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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Parallelism of Mr. Collins, Lizzy, Charlotte, Lady C and Mr. Bennet, to Frank, Emma, Jane, Mrs. Churchill and Miss Bates

I begin by quoting from the message I wrote 2 years ago in Janeites, when I first focused on Andrew Davies's decision to dramatize Lizzy's "mock solicitude" to Mr. Collins--I am reposting it now to correct the error I just made in my previous message entitled "Only three SHARP things at once", which is exactly the same error that I made 2 years ago, i.e, in not realizing that Davies had been inspired to dramatize Collins's awful "condolence" with the Bennet, by an earlier, parallel, dramatized passage in Ch. 22 of P&P::


"Davies did something a bit less clever and original---what he did was to take what Mr. Bennet says to Mr. Collins in Ch. 22 (when Collins, getting ready to return to Hunsford, suggests that he might be coming back to Longbourn soon), and puts into Lizzy's mouth in that later, more dramatic scene.

Here is the relevant scene in Ch. 22:

They were all astonished; and Mr. Bennet, who could by no means wish for so speedy a return, immediately said --

"But is there not danger of Lady Catherine's disapprobation here, my good sir? You had better neglect your relations than run the risk of offending your patroness."

"My dear sir," replied Mr. Collins, "I am particularly obliged to you for this friendly caution, and you may depend upon my not taking so material a step without her ladyship's concurrence."

"You cannot be too much on your guard. Risk anything rather than her displeasure; and if you find it likely to be raised by your coming to us again, which I should think exceedingly probable, stay quietly at home, and be satisfied that /we/ shall take no offence."
"Believe me, my dear sir, my gratitude is warmly excited by such affectionate attention; and depend upon it, you will speedily receive from me a letter of thanks for this, as well as for every other mark of your regard during my stay in Hertfordshire. END OF CH. 22 QUOTE

It's easy to see why Davies would do this in adapting the novel to the screen. In the novel, the "crime" Mr. Collins would be committing by returning too soon to Longbourn would be a "misdemeanor", i.e., giving too much attention to his relations in precedence to his attentions to Lady C. But Davies raised the stakes by putting the same words into Lizzy's mouth in that later scene, where the "crime" would be giving too much attention to his relations when his relations were tainted by the Lydia-Wickham scandal--that would constitute a "felony".

END OF MY 2008 MESSAGE I reread that passage from Ch. 22 with fresh eyes, I was struck by something ELSE for the FIRST time, which relates directly to the parallel drawn by my friend between Miss Bates's acting as "gatekeeper" keeping Emma away from Jane, and the two widely separated passages in P&P which relate to Mr. Collins staying away from Longbourn .

To wit, there are several other STRONG parallels between characters in P&P and in Emma, respectively, all rotating around the courtship of the heroine by a less than ideal suitor. Look at these parallels (each of which has a vivid contrast within the parallelism):

1. There is a secret engagement in both cases--but the secrecy of the engagement of Collins and Charlotte lasts for one day, whereas the secrecy of the engagement of Jane and Frank lasts for nine months.

2. Collins courts Lizzy to the point of making a proposal, and Frank seems to be courting Emma almost to the point of proposing, but of course does not. But Collins engages in heavy handed grotesque courtship which miserably fails to charm the heroine, whereas Frank's is as smooth as silk, and does succeed in charming the heroine.

3. Lizzy is shocked when Charlotte reveals her engagement to Lizzy, and Emma is stunned when Mrs.Weston reveals Jane's engagement to Emma. But Lizzy's shock is in relation to Charlotte's decision to marry a man like Collins, whereas Emma's shock is that she was deceived for nine months even as Frank seemed to court her.

4. Collins's actions utterly depend on the whims of a capricious dictatorial great lady who lives at a good distance from the heroine's home, and so do Frank's actions vis a vis his aunt who lives far from Highbury. Lady C has directed Collins to marry as soon as possible, whereas we don't really know what Mrs. Churchill has been saying to Frank about getting married--upon reflection, it seems quite likely to me that Mrs. Churchill has also been pushing Frank to settle down, marry an heiress, and reside with his bride with her at Enscombe. And perhaps Emma is that heiress? It's interesting, seeing Emma through the other end of the telescope, thinking of her as we are wont to think of Miss Grey in S&S, or Anne de Bourgh in P&P.

5. (As Ellen pointed out in a post a few months ago) Ivor Morris has written about how Collins's poor dancing was a symbolic marker of how he would be a poor sexual partner to Charlotte, just as Frank's inattention to Jane's health marks him as a future husband who will destroy Jane's fragile health with pregnancies.

In general, it seems ridiculous to think of Frank as a parallel character to Mr. Collins, it is interesting to think of Charlotte as a parallel character to Jane Fairfax, but the big payoff, I think, is to examine the completely unexpected and seemingly off the wall parallel between Mr. Bennet and Miss Bates.

The above five parallels (and perhaps there are others I have missed?) seem, to me, in aggregate, to suggest that the parallelism noted by my friend between Miss Bates keeping Emma away from Jane, and Mr. Bennet keeping Mr. Collins away from Longbourn, is not accidental at all, but is actually #6 in this list of parallels knowingly created by JA.

Miss Bates, in part, is appealing to Emma's snobbery, in inducing her to leave Jane alone, so as not to be like the vulgar, pushy, lower-status women who did push their way in. And, similarly, Mr. Bennet is clearly appealing to Collins's solicitude for Lady Catherine's snobbery, by reminding Collins not to neglect his "duty", as her toady, to be at her beck and call, and not to appear to be giving more attention to the Bennets than to Lady C.

And given that it is obvious to all of us that Mr. Bennet is completely conscious and aware of what he is doing when he expresses this "mock solicitude" for Collins, it seems to me to strongly support the notion that Miss Bates is also completely conscious and aware of what SHE is doing when she, in a much more subtle and veiled way, accomplishes the same goal. In each case, the behavior of a snobbery-driven young person is manipulated by a covert appeal to snobbery.


P.S.: And, as some might have guessed, there are other, more shadowy, parallels, which I will leave unstated.

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