I won't post a response to yesterday's questions here, as I posted an exceedingly long comment already.
There isn't any consensus about whether Elizabeth sees Caroline as a rival. In many senses, asking whether Elizabeth unconsciously perceived Caroline as a rival goes against the time period. Since the idea of the unconscious didn't yet exist, JA herself, at least, wouldn't have thought about it that way.
Still, it's fascinating to look back and see if and how writers who are so very skilled at portraying human nature were able to portray this aspect even if the concept didn't exist. I think that's part of why the production of Emma is a bit jarring at the beginning. It's trying to bring in a psychological reading of the novel by giving a background to the characters. I don't think it works initially, but as the play unfolds I can see that it brings a new dimension to the character.
Should we interpret classics using modern concepts? It's a hard call to make, but the argument could also go the other way. Even when we think we're being very objective and historically accurate, who's to say that our twenty-first way of thinking (no matter how accurate we think we are) bears any resemblance to the original? Jane Austen was seen by the later Romantics as very much a part of the old world order, which balanced Neo-Classical concepts such as Wit, Reason, and Order against the cult of Sensibility. We have forgotten these concepts, and we translate Wit as being witty, but there was far more to it than that. It was a whole way of doing things.
This way of thinking is as alien to us as the way we think is to hers. To grasp some of these ideas you have to read Alexander Pope, who lays them out very nicely. But then Pope doesn't have a memorable character anywhere. Jane Austen, on the other hand, was able to create warm blooded human beings whom we can have a crush on in 2009!
I don't know what's up with me today. I seem to be going on and on...
I had better give you my question now, before I start up again. And since there's a general resistance to seeing Elizabeth as "flawed" in any way (though Jane Austen herself famously says: "pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked"), I'll give you the chance to sing Elizabeth's praise.
Pride and Prejudice Question 23
What, in your opinion, (in addition to her fiesty personality and her intelligence) are Elizabeth Bennet's best qualities? What makes us like her so much?