Pride and Prejudice

I am a fan of the BBC 5 hour adaptation, but I have to say, I was surprise and pleased with this one. It is a very well done 2 hour version, which is hard to do with all the relationships that have to be truncated for it to fit. But the language in this is wonderful, witty and eloquent. What can I say? I love words. Kiera Knightly as Elizabeth and Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy were very satisfying, despite Kiera’s beauty. What I liked so much about the BBC version was its authenticity of character and lack of Hollywood prettiness, but it didn’t bother me much here because Kiera is such a good actress. I also think that I may have appreciated this “short” 2 hour version because I may have unconsciously filled in the holes of the story from the BBC version so it is hard to be objective here. Nonetheless, this story of finding love in the midst of Victorian conventions is really uplifting and authentic. Although this story takes place in the Regency period prior to Queen Victoria, they are nevertheless culturally connected to the Victorian period. The plotline of fighting lovers may be a bit of a dangerous cliché but it works just fine for me here. Some people dislike Jane Austen stories because they have a disdain or contempt for aristocratic culture. But I think this misses the boat. I think Austen points up the good and bad of such a society. I think she shows that in fact some propriety is right (Liddy’s foolishness at eloping with Wickham, as well as sexuality saved for marriage) and others are wrong (Lady Catherine DeBerg’s aristocratic snobbery). She mocks the male pursuit of women as objects for their betterment in the Pastor Mr. Collins, and she elevates love over status in Darcy and Elizabeth. The argument that Victorian society (and its predecessors) was somehow hypocritical because it was moralistic and trying to force people to behave morally in public while they did not do so I private is naïve. Is it hypocritical to make laws against lying, cheating, stealing and killing because so many in society do not keep those laws? Of course not. We don’t have laws of proper behavior or social norms of proper behavior for the sake of the criminals, but the victims. It is the protection of society not the individual that propriety is for. It helps to foster a positive environment for the cultivation of good morals. It is not about forcing people to be good based on the delusion that they will then be good in private. Sure, some cultural conventions are wrong, but NOT ALL. And besides, what absolute cultural standard are you using to critique these social conventions? Is it merely your own social conventions? If not, then you have to admit that some social conventions that are in line with moral absolutes just as much as your claim that some may not be morally acceptable. I would argue with Austen that sex outside marriage is more than a Victorian cultural prejudice, it is an absolute biblical norm given by God that Victorian society sought to emulate and support. Nothing wrong with that. Aristocratic snobbery against the poor is not biblical and therefore wrong – just like Jane also argued in this story – as well as the modern version of it in this movie.

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