Understanding Jane Bennet, The Broken-Hearted

I recently experienced a breakup, and I have to say, it sucks. I was the one who got dumped, unexpectedly, and I was the one who put most of the effort and commitment into the relationship. So, yeah, major suckitude.

Jane Austen’s works help shed insight into my personal life, and this time is no different. I thought about my current situation, my favorite novels, and, more specifically, my favorite characters. Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet did not seem to be appropriate for my present emotional state. Neither did Anne Elliot nor Catherine Morland.

No, the character I can connect to most is none other than Jane Bennet. Before the breakup, I thought of Jane Bennet as an extremely static, somewhat dismissible character. Her storyline consists of beautiful girl falls in love with Charles Bingley; he reciprocates her feelings. He is misguided by his closest friend and his family and breaks it off with her upon their advice. She continues to love him. When his best friend (who convinced him to breakup with her in the first place) persuades him to get back together with her, Bingley proposes to her; she accepts. Happily ever after.

I am not relating to Jane Bennet for happily ever after; rather, I am relating to her for her broken-heart. She is the girl who got dumped, unexpectedly, even though she did nothing wrong. She is the girl who remained in love with the guy, even though he metaphorically kicked her to the curb. She is the broken-hearted. She is the character who helps me during this time. Plain Jane Bennet, the unexpectedly relatable.

 

The Jane Austen Social Scene Part IX: Marriage and Friendship

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(Photo source: themerrybride.files.wordpress.com)

Emma Woodhouse and Miss Taylor. Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet and Charlotte Lucas. What do these pairs have in common? They each represent a pair of Jane Austen characters whose friendships were altered when one of them married. It then became Emma Woodhouse and Mrs. Weston. Elizabeth Bennet and Mrs. Collins.

One of the motifs of Austen’s novels is that of marriage. I would argue that a more specific theme would be how marriage alters friendships between female characters. Regardless of whether or not the marriage is to a likable character, such as Mr. Weston, or to a not so well liked character, such as Mr. Collins, the institution of marriage impacts the friendship and usually in a way that weakens it. Look at Lizzy and the former Miss Lucas: sure, Lizzy visits her friend and new hubby at their home, but Charlotte is no longer the friend Lizzy could confide in and gossip to at the beginning of the novel.

Austen’s observations regarding marriage and friendship ring true today. In getting married, the woman takes on the additional identity of someone’s wife, a role society promotes with traditional connotations. In other words, in marrying, the spouse is expected to become the priority while pre-existing relationships take a back seat. It’s no wonder that when Harriet Smith tells Emma about Robert Martin’s initial marriage proposal, Emma’s reaction is to persuade her friend to turn him down; in her eyes, she’s already lost one friend to a marriage, and she’s not about to lose another.

Does putting a ring on it mean putting an end to a friendship? Not necessarily. But it does mean that the friendship will not be the same as before.

 

 

 

Reading List:The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

I received Amy Schumer’s book The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo for Christmas, and I meant to read it before the end of winter break. Call it a reading goal, but I was determined to finish it before returning for Spring semester. And I did (and, yes, I am proud of myself for accomplishing said goal – sometimes it’s not easy to make the time to read).

The book chronicles various aspects of Schumer’s life, from her childhood to her rise as the comedian she is today. As a fan of Amy Schumer, I loved it. Her writing style invites readers into the text so that it reads less like an autobiography and more like a series of conversations you would have with a friend. She even includes photographs at the end of most of her chapters, furthering this personal connection with the reader, allowing them to see more into her life.

Schumer is candid – she admits her faults, her mistakes, her imperfections. She owns them, not dismissing them to try to glorify herself in the eyes of the reader. Her honesty is what makes her both appealing and approachable for the audience. This quality is something Schumer is known for in her work and why I look forward to her next project.

2017 Book Kickoff:We Have Always Lived in the Castle

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Happy New Year!

I intend for 2017 to be a year of books, among other wonderfulness. To kick things off, the first book I read so far this year is Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962).

I admit, I was drawn to this book because of the cover and because it’s by Shirley Jackson, one of my favorite authors.

SPOILER ALERT

The book is told from the perspective of Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, one of the few surviving members of the Blackwood family. She lives in an old, large house with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. There used to be more members of the Blackwood family, but she poisoned her family’s sugar with arsenic to punish them when she was sent to her room without supper. Her sister survived because she does not take sugar (and that is the reason why Merricat poisoned the sugar and not something else) and her Uncle Julian only took a small amount.

The plot largely centers around the daily routine of Merricat and her family and their relationships with the other characters. The most fascinating part of the narrative is Merricat herself – she shows no remorse for having killed her family, and yet she respects  various spaces and objects that belonged to them, even though they are deceased ( for example, after her Uncle Julian dies, she still does not enter his room, insisting that she is not allowed). As a reader, my reaction to Merricat was at times, “She’s crazy” and “She’s a brat,” but I still found myself happy that she and her sister were happy at the end of the story. I feel like it’s an odd reaction to have given how horrible Merricat is as an individual, but that’s part of the beauty of Jackson’s writing: she doesn’t just invite you into the psyche of a character, she thrusts you in, allowing the reader to become intimate with the character by helping to detach the reader from their own preconceptions to understand the world of the story through the character’s eyes.

Now, onto the next book!

Thoughts While Waiting For A Plane

I do not like to fly.

That statement might seem odd coming from someone who regularly flies, but it is the truth. I do not enjoy flying. In fact, I find the whole act mildly unnerving.

Even before going through security, before checking in for my flight, even before going to the airport I have to be prepared. This process involves making sure there are no liquids in my carry-on bags, except for the 3.4 ounces or less ones in the quart-sized, zip-top bag that I carefully place in either my purse or an outside pocket of my backpack for easier access. I select which items will go in each carry-on bag – decisions that might not seem difficult to make, but for someone who would prefer to have all of their items next to them or under the seat in front of them, it is strategic planning.

I have to make sure to take off my shoes, remove anything in my pockets, and arrange my items in the sullen, gray plastic bins so that everything is visible. I wait to go through the scanner, not fulling knowing where the lines start and who was first, only going through the motions so as not to displease the disgruntled TSA agents. After patting down my wrists, my legs, my waist, or whatever area may have shown up on the scanner due to my preference for looser clothes, I retrieve my things and return the bins to their proper place to await another person’s items.

As I sit in the terminal reflecting on their and other airport procedures and processes, I listen to the coughs, stifles, sounds of crying babies, text tones, and conversations I am surrounded by. I am a germaphobe, and yet I am about to travel for the next few hours with nothing but recycled air circulating throughout the cabin. I resist the urge to envision the types of miasma that inhabit the air and the people they originated from. I contain my anxiety as I am engulfed by strangers.

I do not like most people, another truth that some might find odd given my seemingly outgoing personality. The key word is seemingly. I enjoy being alone, by myself, and away from the general public. I avoid public transportation as much as possible because of this.

Still, I put myself through the ordeal of flying because I love to travel. I like going to a destination I have never been before, or one that I have and am looking forward to returning to. As a teenager, I did not want to get married when I grew up; I wanted to travel.

So, yeah, I do not like to fly. I continue to fly, however, because it is a ritual that results in something that I love: adventure.

Adventure awaits…after the airtime.

 

 

Summer Writing and Realizations

I feel guilty because I haven’t done much writing this summer (or, err, well, in a while, shall we say). Between finishing and graduating from my M.A. program, moving, finding a job, getting ready to move again, and trying to relax a little, I have not been keeping up with my writing. I have, however, still done some writing and with the summer slowly coming to a close, I figured I would share some of it. So here is my summer realization (one of many):

I realized that I do not regret being single.

I made a list of names of the guys I’ve dated. Then I made a list of names of the guys I’ve been in relationships with. I looked t the lists, and I asked myself, “Is there a name on either list that I regret no longer having in my life? Someone I would be willing to give another shot to?”

The answer to both questions was a firm “No.”

The answer resulted from examining each name, recalling the individual, and assessing how things ended with them. One propositioned me in Boston Common for a friends with benefits relationship and upon rejection of said proposition, promptly left me to walk through the Common to the Park Street Station by myself – at night (this was before Pokemon Go came on the scene and groups of people trying to catch Pokemon made the Common slightly more safe). Another informed me that anything we started would have an “expiration date” of September when my graduate program resumed.

Then there was the one who texted me five months after our first date to ask me out again. He didn’t explain the time lapse or why he would not return texts I sent him, attempting to maintain communication. I tried to give him another chance. I told him I’d be open to some of the dates he asked me on, only to realize those dates would entail me making most of the effort and travel. I declined said dates, citing inconvenient commutes. The more accurate truth was that I was inconvenienced by his insistence on his convenience. Despite telling me that he was looking for something that lasts, I began to see that a relationship with him would only last if I were willing to accommodate him without room for me.

I realized that I was fine with not hearing from him again, that I would instead be perfectly content by myself. It was the summer, and I was single. I had my books, the beach, and my best friends if I needed company. No boys needed.

The Jane Austen Social Scene Part VIII: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (2016)

 

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(Photo source: comingsoon.net)

As a Jane Austen fan and a fan of Seth Grahame-Smith’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, I was very excited when the trailer came out for “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” I was so excited that I actually went to the movies to see it, an act I sheepishly admit to not doing enough of when it comes to film.

Now, I try to keep an open mind in regards to movie versions of books. Maybe it’s the scholar in me reminding myself that adaptations are meant to be different. Still, it’s hard not to sit there and go, “That’s not in/like the book!”

I found myself thinking just that as I sat through “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” (Note: Spoilers ahead)

I could look past changing some of the plot. I get it – it’s being made into a movie, they might need to change some points around. What I could not look past was changing the characters.

Take Wickham, for instance. In the novel, he runs off with Lydia Bennet thinking that her family has money. After being paid by Darcy, he finally agrees to marry her. This point is kept in the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with some added zombie, sci-fi/fantasy plot elements added to it. In the movie, however, Wickham kidnaps Lydia and keeps her prisoner in the basement of a zombie church, using her as bait to lure Mr. Darcy to the church. He never gets forced into marriage. In fact, if the end of the film is any indication, he gets to be made leader of his own rebel zombie army and charge the double wedding of Jane and Lizzie.

Then there’s Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The movie keeps her animosity towards Lizzie but then does a 180 with her character, transforming her from the snobby elitist that she is into a generous savior who allows her estate to be used as a refuge for the Bennet family when the zombie war starts to heat up. Lady Catherine, the character who openly insults Lizzie for the class distinction between the two of them.

The change that made the Jane Austen fan in me grit her teeth the most though was Mr. Darcy. Yes, Mr. Darcy is reserved. He insults Lizzie’s family the first time he proposes to her. He’s not the most outright amiable character. But what Darcy is not is cruel. Lizzie begins to see the softer side of Mr. Darcy when she visits Pemberley, and his servants talk about what a good master he is and how kind he is to his sister. This man is a far cry from the Darcy of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” a man who purposefully switches out the communal zombie church offering of pig brains (a substance the zombies choose to consume so as not to lose their sanity and become slaves to the lust for brains) for actual human brains, resulting in turning the zombies into, well, crazy zombies that need to be killed. That act is cruel, unfeeling, and not keeping with the Mr. Darcy Austen created.

Despite my frustrations with certain elements of the movie, I have to remember that the movie is an adaptation of an adaptation. In other words, it’s not only about what they changed but also about what they kept. The Bennet sisters are still strong, powerful women. Lizzie rejects Mr. Collins’ marriage proposal in a scene that affirms her independence. She also rejects Mr. Darcy’s initial marriage proposal in a similar scene. Jane marries Mr. Bingley, and Lizzie marries Mr. Darcy. The movie ends with a wedding.

So, then, what’s my take on the movie?

It’s not a happily-ever-after version of the original tale. It’s reads more as a struggle to hold onto decorum and tradition while constantly being made aware of threats to civilized society. And I think that’s something modern audiences can relate to.