Saturday, 6 June 2009

Lost in Austen, an analysis (2/4)

Episode 2 starts with Amanda arriving at Netherfield in the rain, having run after Jane to try to get her back as she is at risk of dying from croup. Mr Darcy, like in the original story and the adaptation of 1995, can be called intrigued by this soaking wet woman. While at Netherfield, Amanda is compelled to eat oysters and larks while sitting opposite Darcy, but there is more than that: she is challenged to play. Amanda, who cannot play the piano, a truly modern woman, in the end sings Petula Clark’s Downtown:

When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
[Lalalalalalala.. and] the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

And go downtown
(Things'll be great when you're downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown)
Everything's waiting for you

That is indeed where Bingley and Lydia will go (just what he professed to do after Amanda had sung the song), or at least will attempt to go: Downtown to Hammersmith. That song also highlights the ability to escape to another environment when one feels alone. It is what Amanda tries to do in Pride and Prejudice. And it is, too, what Charlotte will do ‘when life bec[omes] irreparably’ boring and lonely for her; it is what she and Elizabeth agreed to do when they were children: to escape to Africa.

When Amanda is finally returned from Netherfield, after having saved Jane from an attack of croup with paracetamol and having told Bingley that she is a lesbian (out of need to make him fall in love with Jane instead), she returns to the door in the Bennets’ attic to tell Elizabeth about Collins who has just arrived, but as before, the door nor Elizabeth budge. Things now go totally wrong, as he proposes to Jane. Just in time, Amanda turns up with Charlotte Lucas, but Collins presumes it is Amanda who’d like to get married to him. In favour of her, he abandons Jane, but Amanda has not a mind to get married, although she is now engaged to him… In the meantime Bingley is ‘bewitched’ by Jane and Darcy starts his role as buttress, we will later see what significance the word has...

It is altogether strange when Wickham comes on the scene: when Mrs Bennet, cured Jane, Kitty, Mary and Amanda return from Netherfield: the wheel of their carriage breaks and Wickham arrives as the hero to lend them his carriage. As it will turn out, he will gain a greater role that is less villainous than in Austen’s original. He gives a first indication towards the theme for Amanda when he says to her: ‘You fascinate me. I confess it, you have endured great hardships in your life, as have I.’ This Amanda, nor other readers of Pride and Prejudice, believe, but it will turn out to be true when the real circumstances of Georgiana’s so-called elopement are revealed. Darcy still does not want to know him, but so he does not want to know Amanda and there is a strangely common theme in that…

In an attempt to have Jane and Bingley still bond, now she has unwillingly high-jacked Collins, Amanda sends the two off into the garden to look for voles and tells them to sing ‘when they find anything’. The fact that they are going to look for voles is not surprising as it is an animal which is monogamous, knows ‘dating sites’ in nature, and as it is a species where males help to care for the little ones. It is at this point, that Darcy for the first time really speaks to Amanda, unlike the time they danced at the ball in Meryton, because he wanted to save the honour of his friend Bingley: ‘What advise you to sing, Miss Price? Because I have found something of interest.’ Amanda is stupid enough to ask what that is, and he answers: ‘You. You are not what you seem.’ And the two continue:

Amanda: I can’t disagree with that. Look, I know you have a very poor opinion of me. That’s the way you are at the moment, and that’s ok. But one day, Mr Darcy, you will thank me.
Darcy: In the meantime, Miss Price, you must content yourself with a warning. If you wound Bingley, you will find my displeasure painful and entirely unrelenting, for my…
Amanda: …opinion once lost, is lost forever. Yes, I know.
Darcy: (looks surprised at the expression)

What the two say here, especially Darcy, is striking. It is a first glimpse at his struggle. Wickham will turn out to be totally innocent and Darcy will end up fighting for his buttresses and he himself as a buttress, not knowing what he should think of himself (as in the original and the 1995 adaptation). It is ironic that he here warns Amanda not to wound Bingley as he is doing it himself (in the original and in the adaptation of 1995) by not taking seriously Bingley’s feelings and preferring society above human wishes. But he himself now starts to see something in Amanda that is not what is on the surface. Indeed, she at that point is not polished as normal people in his acquaintance and in a certain way she could stand for ‘the noble savage’ erroneously identified with Rousseau (who is also referenced in episode 1 implicitly when Mr Bennet has lent Bingley a book on Rousseau, but also more explicitly in episode 4 by Bingley himself when making a spear). The theory of the noble savage professed that all people were good at heart and that society made them bad. Rousseau did not believe this so radically, but he did profess that foremost a good society was needed to make good men. Essentially, Darcy sees something good in Amanda that he is not supposed to see and cannot believe that he can see, as he himself relies on society to tell him what is good. Amanda is clearly not of that society and is clearly an example therefore, of ill-breeding. Why does she fascinate him?

When the ball at Netherfield comes along, Wickham spreads rumours about the origins of Miss Price’s income of a staggering £27000 a year (compare Darcy’s income of £10000 a year! The 27000 was of course the wages of Amanda in modern day Hammersmith, which is a normal wage in modern day London ): her father is a fish monger. A fortune in trade was not the best you could get, and naturally, Collins does not want to marry Amanda anymore as he cannot have an income from trade if he is to become a bishop… He does not only withdraw his offer of marriage on that basis, but also advises her that wanting the society of Mr Darcy would now be a total impertinence. She, who does not care as a modern woman, can just not contain herself and kicks him in the balls. Although Darcy shows her the door politely, he is intrigued by this unpolished kind of person. And probably even more intrigued at his interest in that unpolished person…

The second episode then concludes with Jane marrying Collins, as he is now free from Amanda, and Charlotte’s decision t go to Africa. Although there is also another dialogue of Amanda and Darcy:

Amanda: You are better than this. I know you are, Fitzwilliam Darcy, because I’ve had you in my head since I was 12 years old. So, why are you behaving like such a total… git? Jane has no money, so what? Bingley’s got stacks. What right do you have to thrash their love because of an accident of birth?
Darcy: There is no accident in birth.
A: Do you know why I am so angry?
D: You were born thus.
A: I’ve been in love with your life for 14 years. Cut my heart out, Darcy, its-‘s your name written on it with Elizabeth’s. God almighty! Here, you are… one half… the greatest love story ever told. You. And you know what? You don’t deserve her.
D: Is this interview concluded? It is so difficult to tell.
A: You are such a disappointment, I can hardly bear to look at you.
D: A deprivation I shall endure as stoically as I can.
A: You’re so relentlessly unpleasant! I just can’t get at the real you!
D: (until now he has been staring out of the window, now he turns to Amanda:)
Madam! Behold, Fitzwilliam Darcy! I am what I am! If you find yourself unable to get at an alternative version I must turn to being glad. I despise the intrusions of a woman so singularly dedicated to mendacity, disorder and lewdness. They repel me. You repel me. You are an abomination, Madam! Good afternoon to you. (Leaves the room).

From intrigue and fascination, in one go Darcy has gone to total disgust. As in 1995, he addresses nature for help through the window, his own human nature that is strangely attracted to Amanda/Elizabeth, but a nature which his society so much has polished that he cannot find it, like Amanda. As such, he is troubled when he finds himself strangely liking this ‘savage’. Their two views on societal structures also differ: Darcy, having been born before the times of Darwin believes that society’s structure us given by God, so ‘there is no accident in birth’ and as he says in his very first scene: ‘God loves a gentleman, it is the gentleman’s duty to return the compliment.’ God loves a gentleman, because He has given him great wealth and power (to certain extent) unlike to the poor, so he must do his duty and do what God expects from him (i.e. go to church, marry the one God would approve (as Caroline Bingley puts it the end). Amanda, on the other hand, is born in a time where birth and status is not God-given and so indeed calls his status an ‘accident of birth’, which it is to her. Hardship and poverty are no longer at courtesy of God, but are one’s own responsibility. And so, he can change his views/behaviour, in opposition her who ‘was born thus’. He believes her to be born thus, so he himself is also born thus. There are not two Darcys within the one, or are there?

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