Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Strength: Part II (an Ode to Lizzie Bennet?)

Allegedly the second part in a series about femininity and strength. In reality, my little post metamorphosed into a pean praising Miss Elizabeth Bennet. I thought about changing it.
But then I thought: Naaah.

Pride and Prejudice's two chief woman characters-the Bennet sisters, Lizzie and Jane- are, at first glance, somewhat similar to the female characters of Lord of the Rings. 
Jane is a quieter, more demure female (somewhat in the vein of Arwen), and Elizabeth is a more outspoken, rambunctious woman (similar to Eowyn).

Jane is, in a word, incandescent.
 She could be easily written off as a naïve Pollyanna-ingenue, because her eternal optimism causes her to se the world in shades of rose. Her insistence on seeing the good in everything often blinds her to the harsh realities of life.
Such as: sometimes a man's sisters are truly evil.
Jane, candidly, lacks the strength with which many Ismene-type, introverted older sister literary figures are endowed. She lacks the fortitude to see the people for who they are-with their faults, shortcomings, and pettiness.
She does possess, however, the self-effacing strength that allows her to find the good in people, and helps her put others before herself always. It's an admirable trait.

Lizzie, despite her many virtues, has a flaw of her own: she's proud to a fault. 
She only sees the world from her point of view. Darcy accuses her of "willfully misunderstanding" people, and he's more than mostly accurate. 
She's naturally intuitive and intelligent, so she does have a sharply accurate view of the world. 
Elizabeth's Achille's heel is that she often forgets to consider there may be other views, or  information she's missing that could drastically effect her view. 

Why should we love Elizabeth Bennet? Honeychild. 
She's Lizzie Bennet. 
Only, as Jane Austen wrote, the most "delightful a character as ever appeared in print." 
Miss Austen also said, "How I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know." Translation: If you don't like Lizzie Bennet, there's something wrong with you, not her. Bold words, Miss Austen, bold words. 

Seriously, folks, what's not to love? 
She's hilarious-as sharp and as witty as they come. One of her classic lines: "My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart." 
She's a sassy gal, that Lizzie. Her eloquence is delightful, endearing, and admirable. So she's smart. 

But wait--there's more. 
This lady is a bucketful of joy. She self-admittedly "dearly loves a laugh." She's always up for a good time, she's always quick to smile. But she's not foolish. She never indulges in silly or inane laughter. There's a proper time for laughter, and Lizzie's not about to laugh out of turn. 
Her younger sisters and their cringe-inducing foolishness is an awful embarrassment for the whole family. But Lizzie, although she can berate herself for her awkwardness, has social graces that truly are a cut above the company's. 

But what makes Lizzie an absolutely charming character is the fact that she can be wrong. 
She can be so delightfully, deliciously, 100% wrong. And, what's even better, she admits it. 
This is really where her charm lies. 
Fact of life: every human being is wrong at least once. The insufferable ones can never admit it or see it. Truly quality human beings are the ones who advance forward bravely, admitting their wrong and making amends. 
This is really what makes Elizabeth a stronger character than Antigone. 

Like Antigone, she's stubborn to a fault, proud, willful, resilient. But, unlike Antigone, she becomes aware of her flaws, and attempts to correct them. "How despicably have I acted!' she cried. - 'I, who have prided myself on my discernment! - I, who have valued myself on my abilities!" (P&P Chapter 36) 
Although she's proud, Lizzie is not too proud to admit defeat. 
 That's what makes the love story so real and so perfect. 

It's about two people who meet, and they bring out the best and the worst in each other. And in order for them to find their happily-ever-after, they have to face their shortcomings, own up to them, and apologize for them. And it's all about second chances. It's the story of two stubborn, willful, lovely, and extremely flawed people that misunderstand each other, hurt each other, and just in general royally fail. But then, they're given a second chance at love and a life together. 
And it works. 
Because by then they've learned from their mistakes. They've discovered a little bit more about themselves-their own flaws and shortcomings. It's about two people realizing that although they're both far from perfect, they're perfect for each other.

(perfect segue way into my next post... )


  1. Love, love, LOVED this post! I loved your earlier one on strength too, apologies for not saying this earlier. :) The part about Lizzie admitting she is wrong especially made me think- changing fixed opinions, even when there is evidence a-plenty in front of you to persuade you to do so, can be very hard to do, especially for someone like Lizzie, who is very fond of her opinions. And yet she does it. One of my favourite parts in P&P is when she reads through Darcy's letter, and the more she does so the more she has to realise the truth. *feels itches to re-read it again*
    I'm afraid I have one qualm though- the quote about women's imagination being rapid, I'm sure that it's said by Darcy, not Elizabeth...
    Anyways! Looking forward to the next post, please post it soon! :D :D