I am writing this while some of my guy friends are introduced to the "Pride and Prejudice" mini series. Surely you've heard of it. It stars Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. It is glorious. It is beautiful. And we are absurdly delighted about forcing these unwilling (but actually willing, reluctantly enjoying themselves) victims into a new appreciation for a classic piece of literature. And a classic piece of adaptation.
Seeing this for the first time in several years, I've rediscovered just how deep my knowledge of this book, author, and era have developed since nine years ago when I watched with with Miriam Eagleson in their basement. We watched most of it in one night but fell asleep as the Gardiner's arrived to take Lizzy to the Peak District where she re-met and fell in love with Darcy for the final time. Since, I have estimated a view rate of over 20xs. Over nine years, fellow fans say that it isn't really that strange of an estimate. But perhaps it was a little much. I know not only the lines but the intonations of words and the hints of laughs long before they happen on the screen. I know eye brow raises, the glances. I know the styles of dress and the types of bonnets. Kaitlin and I fill in historical details about how the church operated in the period, how many dances were appropriate to dance with one person, how conversations border on appropriate by the slip of a glove. "Was there a constitution of dancing that you couldn't dance a third dance like you can't have a third term as president?" Yes, actually. A manual.
It seems unnecessary to live in a world with so many subtle rules, or so we sometimes feel and express when books and film seem a mystery. The confusion is similar to that when wandering in a foreign country, in a different language. With English literature, it is more akin to a Northerner visiting the South for the first time, a change in accent, in vocabulary, what is acceptable and what is not. Or the other way around. Or someone from Central Pennsylvania ending up on a street in New York. The country, the language is the "same". But it isn't. It very much isn't.
But people. There is a consistency between people. Or rather the inconsistency of people is the consistency. Conversations, miscommunications, misjudging, sense and sensibility, pride and prejudice. Archetypes embodied in the daily quirks and family. Of trying to get married. Of trying to avoid getting married. Conversations over meals. Character changes. Growing. Forgetting. Annoying. Loving. It is all there.
And I may have studied the heck out of the Regency era, but I had the gift to learn a time and a language and culture that I was not my own, of learning to see character in every setting. It actually led me to see my own time and world in a clearer light. I knew the types of church structure that played into Mr. Collin's being in good money, and the necessity for Edward Ferras to join the church and have a parish. I could use that same burning interest into looking at our own church structure. If the meaning of a hand shake could influence how two people view each other and I can gain that knowledge, then I can understand my own world in the same manner.
That, and the sentences are just fantastic. "I am meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow." And who doesn't love five hours of good sentences?