character arcs have to do with a person having an excess of a particular quality and learning to temper it to achieve happiness. It's evident in her titles: Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion. Northanger Abbey skewers the passions of the gothic novel, so I can see why Bronte would in turn thumb her nose at Austen. But the truth is, both authors have fueled the romantic notions of young (and old!) women around the world, so it's unfair to say one has too much passion and the other has too little. I swooned bigtime the first time I read Darcy's second proposal to Elizabeth!

    I don't think I answered everything, but I've yammered on enough. This is fun!

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  5. The posts have been really good so far! I am enjoying this too much. :)

    In reply to Laura's post, I found a source for more background concerning Bronte's criticism of Austen:

    http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/janeart.html

    Happy reading!

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  6. In P&P, there is passion (sex) between Wickham and Lydia. It's just that Austen writes with a light hand. Austen was perfect for the Regency Era. The Brontes were a good fit for the Victorian Era.

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  7. I see passion and romance as two different things. There can be passion between two people without any feelings included, but I think romance needs feelings and passion.

    I totally vote of P&P to be the epitome of romance. The romance of Darcy and Lizzy is the type of romance i would love to have.

    I don't know Brontes that well, I have just read Jane Eyre and the romance in that book is a lot darker than the romance in P&P. I love Jane Eyre though almost as much as I love P&P.

    milkavainamo@lyseo.edu.ouka.fi

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  8. I don't know much about Bronte, but I can tell you that Austen's world is very constrained...and her characters have to move and react within the boundaries of that world. Bronte spoke of tumultuous passion because much of their lives were hit by death and other drama. Passion was necessary to spur them out of the darkness. Just a theory!

    savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com

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