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Friday, April 4, 2014

Textual Scavenger Hunt re a very significant thread in the shadow story of Pride & Prejudice



ALERT!: This post is ONLY for those who enjoy Austenian shadow story subtext, all others should ignore!

Think of P&P as a vast network of textual riddles which, when solved, collectively point toward a coherent, radically alternative version of the storyline (which I call the “shadow story”) in a variety of significant ways. In that light, I bring you one of those riddles today in the form of  a quiz, and suggest to you that there is a common thread among all the following  EIGHT groups of passages in P&P, which at first may seem to have absolutely nothing to do with each other. However, I claim they are connected  clues in a literary scavenger hunt, deliberately left scattered in the text of the novel by JA so that puzzle loving readers would eventually, upon a sufficient number of rereadings, glimmer upon the common denominator among these passages and solve that particular riddle:

ONE: The passages in Chapters 15 and 29, which (I claimed in my post yesterday) are evidence of Mr. Collins being JA’s version of Bottom, and Lady Catherine JA’s version of Titania,  Bottom and Titania being of course, the brief, absurdly incongruous, spell-bound “lovers” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

TWO: My previous claims that numerous passages in P&P point to Charlotte Lucas as being (romantically) in love with Elizabeth Bennet, i.e., Charlotte is a lesbian. That is why Charlotte agrees to marry the sexless Mr. Collins, and that is also why Charlotte, via Mr. Collins,  plants the false rumor of Darcy and Elizabeth being engaged in Lady Catherine’s mind, so that Lady Catherine will be hoist on her own petard, when she succeeds only in driving Darcy and Elizabeth into each other’s arms. Think in particular about the implications of the above for Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins.

THREE: These two passages from Chapters 47 (when Elizabeth returns to Longbourn) and 49 (when Elizabeth and Jane become aware that Mr. Bennet has received a letter from Mr. Gardiner), respectively:

“Elizabeth jumped out; and, after giving each of them a hasty kiss, hurried into the vestibule, where Jane, who came running down from her mother's apartment, immediately met her.”

“Jane, who was not so light nor so much in the habit of running as Elizabeth, soon lagged behind, while her sister, panting for breath, came up with him, and eagerly cried out…”

FOUR: These two passages about Mrs. Bennet, in Chapters 47 and 50, respectively:

“…And, above all, keep Mr. Bennet from fighting. Tell him what a dreadful state I am in, that I am frighted out of my wits—and have such tremblings, such flutterings, all over me—such spasms in my side and pains in my head, and such beatings at heart, that I can get no rest by night nor by day….”

 “When first Mr. Bennet had married, economy was held to be perfectly useless, for, of course, they were to have a son. The son was to join in cutting off the entail, as soon as he should be of age, and the widow and younger children would by that means be provided for. Five daughters successively entered the world, but yet the son was to come; and Mrs. Bennet, for many years after Lydia's birth, had been certain that he would. This event had at last been despaired of, but it was then too late to be saving. Mrs. Bennet had no turn for economy, and her husband's love of independence had alone prevented their exceeding their income.”

FIVE: This passage from Chapter 61:

“Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; and she was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by Mrs. Bennet's being quite unable to sit alone. Mary was obliged to mix more with the world, but she could still moralize over every morning visit; and as she was no longer mortified by comparisons between her sisters' beauty and her own, it was suspected by her father that she submitted to the change without much reluctance.

SIX: A fiction in the Regency Era law of entails which was described in an article in a past issue of  Persuasions, the JASNA journal, which created a curious loophole.

SEVEN: These two passages in Chapters 17 and 57 regarding two letters written by Mr. Collins to Mr. Bennet, (curiously) almost exactly one year apart (in mid-October of two consecutive years):

“…As a clergyman, moreover, I feel it my duty to promote and establish the blessing of peace in all families within the reach of my influence; and on these grounds I flatter myself that my present overtures are highly commendable, and that the circumstance of my being next in the entail of Longbourn estate will be kindly overlooked on your side, and not lead you to reject the offered olive-branch. I cannot be otherwise than concerned at being the means of injuring your amiable daughters, and beg leave to apologise for it, as well as to assure you of my readiness to make them every possible amends—but of this hereafter.”  …. "In point of composition," said Mary, "the letter does not seem defective. The idea of the olive-branch perhaps is not wholly new, yet I think it is well expressed."

“The rest of his letter is only about his dear Charlotte's situation, and his expectation of a young olive-branch.”

EIGHT: Last but not least, this passage from JA’s Letter 85 dated May 24, 1813, or 4 months after publication of P&P, in which JA describes a painting which reminds her of Jane after she has married Bingley:

“…very well pleased – particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her; I went in hopes of seeing one of her Sisters, but there was no Mrs. Darcy; — perhaps however, I may find her in the Great Exhibitions which we shall go to, if we have time;… Mrs. Bingley’s is exactly like herself, size, shaped face, features & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness.  


I will disclose the common thread tomorrow (Saturday) by no later than 5 pm EST, but I do hope that these eight hints, when considered as a group, will be sufficient for at least some of you to guess correctly, or at least to come close!

Cheers, ARNIE
@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

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