P & P and the Duel books (was:Re: What we've been reading)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Wed Apr 12 17:00:31 EDT 2000

Melissa, quoted again:

>There you go, Hallie.  Thanks to you I've inflicted another long-winded
>missive upon the good people of this list.  I frankly don't know how you can
>sleep at night.  :)

Well, if anyone _does_ hold any grudge against me for Melissa's long post,
revenge is at hand.  I didn't sleep last night, but woke up at 4:45
thinking of character, and Elizabeth and Darcy...

>(Lots of spoilers ahead, so if you are planning to read the _Duel_ books you
>might want to skip this--though, as I said, it's a fairly transparent plot
>anyway so I don't feel I'm really giving anything away.)

Agreed.  Cara, to whom I just read these, started with the "Mel's going to
marry him, isn't she?" remarks frighteningly early on in Crown Duel, but
that didn't spoil anything for her in the least - only made her feel clever
for working it out!

>Let me be more explicit here.  I find characters very interesting--enough so
>that I will read an otherwise boring book for the sake of following an
>intriguing person around, so to speak.  Something that I also find
>interesting is how character archetypes are expressed in stories.

I'm also deeply interested and concerned with characters, but from a
slightly different perspective.  (Or else just from an untrained one.)  I'm
afraid I can't come up with much more than that my grouping of characters
would be based on how the characters "feel" to me.  As a generalization, I
think I'd have to say that if I was thinking about them in any sort of
archetypal terms, I probably don't love the book.

So mostly what I was saying in disagreeing with you about Mel & Shevraeth
being like Elizabeth and Darcy, is that the characters don't feel similar
to me in any real way.  There is _some_ basis for my reaction, but it's
probably not worth that much.  You'll get it anyway, as it's all there is.

On Elizabeth & Mel:  despite the obvious similarity of their prejudice,  I
think Elizabeth is almost the inverse of Mel in some ways.  Elizabeth has
intelligence and education, manners, poise, but lacks the social standing
to match all these.  But in a certain way, she doesn't accept that this
stops her from being Darcy's equal.  So when he dismisses her along with
everyone else at the assembly, because of inferior social rank, she's
rightly miffed.

Mel has the social standing, but not the learning or behaviour to match, as
becomes clear to everyone, especially herself.  When she feels rejected by
Shevraeth (the rejection isn't really there, of course), it is on the basis
of her lack of learning and knowledge of how to behave, which she
absolutely accepts.  I think it's the acceptance of her own "inferiority"
which makes it so difficult for her to shake her prejudice.

>of them have legitimate reasons to be prejudiced, but also are guilty of
>assuming things about each man that prove unfounded--Shevraeth is
>deliberately trying to mislead people with his court dandy act, and Darcy is
>unconsciously playing the role he was brought up to believe was right.

Though I completely agree about the circumstantial similarities of the
initial unfavourable meeting and the overcoming of prejudice, I don't feel
that these really come from the same root.  Elizabeth's reaction against
Darcy is based on her pique at his reaction to her, compounded later by
Wickham's lies about Darcy which she wants to believe.  But I think she was
quite _right_ to dislike Darcy - anyone that contemptuous of other people
not deemed to be of equal social worth is dislikable.  Mel meets Shevraeth
as an enemy, allied to someone doing great wrong.  No real prejudice in her
initial reaction to him at least.

Which sort of brings me on to the men.  I love Darcy as much as any
(right-minded!) female, but I do see him as someone who had a very long way
to go when first encountered.  I think this is more fundemental than the
way Mel & Shevraeth clearly help each other to learn (as I'd probably
expect any couple to bring out the best in each other).  Perhaps this view
of Darcy is far from universal, I honestly don't know.  There's the
marvellous dialogue at the end of P & P, (in which Darcy expresses himself
"as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to
do."  How could anyone not love Jane Austen!)   Darcy says that he has been
selfish all his life, in practice though not in principle, that he was
spoiled, and encouraged, almost taught to be selfish, to think meanly of
all the rest of the world (outside his family circle).  And I accept this,
as I accept that he might always have remained this way without Elizabeth.

Shevraeth may be initially prepared to be dismissive (don't think I'd go so
far as contemptuous) of the "country bumpkins", but he was in an
extraordinarily difficult situation, quite literally taking on
responsibility for an enormous number of lives.   Still, even before he is
able to explain matters to Bran, and come out in the open, he takes
enormous pains to do as little harm to the "rebels" as possible.  But as
you say, this may be one of those cases where something either bothers you
or doesn't particularly, and it comes down to no more than that.

>The point is that at the heart of each story,
>--we have two people who meet under less than favorable circumstances;
>--the woman is prejudiced against the man based on those initial
>--the man gradually reveals that, while he has some flaws, he's not what she
>thought he was;
>--the man goes out of his way to show the woman that he really does mean
>--the woman gradually loses her prejudice and gains respect for the man.
>Etcetera, etcetera.  Now you see why it took me so long to reply to this.

Unfortunately, I don't think taking a long time will make my reply any more

>Oh, Hallie.  Must we keep going through this?  :)

Well as long as you keep writing these thoughtful and insightful messages!
What seemed to have some clarity in the early hours, seems singularly
lacking in it just now.   It may just boil down to our having a different
reaction to these pairs of characters, or it may be that we have a slightly
different way of looking at characters.  Wasn't that the upshot of a
discussion you said you had with someone on the AlexLit newsgroup?  Or am I
mis-remembering again?

Anyway, many thanks for your reply!  It was extremely interesting.  Anyone
else read the books and feel like commenting?

hallieod at indigo.ie

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