First Proposals: Pride & Prejudice/North & South

Seeing the Darcy vs. Thornton post (thanks Maria!) made me think a BIT more about their respective stories, esp. how they go about proposing to their ladies.  Let’s watch the one from P&P first with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth.

Well, they both look pretty awkward- Lizzie is wondering why this insufferable has come to see her in the first place and Darcy is at a loss for a moment (he’s probably never proposed to any woman before).  They are in a little sitting room in Charlotte and Mr. Collins’ house.  Notice how Darcy leans forward a tiny bit (hopeful) after he says “But it cannot be helped.”  After Lizzie calmly/coldly rejects him by saying that she doesn’t even feel “a sense of obligation,” Darcy looks confused/hurt (see the eyes), then turns away and walks over to the mantle.  His head is lowered and he’s thinking of what to say next.  He even wipes at his mouth, disconcerted. Then he addresses her again, asking why he’s rejected in this manner.  Lizzie, who still sits, speaks more loudly and w/ emotion as she mentions her sister ‘s (Jane’s) happiness.  Hear how Darcy’s voice rises (sharply) when he hears Wickham’s name.  He says: “You take an eager interest in that gentleman’s concers?”  Lizzie’s voice also gets louder as she speaks of Wickham. Darcy is sarcastic re: Wickham’s “misfortunes.”  

As Lizzie continues, he paces a bit about the (small) room, pauses, then asks “And this is your opinion of me?”  (He’s being misunderstood, we later learn.)  But when he aproaches her and disses her family connections (in a direct/rude way), you can see the anger on Lizzie’s face even more than before.  Her face gets redder, she gets up from her chair, and turns away from him.  Then she turns around and attacks him, saying that he “was the last man on Earth” that she “could ever possibly marry.”  There is nothing like love/admiration/anything positive in Lizzie’s eyes!  She is quite bold (for her time) and expresses herself directly.  The day is sunny, we can see, but the mood is quite stormy inside.  Darcy quietly says that “you’ve said quite enough. madam” and quickly finds his exit.  (Note the formal manner he uses as he leaves.)  Elizabeth is very surprised and quite angry (still) after he leaves.     

Now, let’s look at the proposal (extended version) from N&S, Ep 2, with Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage. 

Mr. Thornton is looking toward the door, then out the window of a small room in the Hale’s home (townhouse).  He looks nervous as he crosses toward the door when he hears Margaret open it.  We notice that her expression is sad/dejected (maybe also tired?); even her posture is poor.  The room is not bright or cheerful, but there is some light coming through the curtains.  Margaret doesn’t look at him at first; he mentions the color of the fruit.  Then she talks about her mother and looks over at him.  But as she talks, she keeps her eyes mostly downcast, avoiding his eyes.  Her voice sounds young and her words are hesitant.

When Thornton expresses his gratefulness, her face changes quite a bit (eyes wider).  She stands taller and goes over to the window, saying she’d “have done the same for any man” who was in danger.  Thornton looks confused and repeats “Any man?”  Then they go on about the mill strike and the workers’ (violent) behavior.  Notice how Margaret speaks quite calmly and steps closer to him (while she offers him advice about his workers).  He cuts her off with: “They will get what they deserve.”  Then the mood of the scene, as well as his tone, shifts.

Thornton is hesitant to begin; he expressly (but humbly/quietly) states that “I know, I’ve never found myself in this position before.”  But just as he gets started (“my feelings for you are very strong”), she cuts him off!  She walks away (toward the window), saying that he “shouldn’t continue in that manner.”  The the whole “gentleman” deal comes up (big theme in this story).  That upsets Thornton, who shoots back that “I’m aware, that in your eyes at least, I’m not a gentleman.”  He asks why he is “offensive” (loudly) and Margaret goes off (loudly also), mentioning his status, sister, and mother.  “My mother?  What has she to do with this?” he asks (confused), leaning over the table.  Then she gets into the status/trade quagmire again, accusing him of wanting to “possess” her- pushing all his buttons.  “I don’t want to possess you!  I wish to marry you because I love you!” he exclaims as he (quickly) walks around the table toward her.  (Note the emotion in his voice.)  Margaret turns away and says that she doesn’t even “like” him.  She looks at him directly for a second as she says that. 

Thornton turns away, refers back to the fruit, then goes to the opposite side of the room (mantle).  Slowly, Margaret mentions Bessie, who is dying (“too much fluff” in her lungs).  Thornton sees that also as an attack upon him.  When Margaret tries to protest and calm him down, it doesn’t work (as he said before, he has “a temper”).  When she remorsefully explains that she hasn’t “yet learned how to refuse,” Thornton throws in some bitter sarcasm.  She goes toward him, but he turns away saying “I understand you completely.”  At the end of the scene, Margaret is sorry (I think) that she was so “blunt.”

Wow, so much going on in these two scenes!  (You need to watch them a few times.)  There are similarities and differences between these two (would-be) couples, as are obvious within these brief clips.  The “gentleman” issue doesn’t come up with Mr. Darcy since he doesn’t work, owns a huge estate in Derbeyshire, and is grandson of an earl.  Mr. Thornton, on the other hand, is a self-made man (and proud of it) who owns his own cotton mill; he is also a  magistrate (in role of modern-day judge) in Milton.  But when it comes to the ladies, he’s (admittedly) at a loss; his life has been “too busy” to think of such things.  He’s insecure approaching Margaret, partly because she’s the daughter of a learned (studied at Oxford) former clergyman and because he’s never felt this way about any woman before.  Remember how he confides in his mother, the night before he proposes, that he “daren’t hoped that such a woman could care for me?”   

Darcy, being of such high status (and with a lot of pride), feels that Elizabeth’s family are far, far beneath his sphere.  He discourged Bingley from pursuing Jane because of that reason (and also because he didn’t think she loved him).  Remember the “Towards him, I have been kinder that toward myself” line?  Ouch!  Admittedly, Mrs. Bennett, Kitty, and Lydia are no models of propriety, but the manner in which Darcy downgrades Lizzie’s relatives is very harsh.  Well, these gents just needed some time to learn and change their attitudes.  Also, the ladies needed to change as well, since they held such strong prejudices agains their suitors. 

In the book, Margaret feels that she’s not ready to get married, when she’s proposed to for the first time.  Recall that she was only 18 at that time, and didn’t feel any strong feelings for Henry Lennox.  She liked him as a friend, thought he was smart/clever, but that was about it.  As for Lizzie, she was a “sensible girl” in her father’s eyes, but she wanted to fall in love someday, too.  She never thought that Darcy would propose to her- she was “astonished” by the entire episode.  Wasn’t she just “tolerable” in his eyes?

I like both scenes- in the first one, I sympathized more with Lizzie.  But in the second scene, I think my sympathies switched from Margaret to Thornton, then back again.  It was more of a fight (in my opinion) and had more movement than the one in P&P.     

What did you think of these scenes?  Which do you prefer and why?    

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Links for fellow Austen fans…

Pride & Prejudice turns 200  – BBC article

Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice at 200 – NPR story

Mr. Darcy vs. Mr. Thornton – Comparing two of our most-loved (fictional) men

 

 

Poll: Mr. Darcy

200 Years of “Pride & Prejudice”

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A portrait of Jane Austen

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. 

Thus begins one of the most-loved/discussed novels of English literature.  It has been read in high schools, colleges, etc., by most of the women we know.  We keep coming back to this book, and don’t forget the numerous TV/film adaptations. 

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Modern-day JA fan, Amanda (Jemima Rooper), gets Lost in Austen (2008) with Darcy (Elliot Cowan)

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Darcy (Laurence Olivier) & Elizabeth (Greer Garson) in the 1940 film

It seems like Lizzie and Darcy are almost as iconic as Romeo and Juliet when it comes to famous couples.  Other relationships are also important: Lizzie and her beautiful/shy older sister Jane, Lizzie and her hands-off father, Mr. and Mrs. Bennett (an odd couple), Lizzie (romantic) and older friend Charlotte (practical), etc.  Let us focus on the main love story…

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Jennifer Ehle (an American) as Elizabeth (A&E, 1995)

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Keira Knightley as Elizabeth (2005)

She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.

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David Rintoul as Darcy (1980)

Ouch!  Suffice it to say, Darcy does not make a positive first impression on Lizzie, her family, and the community-at-large.  He doesn’t even dance once at the assembly ball in Meryton, which makes him look proud, vain, and disagreeable.  (He later explains that he’s not at ease talking to strangers.)

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My favorite Darcy: Colin Firth (A&E, 1995)

A geological sample of Darcy’s core, as portrayed so beautifully by Firth, would show the following layers:  at the bottom, his breeding and wealth.  Undeniable.  On top of that, confusion, the push-pull of class–egad, 10,000 pounds a year and a house 10 times larger than Downton Abbey!  -Elinor Lippman, Huffington Post (January 28, 2013)

Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.

Mr. Darcy’s sly humor comes out when Lizzie and Caroline are walking about the room.  (Lizzie went to Netherfield, Bingley’s house, when Jane became ill.)

You either chuse this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; — if the first, I should be completely in your way; — and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.

Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride — where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.

Well, Darcy knows he’s an eligible bachelor, but he won’t be caught easily.  (He’s not easily impressed-  he’s still be a bachelor at the age of 28.) 

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Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy (2005)

…But disguise of every sort is my abhorrence. Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They were natural and just.

Darcy’s first proposal is is very surprising to Lizzie- she tells him off!  (After all, she thinks he’s treated Wickham very unfairly and ruined Jane’s chance at happiness with Bingley.)  I really like the lines above that Darcy says, about how he hates to hide his true feelings.

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Elizabeth (Ehle) tells Darcy (Firth) about family troubles

When all hell breaks loose (because of Lydia’s running away with Wickham), Darcy becomes very concerned.  We see his sympathtic side (above), but we won’t discover until much later just how much he has helped the Bennett family.  (Actions speak louder than words.)  If Lydia and Wickham hadn’t been married off quickly, then the the other sisters would’ve been tainted for life.  Elizabeth felt guilty because she hadn’t revealed Wickham’s true character to others; Darcy had to protect Georgiana, his teenage sister, so he couldn’t expose Wickham either.

…Let me thank you again and again, in the name of all my family, for that generous compassion which induced you to take so much trouble, and bear so many mortifications, for the sake of discovering them.

If you will thank me,” he replied, let it be for yourself alone.  That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you.

The crisis, and its aftermath, propels the love story forward, though the couple are not together.  Lady Catherine becomes a catalyst when she barges in on the Bennetts and insists that Lizzie never become engaged to her nephew.  Darcy hopes to have another chance with Lizzie.  (Bingley and Jane finally getting engaged brings happiness to them both, too.)

As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper.  I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit.  Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own.  Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth!  What do I not owe you!  You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous.  By you, I was properly humbled.  I came to you without a doubt of my reception.  You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.

How can you not love such words, these characters, and such a terrific ending!?

In Conversation with: Richard Armitage.

Vulpes Libris

In the latest in our occasional series “In Conversation with …” we’re delighted to welcome actor Richard Armitage to Vulpes Libris.

After working steadily for many years as an actor – both in the theatre and on television – most notably in Sparkhouse and Cold Feet – Richard came to sudden prominence in 2004 with the breakthrough role of Victorian cotton mill owner John Thornton in the BBC’s highly-regarded dramatization of Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic North and South.

In October of last year, he joined the cast of  Spooks as Lucas North, and has recently met his end as Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s iconoclastic take on Robin Hood.

He recently very kindly took some time out of an insanely busy schedule to answer a few questions for us:

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VL: First of all, welcome to Vulpes Libris and thank you very much for making time…

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