Pride and Prejudice has never ceased to amaze me. It is one of the finest Jane Austen books around and yet I have to admit I simply hate it. Of course deep down I would love to like it just a little bit. No such luck.
Lizzy more often than not annoys me to no end, stupid minx; Darcy, with all his airs and graces, behaves like a moron with a curtain rod up his behind. The rest, ladies and gentlemen, is the silent laughter of a harlequin who actually might or might not be the Harlequin Romance. I really don’t want to review the book as it is – everything interesting about it has been already written and told long time ago and then repeated many times over. However if that novel was a tragedy, hmmm…I could have fallen in love with a P&P tragedy. So let’s try it for once – a genre revamp of a classic.
A version of P&P (obviously shortened to a mere synopsis) I would be more or less comfortable with:
Once upon a time there was a girl called Elizabeth living with a mother, a father and four more or less delinquent sisters in a small, impoverished country estate. Elizabeth was neither the most beautiful nor the most skilled English rose in the world but she was most certainly one of the cleverest and she had good observation skills.
Little escaped our Elizabeth even though she was a bit of a social butterfly. She has been watching her father growing more and more desperate, entangled in a sad, loveless marriage without any prospects; his pathetic attempts to produce a son must have been a clear warning that sometimes life gives you just rotten lemons, fit neither for tea nor for lemonade nor for anything else and you must simply smile and carry on. She’s been watching her mother, a foolish and deluded creature without any intelligence or common sense to speak of, who, after losing her only asset in a form of youthful good looks, remained just a pitiful, old, brainless harridan. She watched and the more she saw the more she felt the cold, putrid breath of poverty on her back. Her father’s estate was entailed – it meant that after his demise, with no male heirs among his children, it would go to a distant cousin; Elizabeth, her mother and all her unmarried sisters would be made homeless. Not a nice perspective you have to admit.
However where’s a will there’s a way: Elizabeth was aware there was one path available – to sell herself shamelessly to the highest bidder, a popular sport at those times also known as husband-hunting. It was all more or less up to her skills. Deep down she knew that some of her sisters, those more similar to her mother in character and foolishness but not in looks, were perhaps not salvageable. Still there was her and Jane – they deserved something better than impoverished spinsterhood in small, rented rooms, full of mismatched furniture, with walls adorned by damp patches. The clock was ticking.
A new tenant of Netherfield Park, Mr. Bingley, seemed to be interested in Jane, a family beauty. He was an easy mark; soon enough even the cold-water-mermaid Miss Bennet had him almost wrapped around her finger. Almost. All depended on the opinion of his friend he brought with him, an even richer bachelor called Fitzwilliam Darcy. However that gent soon proved to be as rich as insufferable . How dared he snub Elizabeth and her dysfunctional family when she needed him so badly? How dared he speak against the much-awaited union between Bingley and Jane, the first step in a magnificent scheme of saving the Bennet sisters from the poverty? The fact that Mrs. Bennet felt the urge to intervene on behalf of her daughter in her own impeccably stupid manner didn’t make the things better – it never did – but such was the curse of Elizabeth’s life and she had to live with it.
Then there was a visit of Mr. Collins, a clergyman and heir to the Bennet estate.It soon became apparent that Mr. Collins has come to Longbourn to choose a wife among the Bennet sisters (his cousins) like you choose the right gloves to fit your best coat and favourite scarves. Elizabeth was singled out and here our heroine proved she was a gambler born – despite her desperate position she refused Mr. Collins. Why? He was dull but, more importantly, he was way too poor and too dependent, with an obsequious veneration of his employer and benefactor, Lady Catherine de Bourgh; he would never take care of those Bennet girls who would be left outside alone. Mr. Collins, a moron but one with a large appetite, chose Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte Lukas, as his wife. I am sure he felt like a man who went to a market to buy a guineafowl and found out, to his surprised delight, that for the same amount of money he could buy a big, fat hen. So what if guineafowl meat is supposed to be far juicier and more delicate? A hen is undeniably bigger and it will last longer, even if you invite friends.
However, it was the youngest sister, Lydia, who tried hard to ruin all prospects of an advantageous marriage for any Bennett girl. That nitwit, a true daughter of her mommy dearest, eloped with the worst rake around, Mr. Wickham, a militia officer and a man Elizabeth had a short-lived hope to capture for herself. Wickham, a desperate leech, claimed he was hurt (one big lie) by the insufferable Darcy who happened to be the owner of an insufferably big estate, Pemberley. Oh Pemberley – the love and joy of all poor, hopefull spinsters. As soon as Elizabeth got a glimpse of Pemberley she knew she had to do everything in her power to capture the stupid, besotted, insufferable and lonely Fitzwilliam who, for a reason or reasons unknown, fell for her hard. Yes, Pride and Prejudice male leads were definitely considered to be the weaker sex, led on a leash by the sturdy females who were masquerading as shrinking violets. Give those females political and social rights and watch them conquer the world.
As you know pretty well in the end a string of pretty tragic nuptials ensues (so no, I am not going to change the pairing in my little fantasy) : Jane bagged Bingley, poor sitting duck, greedy Lydia was punished by a marriage with even greedier Wickham, Elizabeth managed to capture Darcy and she became the mistress of Pemberley. Her financial prosperity was guaranteed but what about her sense of humour, vivacity and independence? Oh well, you can’t have everything – and isn’t it a real, everlasting tragedy, I ask you?