Sunday, 7 June 2009

Lost in Austen, an analysis (3/4)

Episode 3 starts with a problem for Amanda: as Mrs Bennet has now had enough of Miss Price she has asked her to leave. But where must Amanda go? Back home! She tries to break the door open this time with a pickaxe, but even then the door does not want to budge. And Amanda, back in her modern day outfit roams through town and whom can she meet but Wickham who ‘see[s] the world the same way’ (episode 2): no care for society and the ways of it, without buttresses, a man on his own two feet. He decides to educate Amanda a little and goes to buy her a dress so she can make up with Jane, who is naturally unhappy about her marriage and the problem with Bingley. Wickham hands her the ‘acquaintance’ of Marie de Cerisay.

Making up with Jane, though, will bring Amanda in the neighbourhood of Rosings Park, the mansion of Darcy’s aunt, where she will naturally encounter Darcy again. Amanda does make up with Jane, and is duly invited to dine at Rosings as she has a message to deliver from Marie de Cerisay in Paris to Lady Catherine. The acquaintance proves more important than her fortune in trade… Then follows a very interesting conversation where Darcy does not seem to know who the de Cersisays are and Lady Catherine does seem to know and informs Darcy in public about the duck pond and the crocodiles (although it is puzzling how the ducks would be able to survive next to the crocodiles)… It seems as if the family they are speaking of is totally non-existent (hence the challenge of Mr Darcy where actually the ‘château’ of the Cesrisays is, in an attempt to disclose Amanda), but as Lady Catherine is desperate not to disappoint the rest of her public, she makes out to know them and makes up a story about a duck pond instead of looking ridiculous herself like Darcy at this point. Darcy is out to ridicule Amanda, but she has now obviously, with the help of Wickham, acquired the right manner of introducing herself and the right façade, as indicated by the fan in front of her face. It is then that the buttress comes into play. We see Caroline Bingley playing at the piano, but she is playing a very appropriate song of Mozart:

Lied der Freiheit (1785)

Wer unter eines Mädchens Hand
Sich als ein Sklave schmiegt,
Und, von der Liebe festgebannt,
In schnöden Fesseln liegt:
Weh dem! Der ist ein armer Wicht,
Er kennt die gold’ne Freiheit nicht.

Wer sich um Fürstengunst und Rang
Mit saurem Schweiß bemüht,
Und, eingespannt, sein Leben lang,
Am Pflug des Staates zieht:
Weh dem! Der ist ein armer Wicht,
er kennt die gold’ne Freiheit nicht.

Wer um ein schimmerndes Metall
Dem bösen Mannon dient,
Und seiner vollen Säcke Zahl
Nur zu vermehren sinnt:
Weh dem! Der ist ein armer Wicht,
Er kennt die gold’ne Freiheit nicht.

Doch wer dies alles leicht entbehrt,
Wonach der Thor nur strebt,
Und froh bei seinem eignen Herd

Nur sich, nicht Andern lebt:
Der ist’s allein der sagen kann,
Wohl mir! Ich bin ein freier Mann.

Song of Freedom (1785)

He, who under a girl's hand
nestles himelf as a slave
And who, fixed by love,
lies in disdainful chains:
Alas! He is a poor wretch,
He does not know golden Freedom.

He, who for king's favour and rank
Labours in sour sweat,
and his whole life long, fixedly,
pulls state's plough:
Alas! He is a poor wretch,
He does not know golden Freedom.

He who for glittering metal
serves the wicked Mammon
and only seeks
to increase the amount in his full bags:
Alas! He is a poor wretch,
He does not know golden Freedom.

But he who can easily do without all his,
for which only Thor strives,
and can sit happily by his own hearth,
living only for himself and not for others:
He it is alone who can say
Good on me! I am a free man.

It is interesting that we hear Caroline end the first verse (Weh dem! Der ist ein armer Wicht. Er kennt die gold’ne Freiheit nicht.) as it turns out, after which we hear her start the second verse about ‘king’s favour and rank’. The third verse about money oddly she skips, or maybe not so oddly, as money is not really there for Darcy to be increased as he has already enough. Society is mainly about marrying people of the same fortune and so of the same status. When Caroline starts the last verse, Darcy starts to speak about people out of society who repel him. When Caroline starts on the two last verses: Der ist’s allein der sagen kann, Wohl mir! Ich bin ein freier Mann, Amanda starts about the buttresses. Mr Collins had intimated that ‘Lady Catherine’s buttresses are the talk of the county‘ and Amanda now asks Darcy, stating that she is not experienced in architecture, but that… It is then that Darcy looses his temper and tells her in a fit of rage that ’[he] know[s] what buttresses are’. It is puzzling what is so bad about buttresses. But we can easily see what Andrews meant, combining the song with the buttresses. Indeed, the people in society are like a house with buttresses: they cannot stand on their own, they cannot have an occupation because ‘[they] must be seen to be unoccupied’, they need to be supported by the others in society to be in society. In other words, probably also figuratively, Lady Catherine’s buttresses might be the talk of the county as she is a reference in society, and her acquaintance is to be sought by everyone… Is it this what Darcy gets when he looses his temper? and is it that which fascinates him in Amanda? Her lack of understanding of society which renders her free to do and say what she wants (kicking Collins in the balls for saying that her society is revolting) without herself being aware of it in the least. With on the background the last two verses, we can certainly see that. He suddenly realises that he indeed is not a free man, despite the fact he professes it to be ‘free society’ in which Jane was not forced to marry Collins. He realises that he is too much ruled by this society and that that compelled him to make his friend unhappy and that society no doubt approved of a marriage to Collins, despite the unpleasantness of Mr Collins himself.

It is also at this time that Mr Bennet decides to sleep in his library out of protest against Jane’s marriage. When Mrs Bennet says she will take Lydia ‘to observe a happy marriage’ at Rosings, he yells that ‘[he] will prance Lady Catherine’s drawing room naked’ if she can find one happy marriage there. And that is indeed what the case is: people who care too much about peripheral things will not be able to choose their partners rightly and according to their own tastes. Darcy is doomed to be unhappy, until he finally gives in to himself and leaves society for what it is. But there might be more in Mr Bennet’s rebellion: the first verse of Caroline’s song is about men who have themselves ruled by love, lowering themselves as slaves. In the second episode, Mr Bennet intimates to Amanda that he was married because of beauty. She asks him not to let Jane marry Collins, but he says that ‘as far as [he] can allow anything th[at] household’ he will do his best to prevent a marriage between Jane and Collins and have his daughters marry for love. In other words, the poor man is indeed ruled by his wife, and cannot even oppose a marriage he disapproves of. And it is probably the anger at himself that he projects on his wife, escaping into his library.

And then: the third dialogue between Darcy and Amanda. A dialogue of desperation from his side, as it will turn out. He comes to Mr Collins’s house to have a talk with Amanda (like the original man and Firth’s Darcys came for their first proposal):

Darcy: I am… concerned
Amanda: I don’t understand.
Darcy: You came to this house, knowing that you’d be brought to Lady Catherine’s, knowing I would be there, knowing full well the abysmal disregard in which I hold you. Why, if I am, as you insist, so relentlessly unpleasant to you, do you persist in seeking me out?
Amada: I didn’t… seek you out! You came to me.
Darcy: Why?
Amanda: I don’t know.
Darcy: You must know. I do not, and my lack of comprehension is dementing me. (turns away in total disgust/desperation)
Amanda: Mrs Collins needs me, good night.
Darcy: (takes her by the shoulders as if to kiss her)
Amanda: You’re quite sure this is what you mean to do?
Darcy: (looks totally puzzled for a few seconds and then runs out of the house)

It is here for the first time that he nearly gives in to his feelings. As Collin Firth’s Darcy, he has come to the house in total emotional chaos, and does not know half what he is going to do or is doing. Firth’s Darcy and the original Mr Darcy indeed came with a plan, but they were still not through with their contempt for Elizabeth’s connections who were ‘so decidedly below [their] own’. Cowan’s Darcy does not at all come with the plan of asking for Amanda’s hand in marriage but comes, ironically, to ask her why he is in love with her, why he could possibly love a savage like her, unpolished by society. It is that what puzzles him, and it is that what is ‘dementing’ him: his own self that he has no longer under control. It is the real him that Amanda could not get at, and that he did not believe he had, his own human nature that is the same as Amanda’s. However, she, like him, still protests her human nature that is secretly in love with Darcy (as all women are), but that does not want to be.

Amanda has now totally left the door alone, as she cannot get to it in the Bennets’ house. And she is about to accept her role In the story, and her own human nature, as will Darcy. But first, she will make out not to be as unpolished as he thought… During the card game, Bingley, who is in emotional turmoil because of Darcy essentially, bets his watch with a nave. Amanda, hesitating whether she should actually claim the watch, cannot take a decision as ruthless Lady Catherine rips the king out of her hand and claims the watch for her. There, Amanda takes a split-second decision and impresses Darcy with her ‘practice-game’, which essentially restores the watch to Bingley. In addition, Collins humours Lady Catherine and lets her win despite having a card that seems high enough to beat hers… And Lady Catherine cheats, looking into other people’s cards, as Mrs Bennet reproaches her afterwards in episode 4. But as she is high up in society, she does that without having reproaches come her way, because that would be offending her…
Lady Catherine then warns Amanda for wanting Darcy. She answers she does not want him, but ‘what [she] want[s] frightens [her] to death. That is why [she] fail[s] to comprehend [her]self.’ And that is indeed what is going on in both Darcy and Amanda’s heads: they are scared of what they want and do not have the strength to step out of their normality. That is why they both deny what they want to themselves, why they do not comprehend their on wishes and are continuously wondering at their own feelings.

It is also then that for the first time Bingley reproaches Darcy for thrashing his happiness and Jane’s. After this reproach from his own friend, Darcy admits being wrong about obstructing Jane and Bingley’s relationship and invites Amanda to Pemberley together with Mrs Bennet and Lydia. They go, and as in Austen’s original and the 1995 adaptation, Amanda gazes at Pemberley in wonder. Unlike Lady Catherine’s mansion, which has a gothic inside, and obviously a gothic outside too as it has buttresses, Darcy’s Pemberley stands on its own in a beautiful valley. As in both the 1995 adaptation and the original, this could also be a foreshadowing of what Darcy is now: a man who stands on his own, a man who knows what he wants.

It is at Pemberley that he will finally yield to his own feelings and where Amanda will also understand why ‘[her] need open[ed] the door’ as she meets him looking over a large lake:

Darcy: (takes Amanda by the shoulders) Amanda! That means ‘she who must be loved’.
Amanda: You must not… You must not.
D: Wherefore must I not? Who is to judge us? I laboured so long in the service of propriety!
A: Elizabeth! I am not Elizabeth! The entire world will hate me.
D: Were that true, Amanda, I’d fight the world. You are the one I love!
A: Will you do something for me?
D: (goes into the pond, similar to the 1995 adaptation)
A: I am having a bit of a strange post-modern moment here.
D: Is that agreeable?
A: Oh, yes! Yes!
D: (starts to get out of the pond)
A: Oh, please, please, stay there! If you touch me again, I will be completely unable to say what I want to say. You love me. Which one of me do you love? The one you first met when I was spiky, and vulgar and I argued with you all the time? But you looked at me and felt all that abysmal disregard? Or the one I’ve been recently? Simpering and fanning, and, trying so hard to fit in? Please, tell me you’ve noticed the difference!
D: I’ve found both incarnations of your character equally disagreeable and yet, I love you, Amanda Price. With all my heart.
(they hear a noise in the background)
A: Ignore that. Please.
D: I cannot. (gets out of the pond) When my duties are discharged, I shall find you, Amanda, for there is more to say. If only the same words over and again. (walks off)

A: (alone) I love him! I love Fitzwilliam Darcy! I love him! Maybe that’s what’s meant to happen. (looks over the lake) I am like an understudy: the star has failed to turn up, and I have to go on and do the show!

Darcy has now totally yielded to his feelings, although he still finds the ‘incarnations of [her] character disagreeable’ and yet, he does not seem to mind anymore because he has long enough ‘laboured in the service of propriety’. As it seems, this force, which is ironically symbolised in the ‘post-modern’ pond-scene, is not only taking place in the minds of Amanda and Darcy, but also in Mrs Bennet who is crying in the garden at both her and Jane’s marriage. Although she still professes that we have to endure our lives, she is already aware of the fact that neither her own marriage is a good one, nor Jane’s, although they were made ‘in service of propriety’. At the same time, Bingley is totally through with Darcy and is so angry with him, he hits him regretting it afterwards. As Mrs Bennet was angry with Amanda before, like Darcy was, we might presume that Bingley’s anger with Darcy stems from the same problem: his own failure to stand on his own two feet and to decide for himself. That is at least what he intimated in episode 2: ‘It is not that I am especially weak, but that my friend is strong. He construes truly where others faulter. I am a faulterer, I rely on his construction.’ Had Bingley not trusted Darcy so much, and looked for himself, he had married Jane. Therefore he now blames the wrong man, in an attempt not to have to blame himself.

But, clouds gather in the sky as ‘smirking, conniving bumface’ Caroline attempts to break Darcy’s engagement by advising him to get to know Amanda a little better. When it comes to maidenhood, of course, Amanda cannot beat Caroline. And so, indeed, Amanda has a talk with Darcy:

Darcy: (stands visibly emotional looking at his grounds, still the blood at his nose visible because of Bingley’s blow)
Amanda: What happened?
D: Mr Bingley and I have been chatting. Miss Price, my life… is a pretty drear thing. But, it is conducted for the greater part in public. It is a rare moment that I am not closely observed by servants. If one is to know the truth about Fitzwilliam Darcy, one need merely ask.
A: You worry that I have a past, that you don’t know about?
D: I embrace(d?) the truth. Pray, tell it me.
A: Ok, what I should do, my mother would certainly say I should do, if she were here, and thank God she isn’t, is keep my mouth shut. But, given that I’ve never been able to do that, and given that Caroline has almost certainly put it about that I am the great whore of Hammersmith… But you’d never listen to gossip, would you? I love you for that. And that’s the thing, I love you. I didn’t know that… I didn’t know that. It is clear to me now that I’ve always loved you. Every time I’ve fallen for a man, I’ve closed my eyes and it’s been you! Even Michael, and I’ve pretty much lived with him for a year! So yes… I have a past, but every instant in it contains you! Everything I am belongs to you.
D: (distraught) I cannot marry you. I am sorry for it. But a man like me cannot marry a woman like you.
A: A woman like me?
D: You are not a maid.
A: (cries)
D: I am sorry. (gives her a handkerchief still with his blood on it)
A: I’ve been incredibly stupid.
D: You told me the truth and I asked for it. For that courage, I shall admire you always.
A: But it has cost me everything!
D: It has cost that of us both.

Here, Caroline not only accomplishes her purpose (breaking up Darcy’s engagement), but Andrews also puts in the very essence of Amanda’s need: ‘Every time I’ve fallen for a man, I’ve closed my eyes and it’s been you! … I have a past, but every instant in it contains you! Everything I am belongs to you.’ Indeed, she has always been wanting Darcy, not another, like all women actually might not be in want of exactly Darcy, but with all the things Darcy is: a gentleman. Sadly, this section also highlights the fact that society has only been that much be thrown away. Ok, Darcy does not mind her unpolishedness, but not a maid, that is not… not possible. That idea has been rooted so deeply in him, that he cannot marry her. Despite the fact that we might presume that Amanda is more disappointed and sad than Darcy, he intimates that it costs him everything, like to Amanda. And indeed, it does cost him a great deal. Like Firth’s Darcy, Cowan’s Darcy gives up a great love for his principles, but is that the case? Firth’s Darcy took a plunge to clean himself of his prejudices; Cowan’s Darcy has already taken a plunge, surely, or has he? As Firth’s Darcy, Cowan’s Darcy has partly yielded to his feelings: he loves Amanda/Elizabeth and so be it, he will marry her, despite her unpolishedness/low connections, but there is still their pride to be conquered for both Darcys (for Firth’s Darcy relative to Elizabeth’s connections and for Cowan’s Darcy relative to Amanda’s maidenhood). So, although Cowan’s Darcy took a plunge, it was not really a plunge, and this first proposal stands on the same level as the first proposal in Collins house in both Pride and Prejudice the book and the 1995 adaptation. Darcy partly yields but not totally. There is still work to be done.

Amanda now looses it totally and tears her copy of Pride and Prejudice up, throws the pages in the air and prepares to leave. At this point Caroline intimates that she is also a lesbian and that everyone expects her to marry Darcy (including God) and that she will do that, but that the physical society of men does not excite her. She has heard of Amanda’s ‘secret’…This is not the only surprising twist from Andrews doing. Georgiana was also not seduced by Wickham! On the contrary, Georgiana’s nurse fell in love with him and arranged to meet him regularly. An action for which Georgiana served as cover. Every time her nurse had her back turned, she offered herself to Wickham, but he didn’t want to have any of it. To take revenge on him, Georgiana told her brother, Darcy, that Wickham had ‘ravished’ her (in other words, had sex with her). Obviously, Darcy cannot see that in his warped vision of society, which classes women as certainly not equal and would straight away blame the man for doing something like ravishing. That a woman would offer herself to a man is totally unthinkable. It is equally unthinkable that there were women who were lesbians, yet there must have been… But more on that later… At the same time, though, Georgiana is not cast off if Wickham keeps his mouth shut and that is what happens… As such, he suffers his honour and status to be reduced because he protects Georgiana…

When Darcy finds the copy of Pride and Prejudice in his fountain, he is disgusted to find himself in it and all kinds of ‘improbable’ things that happen in it. He now confuses Amanda with Austen, who she is definitely not, but what is definitely so is that he is too much busy with propriety instead of himself and what he wants. He wanted to marry Amanda, yet he decides not to, because she is not a maid. He decides to discourage Bingley’s affection for Jane because she has no money. It is confusing for him to have to do away with everything he has learned that is proper and so he goes forward in spurts and then goes back in his steps… He is clearly not yet rid of his prejudices, so he has not yet swum in his pond, unlike we are all inclined to think… Amanda says it in a very powerful way: ‘You’re so incandescent with integrity that you misjudge everyone. You misjudge me.’ Incandescent can also refer to being unbelievably angry, incandescent meaning shining with light. Indeed, Darcy desperately wants to shine with integrity, even to the point of being angry with himself, but does not understand that integrity can sometimes mean not to stay true to others, but rather trust oneself. And that is also what Amanda needs to do.

At least Amanda’s struggle is now over and she understands what the matter was with her: she has loved Darcy from the start and needs to find a man like that. That will be the only solution for her problem: to follow her standards. And this is where episode 3 concludes: Wickham redeemed, Caroline a lesbian, Bingley drunk, Georgiana a head-strong girl, Amanda and Darcy engaged and single again, Jane and Collins still married…

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