Monday, 8 June 2009

Lost in Austen, an analysis (4/4)

Episode 4 starts with the acknowledgement of Amanda, that never seeing Darcy again is the worst she will have to endure. Like she thought, and like it was clear to everyone, Darcy asks Caroline’s hand in marriage, although not without regret judging by his look… At this time, though, the most interesting part starts, both of the book and 1995 adaptation: Lydia runs off. This time not with Wickham (because he is an honourable guy now…) but with Bingley, who is sick of society. The two have learned a great deal of Miss Price and desire to get away from it all to go and learn in her place of abode: Hammersmith. Of course, not realising that the Hammersmith Amanda comes from is not the Hammersmith that they will go to…

Here for a first time we see discontent from Jane’s side about her father for whom ‘‘tis time he rose from his chair to do something for the good of the family’. Darcy is shocked, and obviously feels guilty, despite the fact that he does not want to tell Amanda that. But she sums it up for him: ‘You do whatever the hell you want, and afterwards call it principle.’ And she reproaches him that he and Caroline are made for each other… It was also no doubt principle from Caroline’s side to break his engagement up?

So, Mrs Bennet and Amanda return to Longbourn and meet Mr Collins’s three brothers: Probity, Elysium and Tinkler or Cymbal. Probity meaning integrity, Elysium being the place where the virtuous and heroes go after death, and Cymbal/Tinkler being derived from St Pauls first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 1 (Love, the best way for all): ‘I may speak in tongues of men or of angels, but if I am without love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’ Or so at least it is according to Mr Collins. Although, with later Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies popping up, and Tinkler amusing himself with his trousers, we might be more inclined to think that Tinkler is a reference to something more concealed in the days of Austen… But more on that later… The allusion to St Paul’s letter is not so very far-fetched though as it is a text about the use of love: that one can surely do everything right, but that one is nothing without love; although one has money, belief and what-not, one is nothing without love. The three greatest things are faith, hope and love and the most important of the three is love. This is what Amanda is continuously searching for and what the others miss. Indeed, they live according to the principles evoked in the three brothers: Integrity (Probity), the after-life (Elysium) and without love (Cymbal), integrity being the most important. However, the three brothers are at the same time ridiculous (as in Austen’s satire), as Probity is sleeping, Elysium is drugged and Cymbal, as said before, amuses himself with his trousers. Integrity is indeed not real integrity if one is forced to be a certain way because of others, thus real integrity could be called asleep. Elysium is not a place where virtuous and heroes go if virtuousness and heroism are forced upon them. Cymbal, as it is used in 1 Corinthians 13:1 is not at all positive, but rather negative. As such, Andrews certainly gives a message in the three brothers.

After a little pause in which Mr Bennet decides to read a book instead of wanting to go and look for Lydia, Amanda can still persuade him to do something about Lydia’s honour and all three (Mr and Mrs Bennet and Amanda) leave for Hammersmith, where Bingley and Lydia have gone. There, they find not Amanda’s place as that is locked up because her parents Reginald and Nora have gone to Bath (something that Wickham has invented as an excuse), but Lydia and Bingley in the Jerusalem Inn… As they find them, they find Bingley making a spear like the ‘noble savage’ of Rousseau (this erroneously though), the fundamentally good person that has been corrupted by society and lost his skills because of it . Lydia, on the other hand is ‘bored’, by the lack of society as it seems… Darcy then turns up, making an excuse to save his friend, but Bingley protests it. Mr Bennet now challenges Bingley to a duel, Bingley who notably defends himself with his spear instead of a sword. Mr Bennet ends up hitting his head on the mantelpiece with great bleeding as a consequence. Despite Darcy sending for his physician ‘who will be [t]here within the hour’, Wickham saves the day with a woman who stitches Mr Bennet up.

Amanda now feels an urge to see Elizabeth, and passes through the door of the Jerusalem Inn through the door of a mobile toilet on a building site into modern day Hammersmith again. Her need now opened the door again. We might think she would feel at ease, but oddly enough she looks puzzled and does not know what to do. People are so touched by it, they hand her money as if she were begging and destitute. Nevertheless, she takes up the thread again and goes to her apartment, where she finds Michael who asks her where she has been, has apparently sent 75 texts and spoken 1,5 hours of voicemail so far. We could say that at last now she knows he cares… He has also sold his Bughatti to procure a holiday to Barbados, which was originally meant to be a honeymoon (aaah), but which will now serve as a normal holiday, as marriage seems out of the question. On his new motorcycle they decide to go and see Elizabeth who has become a nanny to the children of Dr and Mr Rosenberg. When Amanda and her boyfriend are sitting on the bike, she suddenly sees a very strange tableau In the modern streets of Hammersmith: on the side of the road, at the traffic lights, she sees Darcy she thought she had just left in the Jerusalem Inn; she sees a man, looking a little like her before: scared, lost and totally unaware of where he is, destitute; a man in need of help. She orders Michael to stop and runs to him, and it is then that he admits his mistake:

Amanda: You followed me?
Darcy: Are my wits disordered by opium? What is this dreadful place?
A: This is London, my London.
D: I will tell you this Miss Price, and it is true: the assembly rooms at Meryton. I danced with you, not in order to spare my friend, because I wanted to dance with you. Our entire acquaintance has been informed by my refusal to acknowledge this. But I have been blinded by pride. Charles, Georgiana, Wickham, you. I was calamitously mistaken in my judgment of you all. A fellow less big-headed would have realised from the start that what I felt for you was… What I felt for you was… love. I love you. I followed you to this infernal place because I would follow you anywhere. I would hallow hell to be with you.
A: What about Caroline?
D: I do not care enough to marry Caroline Bingley.
A: Do not tell me she is not a maid.
D: Of course she is a maid. I cannot marry her because I do not love her. I love you.
A: Ok, before we go any further there is someone you have to meet… right now, take my hand.

This dialogue stands on the same level as the dialogue in the original and the 1995 adaptation where Darcy proposes for the second time and pours his heart out. Cowan’s Darcy now admits to his pride, which provoked bad judgment and professes to love Amanda finally. Thus, he throws his buttresses off and like Firth’s Darcy, has swum in his pond. He has now washed himself of pride and prejudice, unlike what we were inclined to believe when he went literally into the pond according to the wishes of Amanda, swimming in the modern world, via the door that ‘[his] need’ obviously opens. He needs to become helpless, destitute with no buttresses or references at all in order to acknowledge that he loves Amanda.

Together Darcy and Amanda cross London on the bus to go and see Elizabeth. It is here that Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies comes into play: on the bus, there is a child reading a book Tinky Winky Counts. When they turn up at Elizabeth’s place (or the Rosenbergs’ place) Darcy looks to the side, to a pile of rubbish at the door (which was obviously Elizabeth’s doing) and says: ‘The gentleman on the Bath chair, I have seen his likeness’, he picks up the Teletubby and says: ‘Tinky Winky’. Very funny, certainly when we see the controversy about Tinky Winky a few years ago: Tinky Winky had been found gay by an American minister because of the red magic bag that looks like a woman’s handbag (purple boy + handbag + reversed triangle = gay). The controversy went so far that children’s psychologists were needed to calm the people down about possible subliminal messages about homosexuality in the Teletubbies. The fact that Tinky Winky is professed to sit on a Bath chair by Darcy, could be called an indication of Andrews about the restraint of Regency Society: a Bath chair namely looks the same as a three-wheel buggy, and that was obviously what stood at the door of the Rosenbergs (Elizabeth not knowing what the hell to do with it), but the thing was not used for babies in those days, the thing was used to bring invalids to the baths in Bath (hence its name Bath chair, maybe also given due to its shape as old-fashioned bathtub). As Tinky Winky is sitting on a Bath chair, might we suppose that ‘he couldn’t’, like Caroline professes that she will marry Darcy despite not wanting men in her life emotionally at all, she ‘can’t’ be lesbian ? Mr Collins’s brother Tinkler might also be a reference to Tinky Winky. He at least amuses himself with his trousers, as does his brother by the way, who has notably a very clear red handkerchief that could refer to Tinky Winky’s red magic bag... Why, is the question. However, the verb ‘tinkle’ can also mean ‘urinate’, so the connection between the male part and Collins might be the reason why Lydia bursts out laughing at the name when it is first introduced. But, nonetheless Tinky Winky on the Bath chair highlights a certain problem as to love referenced in St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: ‘I am nothing without love’, yet for lesbians, gays and cross-class couples, there was no possibility to love, because it was inappropriate. They were invalids, as they were not allowed to love. The controversy with Tinky Winky being gay highlighted the fact that our society is not yet freed from gay-fear and is more restrained in that respect than we’d like to admit. However, gays are certainly better off now than then. Furthermore, the Teletubbies live in an ideal world where everything just seems to happen: they get ‘Tubby Custard’ from a mysterious machine. Where actually the custard is made is the question. In the real world, babies also get fed custard, made by their mummy. Whether they know that, is the question. They are also ordered to go to sleep, which they do nicely. In a certain sense, Darcy’s and the rest’s existence is also a little mysterious. Maybe even more so than ours, as they did not know about evolution, and their existence as rich people was given by God (‘there is no accident in birth’). Essentially they also live in a world ‘where everything just happens’. However, Amanda just might have perceived it as a little too ideal a world, where we like to escape. Not a real world, where people lived and had their own worries. In that, the Teletubby-land that she had in her head, does not really exist and Darcy calls it ‘a pretty drear thing’. Naturally, as one is always observed by servants, one does not have a private life… Nor can he occupy himself with anything at all. It is not the land of Milk and Honey, apparently, but so is neither Amanda’s own land (Hammersmith) of which Bingley and Lydia thought the same.

On the other hand, the Teletubbies seem happy, despite the fact that they have to do certain things… But is that not the case because they do not ask themselves whether they want that ‘Tubby Custard’ or whether they want to sleep? Mrs Bennet was also ‘happy’ in her marriage, Mr Bennet was at ease in his library, Darcy was ‘what [he] [was]’ and Caroline did not at all seem to regret having to marry Darcy in spite of being a lesbian. It is only because they start asking themselves what they want and why they can’t get it (by admiring Amanda), that they start to be unhappy. So it was for Amanda, too, when she read Pride and Prejudice for the first time…

When Amanda and Darcy go into the Rosenbergs’ place, Elizabeth takes Tinky Winky from Darcy and they pass into the living room-kitchen, where all appliances are on: the stereo, the TV (without sound, Clementi on the background) with a music program on, the iron, the cooker, the hood above it, the laptop… (This ludicrous scene compels us to ask ourselves the question whether all those appliances are really needed… Whether it is not ‘skill that we have forfeited’ because of society. Certainly when we acknowledge that we are now obsessed with our foot-print) When Darcy is strangely interested in the iron, Amanda calls him by name to prevent him from burning himself and Elizabeth recognises the name. She shouts out: ‘You are my husband!’ Darcy is puzzled, but professes ‘not [to] recall marrying [her]’. She then proceeds looking it up on the laptop and accesses a page Collin Firth-Darcy, but the page above is titled ‘The Darcy-obsession’. Elizabeth and Darcy, in ‘a strange post-modern moment’ as it seems, stare together into the laptop, she strangely informing him about himself, and probably herself also taken in the meantime with the type of man Darcy is (‘The Darcy-obsession’), given that at the start she did not know of a man called Darcy. When she hears of her father, she orders a taxi by credit card and, when they are about to get into the taxi, Michael shows up. A modern duel breaks out between Darcy and Michael, the latter hitting him with his fist, clearly wanting to display his manhood, where Darcy equally gets angry at the sight of Michael ‘lay[ing] violent hands upon Miss Price’. After a separation by Amanda they all return to the door in the bathroom of her apartment. She orders Elizabeth to return to Regency England with Darcy, but the door does not ‘oblige’. When Amanda touches it, however, it does open, but slams shut at Elizabeth. So indeed, Amanda is more in need than Elizabeth to leave the modern world. Michael now threatens Amanda with leaving her if she goes through the door. This however, Amanda does not take and asks him to stop with the macho-behaviour. When he tells her again, she does go through the door, because Darcy ‘will be beaten up’ in modern day London.

When they pass through the door, Darcy professes an amazing urge to sleep and asks for a bed. Further on, Elizabeth and Amanda talk about Charlotte who has left for Africa after the proposal of Collins did not take place. She has also escaped to ‘downtown’ as it seems, or at least to a place where they would go ‘if life became irreparably miserable and lonely.’ That was at least what Charlotte and Elizabeth agreed when they were children…

During that night, Amanda slips into the room of Darcy and sees him holding a letter. He however does not want to loose possession of it and grabs it firmer in his hand when Amanda tries to take it. Instead, she kisses him. In the morning he asks to leave immediately as he had ‘a bad dream’. Elizabeth tells Amanda he is ‘insufferably rude’, but Amanda tells her it is her duty to try. That is not what Elizabeth meant, however, because ‘[she] [is] altered by what [she] ha[s] seen’. Amanda says that about Darcy as well, ‘but he does not remember’ in her view and puts it down to a bad dream. So Elizabeth and Darcy walk in the garden, while she explains the nature of St John’s wort (a means against depression) and tells him that ‘it is important to call the thing by its proper name, however fiendish’. Darcy professes to do his duty, although he does not know why it is his duty (in his own words) to love Elizabeth and invites her to Pemberley to explain the types of wort in his own meadows and to meet his sister.

Now, of course, Lady Catherine arrives to tell off someone… First she addresses Mrs Bennet who has done nothing to promote the matches between her daughters and Mr Collins’s brothers. This however Mrs Bennet does not buy and, while her husband is ‘dying’ in the couch, she says to Lady Catherine: ‘You are a prig, madam, a pander, a common bully. And you cheat at cards!’ She further threatens to scrape out the pigs trough with Lady Catherine. Mr Bennet, impressed at his wife, shouts out in utter amazement: ‘Tally ho, wife!’ and decides to sleep in the bedroom again. When Mr Collins tries to asks his wife Jane why her mother is speaking like that, she tells him off as well: ‘Oh, be quiet you silly man!’ Why would her sisters possibly marry his brothers if they have seen him? Lady Catherine now understands that there is only one person to blame for this rebellion: Amanda. And she speaks to her in the garden, wanting to make a bargain with her: Amanda will leave Regency society and what does she want for that? We all know what she wants: Jane and Collins’s marriage broken up so the first is free to marry Bingley. Lady Catherine then asks whether the marriage was consummated (an essential reason for annulment). Indeed, it was not consummated, because Mr Collins was going through ‘a period of abstinence’ (would this have anything to do with his trouser pocket and his red handkerchief?). And Lady Catherine professes to occupy herself with the annulment just for her own amusement… She further orders Darcy to leave.

Although we might now think that Jane will be over the moon, she again addresses the fact of society: ‘[she] will be despoiled’ and ‘will be the woman who couldn’t inspire her husband to consummate his marriage.’ That is sad in itself and Bingley will not want her. But here, Bingley professes to be ‘through with [society]’ and to want to take her to America. Whether that is really the continent America is doubtful in my opinion, as he there speaks a references to Elegy XIX of John Donne (our ‘new-found-land’ and ‘license my roving hands’ ‘and so forth’):

Elegy XIX
To his Mistress going to Bed

Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tir'd with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's Zone glittering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th'eyes of busy fools may be stopt there.
Unlace your self, for that harmonious chime,
Tells me from you, that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envie,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beautious state reveals,
As when from flow'ry meads th'hills shadow steals.
Off with that wiry Coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then softly tread
In this, love's hallow'd temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven's Angels us'd to be
Receiv'd by men: thou Angel bringst with thee?
A heaven like Mahomet's Paradice, and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we eas'ly know,
By this these Angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
License my roving hands, and let them go,
Behind, before, above, between, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man man'd,
My mine of precious stones: my emperie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth'd must be,
To taste whole joyes. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta's balls, cast in mens views,
That when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them:
Like pictures or like books gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus array'd.
Themselves are mystick books, which only wee
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see rever'd. Then since that I may know;
As liberally, as to a midwife show
Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.
To teach thee I am naked first; why than,
What needst thou have more covering then a man?

As much as this may be about America, it is certainly as much about the woman. Or as much as it is about the discovery of America, it is certainly as much about the discovery of Donne’s mistress in her naked state. For a poem of 1699, it is unbelievably erotic. In Bingley’s context, I don’t think the place where they are going is the continent America. Although, the idea would fit in the concept of a new society where people are freer and not judged by their acquaintance like in the home-country. Society changes people, and thus they will be much freer than when they stay in England. Free to ‘have 25 children’ and to ‘name them all Amanda, even the boys’. But it is doubtful that Andrews would have ended the story wrongly, as he is very respectful towards the original. His ‘other’ Elizabeth takes the place of Darcy’s wife and so the end of Pride and Prejudice stays upright. Essentially, letting Jane and Bingley go to America is a little far from the original end. As Jane goes from puzzling at America to laughing at the idea, we might just suppose she red the poem as well…

After this problem is solved, Amanda indeed withdraws from society: she will go back to modern Hammersmith. She opens the door, now free to go as she now knows what she wants, but a little letter falls from the latch: the metro-bus ticket Darcy had in his hand that night, with written on it at the back: ‘Not one heartbeat do I forget’. While Amanda drives in a carriage, Elizabeth asks her father what she has to do, stay or go back to Hammersmith. Her father admits to his childishness and tells her it is time he behaved as an adult in adult clothes and stopped clinging to his daughter. This seals obviously the deal: she will go back. There is only one place Amanda can be going now: she arrives at Pemberley where Darcy is looking over his grounds as a Darcy does.

Darcy: Miss Price.
Amanda: Yes. We should celebrate. You asked me a question, I answered it and we didn’t have an argument about it.
D: I did not ask you a question. I made an observation. ‘Miss Price’. The confirmation of your identity, was entirely superfluous. As a result we are now arguing about it. And therefore, you are wrong. (smiles)
A: That’s so sweet. You’re actually trying to make me laugh!
D: Yes. It shall not occur again. (smiles further)
A: And you’re smiling.
D: Nono. I only smile in private, when nobody is looking. (they kiss)

After his sleep, which we might define as a sleep of Sleeping Beauty (a transformation which requires so much energy as to offer no energy anymore for interaction, notably also kissed by his true love!), he acknowledges the unimportance of her non-virginity. When he took his plunge into the modern world, he saw a totally different society, where there is something as gay people, women with a career (Dr Rosenberg and her husband), where ‘negroes’ walk on busses, where women walk around less covered than in his idea, have short hair like men… Elizabeth was changed by that experience, but Darcy also as he has not forgotten or done it away as a bad dream. He does not forget a heartbeat and as such, was also changed by his plunge into the pool of modern society… Firth’s Darcy jumped in his pond to do away with his pride and to be able to respect his in-laws, Cowan’s Darcy jumps into the mobile toilet to do away also with that pride of his. Pride that did not allow him to acknowledge his love for Amanda, pride that did, after that, prevent him from marrying her because she was not a maid, pride that did not allow him to look further than the polished surface of human nature. He would have condemned himself to Caroline (a lesbian conniving bumface) because of that pride. He was also condemning Bingley and Wickham. By looking into his grounds, like Firth’s Darcy, he addresses his human nature, trying to find it back under the layer of society’s polish. Now, he can truly love Amanda. As Elizabeth’s understudy, she is swapped and takes her rightful place.

Amanda, after she leaves Pemberley the first time has succeeded in her struggle and knows what is the matter with her. She has indeed standards. Too bad if the rest of the world cannot have that. It is normal, it is what she wants.

Despite our rights, and our duties which rights imply, we as women have not changed. We still want love, as do men, because without love we are nothing as humans. We can now choose not to stay virgins, we can now choose to leave our husbands, but we can still not be happy without that love and we need it. Secretly we all dream of Darcy and why? Because he is caring, loving and lovely. It is not really ‘Collin Firth in clingy pants’ (the man will be happy to hear that), but it is the personality and mannerisms of Darcy we like. His struggle with himself to get the woman he loves.

To a certain extent Cowan’s Darcy was a little realer than Firth’s Darcy, which Andrews implied in Darcy’s anger at Pride and Prejudice. As Amanda says it in the beginning: ‘they changed his head with make-up’. Firth’s Darcy was the Darcy from the original which everyone fell in love with, the tormented man who swims in his pond. But the man was also rather a type, not a real man, unlike Wentworth who could be called a Darcy more advanced in wholeness of character. Cowan’s Darcy did not need bushy hair, a black horse and dark clothing to be a whole tormented man. Like Wentworth, Cowan’s Darcy has more nuances to himself, giving himself a character buried under restraint fixed by society. It must be what normal people have, and what the man Darcy was inspired on would have had, but it is something missing in Pride and Prejudice. Naturally, because the novel expresses Elizabeth’s views and therefore does not give a full portrait of Darcy as he does not show himself as a whole at first. Wentworth in that respect is much more nuanced and as such ‘realer’ as a character, which Austen’s age when she created him could have to do something with. So was Cowan’s Darcy who is portrayed unsympathetically by modern standards at the start (not looking at the people he speaks to, never smiling, being rather abrupt) and whose frustration and interest is apparent from the start by facial expression. Firth’s Darcy also had facial expressions (that is why we love him), but he was a little softer of character and a little more vulnerable in a typically early romantic way. By giving Cowan’s Darcy a bigger role (more conversations with Amanda), he comes across as arrogant in the beginning (‘I am always stark with liars.’). It is arrogance, though, that is indispensible in the society he lives, but which is repelling to us now. Firth’s Darcy was very early romantic in nature (struggle on an individual level), where Cowan’s Darcy was a little more modern in theme (struggle with the big society in oneself). As such, Cowan is further from Austen’s original, but probably closer to the truth, like he intimates about the impossibility of the things that happen in Pride and Prejudice.

Essentially Andrews carried the satire of Austen through much further than maybe Austen herself had imagined possible. Even with respect to the story of Pride and Prejudice, he carried it to the full. Not only Amanda has a problem with herself that lies under the layer of society, also Darcy, Caroline, Mr and Mrs Bennet are restrained. Only, they don’t know it yet. Until of course, Amanda turns up, for them naturally not restrained which is definitely not true for herself. In a certain way, we could see Elizabeth who gets into the modern world because of ‘[Amanda’s] need’, as the other side of Amanda, the more traditional female side, eventually ending up as nanny (a typical mother-role); the side we admire in those female characters (we all wonder how it would be having Elizabeth’s life). Wickham seems to serve as the same kind of influence as Amanda. He is also one who is not viewed in an ideal light, but certainly has a heart. Although this is not true to the original, it is not impossible that all that happened how Andrews thought of it. Who says that Lydia did not offer herself to Wickham, or even Georgiana? It is because we presume that to be untrue that it is untrue, yet we don’t know. In that, Amanda and Wickham join forces to bring some life into society. It is a fact that Amanda, as she comes from another society, is still less restrained than Wickham. On the other hand Wickham knows much better ‘how things operate’ in the society Amanda has landed into, and so they are an ideal pair. The buttresses have gone from the mansion in the end. And Darcy? He has found nature: as he was before looking at his grounds from the front of his mansion, he is now looking at them from his terrace. He is slowly getting closer, although there is more work to be done apparently at his emotional restraint (‘You are smiling.’ ‘Nono, I only smile in private, when nobody is looking.’)

In carrying Austen’s satire through, Andrews also addressed modern society. Not only Regency society was restrained but today’s society is that too, despite the fact that we don’t notice it and consider ourselves lucky when we watch costume dramas. After all, Darcy professes, ‘this is a free society’. Indeed, he nor Amanda realise that they are subjected to certain influences; they find how they perceive their role in that society as normal. When Amanda reproaches Darcy to be of no use, to ‘have no purpose’, he counters that by saying that ‘[they] must be seen to be unoccupied’. In other words, they must be seen to be able to afford the state of not being occupied. That is why he considers ‘any type of sudden locomotion an example ill-breeding’ and that also includes dancing, shooting, walking, playing cards etc. etc. This could be called the handicap principle, which displays certain behaviour in order to display that one can afford to do that. Notably the peacock’s tail (the very bird that Mr Collins accidentally shot) is such an example: he displays his feathers, rendering himself vulnerable to predators, yet that very principle makes him respectful in the eyes of the peahens. In the meantime this theory in connection with peacocks has been argued against, but it still seems to be significant in Lost in Austen. The class of Darcy ‘must be seen to be unoccupied’ because then can be concluded that they can afford to do that. As a result, Mr Darcy’s life ‘is a pretty drear thing’. Of course, imagine having to do nothing all day, any sudden locomotion is out of the question and there you are, waiting for the day to end… On the other hand, we in our society, cannot be seen to be unoccupied. We must work. If we don’t, we are strange or we cheat the system. So, although we might smile at the idea that Darcy finds that he is living in a free society, we might also smile at our ‘free’ society, because that is not as free as it should be if it were ‘free’. There are certain musts, like in Darcy’s society. Even really rich people, like Darcy, must show their face in this day and age, because otherwise they ‘have no purpose’. Amanda’s reproach was embedded in our perception of use and obsoleteness. In his society, though, Darcy cannot occupy himself because of society, Amanda cannot unoccupy herself because of society… So both are as restrained as each other, although without realising it themselves… Also Michael with his Bughatti is subject to the handicap principle as it displays himself as being able to afford an expensive car, so he is ‘fit to be a mate’. The same as the peacock who shows his feathers: he has survived possible attacks and is more fit to be a mate.

The scene with the appliances is also very judging towards our society… Piranha later professes to be black and not to be able to live ‘without chocolate, electricity or bog paper’ (toilet role). Not the black bit is worrying, but the chocolate, electricity and bog paper are that certainly. Elizabeth who puts on all the appliances in the Rosenbergs’ house and does not seem to need them. She is just wondering at everything. Yet, she puts all appliances on, even the TV she does not care to hear, but likes to see the images… Yet, her employers ‘are anxious about their footprint’. Surely, the footprint of the Bennets was a lot less? But we cannot do without the cooker, TV, stereo, iron, hood, computer, mobile phone etc. etc. anymore although they do not seem to have a clear purpose in themselves… They represent skills that we have forfeited: the stereo and TV entertain us so we do not have to entertain ourselves (with playing music, playing cards, charades, reading etc. ourselves), the iron represents our desire to have something that is permanently hot and to have steam that makes it even easier to iron, the hood above the cooker so our house does not smell of food, the cooker we can regulate the temperature of so we can’t let things burn, light so we have strong light whatever point in the day, a laptop and mobile phone so we are permanently connected with the rest of the world. Like Piranha cannot do without ‘chocolate, electricity or bog paper’ anymore, ‘not even for 10 minutes’, Elizabeth needs to have the appliances on despite her not using them…

Lost in Austen is not only a brilliantly fun series, it is also well-founded and well-referenced with song, philosophy and even psychology. In that, it will hopefully go into television history as another triumph. And maybe, Firth and Cowan could share each other’s fame...


  1. what an intelligent, thoughtful essay! thank you (will be munching on this bits for some time)
    two tiny corrections: it is not a bugatti that michael sold, but a ducati, which is a very expensive bike, but still one that he could have afforded; and darcy said "harrow hell" (not hallow), meaning "rake" or "comb", ultimately "pillage"... :)
    i hope you still read comments, as i would like to ask you if i could quote you (i'm meditating an analysis myself, although taking a different angle... i couldn't possibly compete with yours).
    hope all's well with you and that life in deutschland (if you're still there) smiles at you!

  2. sorry -- forgot: i'd like you to get in touch with me
    (if you can trace my email) or at
    bogatyr at gmail dot com
    thank you...