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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Friday, February 26, 2010

An allusion to Chapter 10 of the Biblical Book of Proverbs in One of JA's novels

If anyone who is interested in Jane Austen's deployment of her Biblical knowledge in her novels would like to play a little guessing game over the weekend, I just discovered a very cool allusion to Chapter 10 of the Biblical Book of Proverbs in one of JA's novels.

Besides pointing you to Chapter 10 of Proverbs, here are a few further hints that will give you a fair chance of discovering it with a reasonable amount of effort, if you enjoy this sort of sleuthing. The allusion is in two parts--the first part is spoken by a female character in one chapter, and the other part is spoken by a male character in a later chapter. Both parts are spoken in the presence of a heroine, and both of the statements which comprise the allusion ALREADY overtly characterize a third (male) character in an UNflattering light, even if you are entirely unaware of the allusion to the proverb. However, when you see the allusion, you readily perceive that the allusion underscores the negative depiction of that third (male) character, raising the level of criticism of his character and behavior to (literally) Biblical proportions.

If you get the answer, please send it to me by private email at I will give the answer here on Monday at 5 pm EST.

Quick P.S. to the above:

In following up on the above allusion to Chapter 10 of the Biblical Book of Proverbs, I just discovered that the allusion actually is in THREE parts--the part which I just found now is actually the first of the three to appear in the chronology of the chapters in JA's novel. It is very slyly, but extensively, embedded in the narration of an interaction between the heroine and the male character unflatteringly depicted by that very proverb. And....I also discovered during my quick followup that the third part of the allusion is actually more extensive than I at first realized. The allusion is truly hiding in plain sight!

The gestalt is a particularly beautiful and powerful example of how JA spread her allusions across her novels to be perceived in a subliminal way, which was however legitimately accessible, via a variety of clever hints, to a reader who was familiar with the Book of Proverbs, as she so obviously was, and who enjoyed a game of literary sleuthing. Plus, JA, like Agatha Christie, played fair with her readers by giving lots of clues, scattered here and there in an apparently random fashion.

And it is also characteristic of all the other elements of her shadow stories that I have discovered, such that when you assemble all the pieces of the verbal "jigsaw puzzle" and fit them together in their original order and significance before she jumbled them up, just as Frank, Jane, Harriet and Emma do at Box Hill, you find that they "spell" a meaning which is powerful and which flies straight and true to the moral and psychological center and heart of the novel.

JA's writing was truly a treasure beyond rubies.

Cheers, ARNIE

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