I’ve been getting Jane Austen commentaries out from the library. The one sitting on my nightstand right now is called Flirting with Pride and Prejudice (edited by Jennifer Crusie).
The book contains commentaries and essays about the most famous of Austen’s books. After reading a dozen or so of the different authors, one of the better observations came in an essay entitled “Plenty of Pride and Prejudice to Go Around” by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. Here she compares Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet with the many incarnations of the Elizabeth in the movies either based upon or inspired by Pride and Prejudice.
Baratz-Logsted questions why the Elizabeth Bennet characters have been deteriorated “into characters who, however lofty their careers, however many modern choices arrayed before them, are charming ditzes at best, babbling and insecure bumblers at worst?”
This makes me recall a comment made by one of my friends after first watching Bridget Jones Diary a few years ago. She pointed out that Bridget is in fact NOT an Elizabeth Bennet. No, the movie (and book) is really about the story Mr. Darcy and Lydia Bennet. And I have come to whole-heartedly agree with Wise Friend that Bridget Jones is really Lydia masquerading around behind the mask of the Elizabeth Bennet character.
But back to the book on my night stand (which is now on my lap since I had to look up that quote above). I wasn’t too keen on the section which included the fictionalized mini-stories based on various characters from the book. Why does it feel wrong when another person tries to take Jane Austen’s place and write Georgiana’s story, or tell what happened to Elizabeth after she married Darcy? The one account I did manage to read (it wasn’t long—about five pages) was “The Secret Life of Mary”. But it just seemed convoluted. I mean, a love story between Mary and some Irish footman named Rory who works for Sir William Lucas?! Where Mary becomes famous for writing Austen-esque sketches of her family?!
People, please leave the Jane Austen characters in the capable hands of Jane Austen.
And since Jane Austen is dead, that means, unfortunately, we have to be satisfied with the body of work she turned out. But cheer up! When you read Pride and Prejudice or Emma or Persuasion (or you name the book) a second or third or fourth time, the story only gets better, right?
That’s what makes Jane Austen a great author.