Title: Jane Austen and Other Stories
Description: Shared characteristics
Scarlet - June 24, 2011 08:38 PM (GMT)
Leading on from a brief mention of Austen's characters on another thread I decided to finally do this long overdue thread.
So Austen? Can we see any similarities between her characters, situations, even settings and those presented in Downton? Obviously the social setting is different and the Crawley family are titled which none of Austen's heroines are, but their goals and passions are recognisable.* There is still a large emphasis put upon the marriage market and the pressure put upon a young woman to find a husband. Interestingly the people that don't find a husband/wife are confined to the bleak world of spinsterhood and spoke about with pity are probably best represented in the servants, even though you might think they would be impossible to fit into this analogy given Austen's characters and focus.
So I'll leave it up to discussion.
Do we think Cora has a touch of the Mrs Bennett's about her trying to marry off her daughters?
Does Mary's attitude mirror that of Emma Woodhouse's? And are she and Matthew a less broody version of Pride and Prejudice?
Is ANYBODY nearly as awesome as Mary Crawford?
*I know there ARE titled characters in Austen, but here I'm only talking about the main heroines, Elizabeth, Anne, Emma, Fanny and Catherine, etc.
Rose - June 24, 2011 09:34 PM (GMT)
Me me me! *jumps up and down*
OK, I'm really, really tired so I'll just answer briefly and come back to this when I'm not half asleep and drooling over the keyboard because it's a really interesting general topic.
However, I do just want to answer this since it came up in the chatbox and other thread!
|Is ANYBODY nearly as awesome as Mary Crawford?|
No. :P Absolutely not; she's one of my all-time fictional characters.
Um, SPOILERS for Mansfield Park coming up! (In case anyone cares...)
Having said that, I do actually think our Marys have something in common and I do wonder if there is any connection intended considering the very similar names. Going to distinguish between them as MC (Mary Crawford) and LM (Lady Mary).
I'm not at all going to say that LM is meant to be an Edwardian/carbon copy of/based on MC, but I think they definitely share characteristics. Both are witty and clever, though MC is more so. Both are inclined to make herself the centre of attention and draw male admiration without much care for the feelings of others. (MC does care for Fanny far more than LM does for Edith if we're going into parallels but she is oblivious to Fanny's feelings for Edmund, though again so is everyone else so it's not really a parallel. But nevertheless I expect she would nevertheless enjoy the flirting too much to turn it down if she knew someone else liked the same person.) Both LM and MC say things that sound clever but are either inappropriate or cutting in public without being aware of or thinking of the consequences. I'm thinking of MC's wonderful "rears and vices" pun, her clergyman jokes in front of Edmund, and her big mistake of calling her brother and Maria's elopement "folly", and LM's inappropriate comments don't really need documenting here!
The fates of both women are also quite strikingly familiar. Both value money and status initially and look down on their eventual love interest- Matthew for being middle class, Edmund for being a younger son. Both then fall in love with these men but end up driving them away by being unable to compromise their position sufficiently. Well, this is vastly oversimplifying in both cases, and of course LM's story is not yet finished. (And Edmund/Mary is a relationship that would never work really, whereas Matthew/Mary would/will.) It's hard to properly compare them when LM's story is not yet finished but at least at the end of S01 the parallels are there, though I think LM changes and adapts more than MC does. MC is a secondary character after all. But do we want MC to change? Not really! :)
I certainly don't want to suggest that either one is more awesome than the other and I suspect I think LM comes closer to the mark than Scarlet does, but I do think that they are definitely of the same character mould and their development has followed quite a strikingly similar path in several, important respects. And I do wonder if this is at least partially intentional.
*high-fives Scarlet for being a member of the Mary Crawford fanclub*
Will reply to the main topic properly on another occasion! :)
Eolivet - June 25, 2011 02:14 AM (GMT)
Can I ask a really stupid question -- having only ever read two Jane Austen books in my life (yes, please -- I deserve your scorn and judgment, believe me!), one of which is "Pride & Prejudice?"
I have seen a number of reviews for DA that compares Mary and Matthew to Elizabeth and Darcy in P&P.
But I thought Elizabeth and Darcy kind of hated each other (or at least seemed to always be arguing), or sort of had a love/hate relationship. I see that from Mary's perspective, but not from Matthew's (which I thought was, as we've discussed in other threads, unusual for a period piece -- where the male character is the "nicer" of the two.) If anything, I thought it was kind of novel. But everyone else who probably has read more Jane Austen than I have seems to be all "Oh, this again!"
Is "this story is just like Pride & Prejudice" just unimaginative shorthand for "there is a couple in a period piece who argue with each other all the time?" (even though I think that's an exaggerated description of what happens in DA). And if so, didn't Shakespeare do it first (i.e., Beatrice and Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing?")
And I know it's not Jane Austen, but I find it interesting how Anna/Bates/Vera seems to be mirroring Jane/Rochester/Rochester's crazy wife whose name I've forgotten in "Jane Eyre." Just relationship-wise (though having not read JE in a while, I could be making those same broadbased, inaccurate comparisons as the P&P folks)
I think I'll be quiet about classic British literature for a while.
mlt - June 25, 2011 03:50 AM (GMT)
|but I think they definitely share characteristics.|
I would agree on a lot of what you said, Rose, and I also want to point out they both said pretty tacky things about heirs dying/almost dying, LD with Patrick and MC with Tom.
|Is "this story is just like Pride & Prejudice" just unimaginative shorthand for "there is a couple in a period piece who argue with each other all the time?" |
I would say yes. I actually don't think Matt and Mary are at all like Darcy and Elizabeth, even with gender swapping. D and E did argue at the beginning and had a love/hate relationship, but their personalities are much different than M and M. I don't see Mary and Darcy as similar at all. They have the same pride, yes, but Darcy actually had tangible manifestations of selflessness in his care of Georgiana, which dove tails into how he overcomes his pride and extends it to the woman he falls in love with, Elizabeth.
Plus a lot of the early arguments between Darcy and Elizabeth were based on misinformation and straight out lies, and once those cleared up the bickering ended.
Ruth - June 25, 2011 07:43 AM (GMT)
|Anna/Bates/Vera seems to be mirroring Jane/Rochester/Rochester's crazy wife whose name I've forgotten in "Jane Eyre".|
Yes. So much. I've thought about that quite a bit actually, it seems to me quite a clear comparison. There are plenty of differences of course, but quite a few similarities, too.
Rose - June 25, 2011 09:59 AM (GMT)
I should preface this by saying that when people compare a story or a relationship to P&P/Darcy & Elizabeth, it is like holding a red rag to a bull for me. To me it is lazy criticism and generally born out of a really great misunderstanding (the kind that leads male critics to dismiss Austen out of hand as chick lit) of both P&P and the thing they're comparing it with. The comparison means that neither relationship gets the analysis they deserve on their own. And this simplified understanding of P&P is at least partly responsible for about 90% of really awful romance novel plots that think that love = hate and that brooding and emotionally repressed = sexy. So I freely confess that I am deeply prejudiced on this score (and no, that does not make me just like Elizabeth Bennet!) so you may want to take everything I say with a pinch of salt, if you're so inclined.
|Is "this story is just like Pride & Prejudice" just unimaginative shorthand for "there is a couple in a period piece who argue with each other all the time?"|
Short answer: yes. :P
Long answer: what Mei said.
The parallel between them seems to be based on the fact that they are a couple of which one is richer and more arrogant than the other and that initially they don't get on, inspired by an overheard insult. I think the parallels stop pretty much there as the characteristics of Darcy and Elizabeth don't match up with Matthew and Mary or even if they are gender swapped, nor are the circumstances of their relationship comparable.
A few sledgehammer comparisons:
1. Darcy may be richer than Elizabeth but they are of the same social class (gentry). In terms of class Mary (aristocracy) is miles higher than Matthew (middle class). The real parallel in terms of status would be with Wickham marrying Georgiana Darcy. What DA has that P&P doesn't is the co-dependency between M&M - Matthew is linked to Mary by his inheritance which lifts his social status. Equally Mary is linked to Matthew because if she doesn't marry him (or anyone) he will nevertheless be responsible for her welfare and whether she has a home or not when her father dies. Darcy and Elizabeth have no connection or prior responsibility to each other whatsoever. The gender swap parallels for whom the relationship benefit more also do not fit. In P&P, the benefit is all on Elizabeth's side. In DA, it is all on Mary's side.
2. In both P&P and DA one side loved the other first but again the gender swap doesn't work. Both of the men loved first and the women only later after the men had done some service for them (Darcy rescuing Lydia, Matthew rescuing Sybil). However, the circumstances of this are very different. Darcy's love had to overcome the fact that he considers Elizabeth beneath him and he can't stand her relations. The only thing Matthew has to overcome is his belief of Mary's dislike of him (Darcy is unaware of Elizabeth's) and his initial resentment of the assumption that he ought to marry her which I think he got over pretty quickly. The situations and characters of the people in question are very different.
3. The pride and prejudice in M/M's relationship is pretty much exclusively on Mary's side (though Matthew does have his pride and initial prejudices, but I don't think love from Mary is really responsible for reducing them). In this way, DA has more parallels a gender swapped Cecilia (probable inspiration for P&P) in which the pride and prejudice is all on the hero's side, and much of the plot is spent in undoing his scruples to marriage with Cecilia.
4. The whole Pamuk issue completely derails any comparison, as it does much things being, I think, pretty original. I suppose the comparison would be with Darcy splitting up Bingley and Jane but really, the two things are not really on the same level! Darcy does not have any skeleton of that kind in his closet. The equivalent might well be Elizabeth discovering he had a couple of illegitimate children working on the estate. (And even that would not actually be that shocking for the period.)
5. Darcy's pride is "proper pride" based on his situation in life as a just and honourable landowner, much as Robert's might be. He does abuse it in his attitude but at heart it is decent. I don't think Mary's is, and anyway, she doesn't have any claim to it. If she married Matthew and we could see her pride in DA come through as mistress perhaps. At the moment, she has a lot to lose in her position. She's on a knife-edge of respectability. Darcy has no such issues.
6. Many of the initial problems that cause arguments between D&E come from it being an undesirable match to both of them (status for Darcy and personality for Elizabeth). Many of M/M's problems and arguments come from just the opposite, that it is a very desired match and they are rebelling against this.
I guess... there are comparable aspects in the relationships and characters - of course there are or people wouldn't compare them - but they do not stand up to thorough analysis. Which makes such comparisons, as Eolivet said, unimaginative, and could actually lead to a very simplistic understanding if not misinterpretation of both relationships.
And now I'm going to shut up and let other people discuss this, who are maybe not as blinkered as me!
mlt - June 25, 2011 05:04 PM (GMT)
Basically everything Rose said.
And I agree that It bugs me a lot when people see a love/hate relationship and just think "Pride and Prejudice!!"
|In this way, DA has more parallels a gender swapped Cecilia|
Whoah! Spoiler alert!
|And I know it's not Jane Austen, but I find it interesting how Anna/Bates/Vera seems to be mirroring Jane/Rochester/Rochester's crazy wife|
I can kind of see this, at least in the similar scenario of the male love interest having a secret past/wife. But I think Rochester and Bates are just so fundamentally different that it doesn't fly. The biggest problem I have is that Jane's love altered Rochester into a different person, that whole "changed for the love of a good woman" trope, whereas Bates had already had his reformation even before he met Anna.
Okay will get off the Bronte train now.
How about Violet and Lady Catherine? I think both prefer to have their share in the conversation :P
Scarlet - June 26, 2011 12:57 AM (GMT)
Ooooh, I think I've made an error here. I'm going to alter the discussion slightly if no one minds, to include other works of fiction.
I'm really intrigued by the notion of Anna/Bastes/Vera as Jane/Rochester/Bertha figures. I think it's a really awesome idea and really does create a picture of what Vera MIGHT be like. I mean she might end up being entirely normal and hard done by but I think it'd be more fun if she was a complete nutter. Let's hope she doesn't like matches...
But I do think whilst Bates might not need the love of a good woman to become a better man, perhaps he needs it to realise he is a better man? I certainly think this is true of Rochester. His character does change but I don't think he's all that beastly at the beginning, just a little distant perhaps, but he's still a good enough man to take Adele as his ward even though he is reasonably sure she is not his daughter. He punishes himself mentally for the way his wife has become by keeping her there as a reminder, and Bates allowed himself to be sent to prison for Vera and my impression was that he did it to atone for whatever wrongs he believed he had done her.
I know the situations aren't identical, but perhaps in terms of how they punish themselves there are similarities?
I do wonder what comparisons anyone can see in Downton to classic literature other than Austen. I do like Austen myself but I think it's apparent from the discussions so far that the similarities might be overwhelmed and made irrelevant by the differences. Plus Austen is a bit limiting and incorporates about three characters!
My personal favourite literary comparison at the moment is the slight Rebecca/Danvers feel to Cora/O'Brien. I don't think O'Brien's going to go mental and erm...burn down the house (I swear I do like books where this is not the ending) but I do think there is a level of devotion there that becomes destructive. I think it might be a weird bond, or at least fixation on the part of the servant, that comes from helping to create the image that Cora/Rebecca portrays to the world and society, all the time being one of the few people who sees them without any fašade. I know Cora's nowhere near as horrible as Rebecca - and no one in their right mind would let her near a boat on her own - but I think there is a marked difference between the positive, confident attitude she has when they have guests and even when she's talking to the girls on occasion, compared to the concerned, wistful and almost morose way she sometimes speaks to O'Brien. We know Rebecca told Danvers almost anything and to be treated with confidences as though you're nothing more than a diary is something I think they share.
Given the similarities between the two books it is quite understandable that Rebecca would also have elements of the Anna/Bates/Vera relationship, with the shadow of a first, as-yet-unseen wife hanging over them. On the other hand Anna is yet to become slightly fixated with the first Mrs Bates so I'll sit on this one for a while!