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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, now living in "Portlandia"!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

They can't both be right

[Nancy Mayer] "I must protest. First of all I don't see Sir Thomas as a dirty old man nor as a child abuser."

Nancy, here's a way of thinking about this, try it on for size. You give Sir Thomas the benefit of every doubt, and that is how you reach _your_ version of the novel--I give Sir Thomas the benefit of _no_ doubts, and that is how I reach _my_ version of the novel.

We've been down this road together before:

http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/2010/09/two-sir-thomases.html

And the thing is, I am not saying your interpretation is wrong, I am claiming that JA wrote this novel so that it would make sense, and be a powerful complex story, either way, i.e., we are both right.

As in......

Avram: He's right, and he's right? They can't both be right.

Tevye: You know...you are also right.

If anyone in Janeites has a very long memory, you'll recall that nearly ten years ago, I responded to a comment by Margaret Smythe (are you still in the group??), who had suggested a close resemblance between P&P and Fiddler on the Roof, an idea I had also had, as follows:

[Margaret] "Tzeitel, the eldest, marries a man her father likes and knows will make her happy - Jane & Bingley;"

[Me]: That is a close correspondence, and, now that I think about it some more, I am not so sure it was Sholom Aleichem who may've been inspired by Jane Austen (I am not familiar with his original Tevye stories, is anyone here?--I am going to ask a local friend of mine who is an expert on things Yiddish if he knows about Sholom Aleichem's literary influences) [I did but he did not have an opinion about this] but maybe instead the librettist for Fiddler, writing circa 1965 or so, in the United States where Pride and Prejudice was obviously not unknown to the literate public, and we already had the Olivier/Garson P&P film version that was also widely known..
Whoever may have done that, I can imagine that author smiling at the ironic twist of taking Mrs. Bennet's desperate desire for Jane to marry the rich Mr. Bingley and turning it into Tevye's wife's desperate desire for Tzeitel to marry the rich Lazar Wolf INSTEAD OF Motel the Tailor whom she loves. ;)

[Margaret] "...the next one (Hodel?) marries the revolutionary which gives her father some worry but when he sees how much in love she is he relents - Elizabeth & Darcy"

Yes, you're absolutely right! The revolutionary part is upside down, but everything else is the same, especially that, for very different reasons, both mothers have no use for the suitor.

[Margaret] "...and the younger one, who elopes with a non-Jew (forgotten her name) is more or less cast off from the family - Lydia & Wickham."

Yes, Chava, and again, what a great ironic inversion--in Lydia's case, she commits an unpardonable sin, eloping with a miscreant, in Chava's case, it is an act of radical morality, transcending the ancient prejudices and seeing through to the true goodness of the "outsider".

[Margaret] " It's ages since I've seen the film but don't Tzeitel and Hodel try to intercede with their father for the little sister just as Jane and Elizabeth do?"

Yes, exactly! But they do it for love of their sister and because they also act from a truly moral base. With Jane and Elizabeth, Mr. Bennet obviously needs no persuading to rehabilitate Lydia by any means necessary..." END OF MY 2001 POST

Cheers, ARNIE

P.S.: It was later that I _also_ realized that Emma's and Knightley's playful repartee about Harriet and Robert Martin's engagement......

Emma: "Did not you misunderstand him? -- You were both talking of other things; of business, shows of cattle, or new drills -- and might not you, in the confusion of so many subjects, mistake him? -- It was not Harriet's hand that he was certain of -- it was the dimensions of some famous ox."

Knightley: "Do you dare to suppose me so great a blockhead, as not to know what a man is talking of?

...was, nearly a century later, adapted by Sholom Aleichem in his Tevye story “Eighteen from ….” in the confusion of Tzeitl with a cow:

[Tevye] “I simply don't have the heart."

"Just listen to him talk about her!" says Layzer Wolf with a laugh. "A person might think you had no others. I should imagine, Reb Tevye, that you have more than enough of them, touch wood. ..."

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