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Thread: Jane Eyre vs Pride and Prejudice

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    Jane Eyre vs Pride and Prejudice

    Hi guys,

    I am a huge fan of the book Jane Eyre. For starters, there's Jane herself, who I admire more than anything. Her strength, independence, and piety, despite everything life throws at her (being plain and poor, the cruelty of her relatives, the death of Helen Burns, Mr Rochester's deceit), is amazing. Her counterpart, Mr. Rochester, is just as perfect. Brooding, sarcastic, passionate, and head-over-heels in love with Jane... I love this character. Their relationship is fascinating and the language of their conversations - beautiful. I especially like how they are both not pretty/handsome. It really shows how beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that their love is based on themselves as people, not just on appearances.

    And then there's Pride and Prejudice. Yuck. Let's start with the heroine, Elizabeth. She comes from a big family with an annoying mom. Big deal. She is also beautiful and intelligent, and likely to attract the attention any guy - that doesn't sound like any underdog to me. And Darcy, I'm sorry, I know he's "every women's dream," but I just don't see it. Sure, he's rich and handsome, but who cares? He is pompous and rude. His "transformation" at the end into a less prideful guy - I'm not buying it. And, Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship? They never acted like they were in love at all. My interpretation: Darcy was interested in Elizabeth because she was an outspoken pretty girl. I believe he "pretended to change" at the end for his own sake because he didn't like being rejected (remember how shocked he was when she rejected him? Ug, how conceited can you get). Elizabeth was only interested in Darcy because he became the "stereotypical perfect guy." I mean really, if you could make a checklist: Handsome? check. Rich? check. Gentlemanly? check. Honestly, I bet every women the world would fell themselves compatible to him. Thus, there's nothing special in Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship - I think its superficial.

    So, does anyone agree? I've honestly never met anyone who has.

    If not, could you please explain the appeal of Pride and Prejudice and/or Darcy to me?

  2. #2
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Darcy never locked his wife in the attic, lied to his lover, or dressed up as a gypsy. True -- he was something of a snooty dweeb -- but comparing him to Rochester is like comparing a shoplifter to Osama Bin Laden.

    To each his (or her) own. I suppose we can understand why abandoned, abused Jane Eyre would love anyone who loved her back, but Rochester has to be one of the most unattractive heroes in fiction (along with Heathcliff).

    Why must a heroine be an "underdog"? It is (of course) correct that Elizabeth Bennet has a life of luxury and ease, compared to Jane Eyre. That may make us pity Jane, but it hardly makes her a better heroine.

    Regarding Darcy's "transformation", there are several schools of thought: first, some readers think Darcy wasn't so bad to begin with. Elizabeth overheard him saying that she "wasn't handsome enough to tempt me", and held it against him. But surely an offhand comment to a good friend isn't a mortal sin. According to this school of thought, Darcy is a bit shy (of people he doesn't know well), and is properly proud (why shouldn't he hate Wickham?)

    Darcy disagrees. He specifically told Elizabeth that she had changed him (did Jane ever change Rochester?). WE know, of course, that most people don't alter their personalities as adults, and I prefer a combination of the two theories -- Darcy wasn't all that bad to begin with, but Elizabeth made him more self-aware.

    Austen and Bronte were very different writers: Austen was a realist and a humorist (don't you like Darcy when he polishes off Miss Bingley with his humorous remarks?); Bronte a romantic and a fantasist. I like Jane Eyre (the person and the book),but not as much as Jane Austen. Austen is (perhaps) the funniest great novelist. Bronte has no sense of humor.

    Nonetheless, it is Rochester, not Darcy, who is monstrous in his deceits and conceits.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Darcy never locked his wife in the attic, lied to his lover, or dressed up as a gypsy. True -- he was something of a snooty dweeb -- but comparing him to Rochester is like comparing a shoplifter to Osama Bin Laden.
    Wife in the attic - I don't see why this is so bad. She was treated kindly. I mean, I wish he had had the sense not to marry her in the first place, but considering she was pretty much the bane of his existence and he was never cruel to her; that takes some skin.

    Lying - Okay, you got me there. I let the "Rochester logic" get the best of me in the part where he begs Jane to stay (I love that part...). But yes, thinking logically, he should not have done that.

    Gypsy - People harp on this a lot. I mean sure, its weird, but he's madly in love with Jane, and does this learn more about her. It adds to his romantic eccentricity...


    "To each his (or her) own. I suppose we can understand why abandoned, abused Jane Eyre would love anyone who loved her back, but Rochester has to be one of the most unattractive heroes in fiction (along with Heathcliff)."
    I'm sorry, I can't agree with that. I love Mr. Rochester...


    "Why must a heroine be an "underdog"? It is (of course) correct that Elizabeth Bennet has a life of luxury and ease, compared to Jane Eyre. That may make us pity Jane, but it hardly makes her a better heroine."
    I felt that Jane being the underdog does make her a better heroine, not because we pity her, but because of what she does in response her situation. In other words, I would characterize her as strong and moral not because her difficulties, but because she worked to overcome them. Elizabeth, though she may have those qualities, never displays anything because her life is so easy, making her harder to admire. In fact, does Elizabeth do anything that should make us respect her?

    "Regarding Darcy's "transformation", there are several schools of thought: first, some readers think Darcy wasn't so bad to begin with. Elizabeth overheard him saying that she "wasn't handsome enough to tempt me", and held it against him. But surely an offhand comment to a good friend isn't a mortal sin. According to this school of thought, Darcy is a bit shy (of people he doesn't know well), and is properly proud (why shouldn't he hate Wickham?)"
    Hey, the guy made eye contact with Elizabeth, and then said that rude comment within earshot if her - that's not the kind of thing you want to hear from your future "love of your life." And properly proud? I see it more as raw arrogance. Bingley was around as distinguished as Darcy, and he wasn't like that - it is never proper to be conceited.


    "
    Darcy disagrees. He specifically told Elizabeth that she had changed him (did Jane ever change Rochester?). WE know, of course, that most people don't alter their personalities as adults, and I prefer a combination of the two theories -- Darcy wasn't all that bad to begin with, but Elizabeth made him more self-aware."
    If Darcy wasn't all that bad to begin with, then is there anything about his personality that was worth falling in love with? And Elizabeth making him more self-aware, its kind of sad that that needs to happen to make the story a happy ending. In Jane Eyre, one can argue either way if Jane changed Rochester or not, but the beauty of it is that it doesn't matter because Jane loves Rochester even with his all of his flaws. In Pride and Prejudice, we know that Elizabeth despised Darcy's original personal nature and only liked him after he "changed." Hmm... I don't know if this marriage is going to last...


    "Austen and Bronte were very different writers: Austen was a realist and a humorist (don't you like Darcy when he polishes off Miss Bingley with his humorous remarks?); Bronte a romantic and a fantasist. I like Jane Eyre (the person and the book),but not as much as Jane Austen. Austen is (perhaps) the funniest great novelist. Bronte has no sense of humor."
    I agree they are very different. Bronte definitively isn't a "funny" writer, but don't you smile every time Rochester calls Jane a witch, or elf? Or when Jane calls Rochester ugly... multiple times? And my favorite part, Brocklehurts: "What must you do to avoid Hell?" Jane: "I must keep in good health and not die." That is genius.


    "Nonetheless, it is Rochester, not Darcy, who is monstrous in his deceits and conceits.
    Haha nice rhyme. I might (reluctantly) agree with the "deceits," but I say Darcy is the one that "conceits."

  4. #4
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Oh, come on. Rochester was treating his wife "kindly" by locking her in the attic and keeping her existence secret from the world (why so secret, I wonder, if he was treating her so kindly?). Personally, if I were her brother (whose name I disrecollect), I would have called the magistrates.

    However, your opinion about Austen is shared by at least one commentator: Charlotte Bronte. Here's one thing she wrote about Austen:

    "I have likewise read one of Miss Austen's works Emma—read it with interest and with just the right degree of admiration which the Miss Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable—anything like warmth or enthusiasm; anything energetic, poignant, heartfelt, is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstration the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outre and extravagant. She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well; there is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting: she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood; even to the Feelings she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but distant recognition; too frequent converse with them would ruffle the smooth elegance of her progress. ... Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady, but a very incomplete, and rather insensible (not senseless) woman, if this is heresy—I cannot help it. If I said it to some people (Lewes for example) they would accuse me of advocating exaggerated heroics, but I am not afraid of your falling into any such vulgar error."
    Since Austen is my favorite novelist (along with one or two others), I can't agree with Charlotte Bronte (I almost wrote Acton or Ellis Bell, but I forget which one Charlotte was). Charlotte didn't have a sense of humor, so she failed to appreciate Austen's primary talent. Of course, because Austen was a genius, she was also profound. But the lack of passionate (and "poetic") romance in Austen wouldn't appeal to Bronte. I myself have a great affection for Marianne Dashwood, a romantic young heroine of whom the story disapproves, and wish Austen had offered her a more romantic consolation than ol' stick-in-the-mud, Colonel Brandon.

    Also, I think Austen knew only too well the joys (and dangers) of romance. Think of Anne Eliot (in "Persuasion") recommending that Captain Benwick spend less time reading poetry, and more reading prose. Why? Poetry is dangerous. (It was certainly dangerous to the Brontes. Charlotte killed off Lucy's lover in Vilette for no better reason than that she thought it poetic of him to die).

    The two authors are very different, though, and it's easy to see how some Austen fans might think "Jane Eyre" a silly melodrama, with little connection to reality, and some Bronte fans might think "P & P" a lightweight, unromantic confection. I love them both (although Austen is my favorite, and, even in sober consideration, I think her the greater writer, because, in part, she was one of the early geniuses of realism, a style that has dominated novel writing).

    I've been rereading Anthony Trollope recently. He's more realistic than Austen, and more romantic (in a realistic rather than poetic way) than the Brontes. Great stuff (although Austen is considerably funnier, and, perhaps, more subtle).

    Quote Originally Posted by Laura Clarke View Post

    In Jane Eyre, one can argue either way if Jane changed Rochester or not, but the beauty of it is that it doesn't matter because Jane loves Rochester even with his all of his flaws.


    This is the part I don't get. What (other than an abused childhood that had (reasonably) deranged one's sensibilities) could possibly make anyone love Rochester? He's as ugly in morals and personality as he is in person. Darcy is a wit (as much as Elizabeth is, although more subtly), and a good man -- honest, honorable, kind (to those with whom he is familiar), and (of course) rich as Croisus. What's not to like?

  5. #5
    Because Jane herself is damaged like Rochester. Love isn't always rational, and sometimes it is completely irrational. Bronte isn't making an argument for the rationality of Jane's love, she's presenting it. Considering Bronte's affection for the Romantics and the Romanticism of the novel, Jane's love makes perfect "sense."

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    Jane Eyre is a good book, I'm not going to do it down. It gives its readers exactly what they want, the heroine remains constant and steadfast to her childhood principles and is rewarded in the end. Wrong doing is punished, (Dying without forgiveness or a little blindness perhaps.)It is satisfying in that way.

    But to answer Ecurb's question above, this is Bronte's fantasy world where the rules of realism don't apply. In modern parlance Jane Eyre ( the book) 'jumps the shark' again and again. I think Jane's popularity is because she is what every young girl hopes to be when she grows up, or wishes she'd been more like afterwards.

    Pride and Prejudice has its main characters more skilfully drawn, they grow and evolve through experience, they learn their lessons. Their journey - unlike Jane's - is internal. It is set in what appears to be a narrow world, but always the real one. Austin says what she sees and repeats what she hears - but she can hear what is not being said, and manages to convey that too, that is her great skill. An Austin conversation supplies everything you need to know about the character, principles, bearing, situation and foibles of the speaker - it almost describes them physically. Then there is her famous and delightful anarchic subtext (anarchic may be the wrong word - mischievous - if you like, and certainly ironic,) going on throughout. She is holding a mirror up to the society she lives in (and ours, amazingly) and with wicked accuracy, reminding us of our absurdities.
    All this requires the most sublime skill in writing conjoined with an intellegent and open minded understanding of human nature. It is these qualities that make her as popular and relevent today as ever.

    There's a lot more - whole books have been written- but that'll do for now. P&P, a story of narrow little lives has a content wider than the Sargasso Sea.
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 10-12-2015 at 09:51 AM.
    ay up

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Well stated, Pren. I'm not sure why so many people compare Jane Austen with Charlotte Bronte. Perhaps it is merely because they are both women, and 19th century novelists. Or maybe "Jane Eyre" reminds some of "Jane Austen".

    I think many Austen fans are girls who think (or would like to think) her novels romantic, because they are old-fashioned and revolve around girls engaging themselves to be married. Pride and Prejudice is a Cinderella story (although to a far lesser extent than "Jane Eyre"). Indeed, many Austen fans (including me) consider it to be flawed, especially compared to Austen's three adult masterpieces: Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion (although all six novels are very close to each other in quality). The meeting at Pemberley seems contrived and although I wouldn't want to part with one utterance of Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine, perhaps they belong more to the world of farce than to that of Realism (minor flaws!). Nonetheless, Pride and Prejudice remains the most popular of Austen's novels, probably because it it appeals to romantic notions, with its rich, proud hero, and pretty, witty heroine. Also, it has produced the most popular film and TV adaptations (although the movie "Persuasion" was quite good, and the Keira Knightley version of P & P made me think the novel had been written by Charlotte Bronte, with its dramatic music, wind-swept heaths, and Constable skies).

    For readers who want romance in their Austen, I recommend Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion. The scene in S & S in which Elinor tries to comfort heartbroken Marianne is one of the most romantic in fiction (although the romance is between two sisters), and Persuasion is colored with romantic, autumnal hues (although it is a romance of memory, which might not appeal to young girls).
    Last edited by Ecurb; 10-12-2015 at 10:17 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nick mcglue View Post
    Because Jane herself is damaged like Rochester. Love isn't always rational, and sometimes it is completely irrational. Bronte isn't making an argument for the rationality of Jane's love, she's presenting it. Considering Bronte's affection for the Romantics and the Romanticism of the novel, Jane's love makes perfect "sense."
    Perfectly said.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Darcy is a wit (as much as Elizabeth is, although more subtly), and a good man -- honest, honorable, kind (to those with whom he is familiar), and (of course) rich as Croisus. What's not to like?
    Its funny you say this because this is exactly what I don't like about him. This probably sounds weird but its like he's ... too perfect to be believable. I mean, I have no problem with him being a "good man," but he's also rich and handsome? Come on. I feel like Austen takes away the "romanticism" by making him like this - Elizabeth could be falling in love with Darcy's looks and money for all we know. And, don't forget he's conceited - yuck.

    And I love that quote you sent - I couldn't agree more! Bronte's writing grips the reader emotionally. Austen's writing just seems...cold

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    For readers who want romance in their Austen, I recommend Sense and Sensibility or Persuasion. The scene in S & S in which Elinor tries to comfort heartbroken Marianne is one of the most romantic in fiction (although the romance is between two sisters), and Persuasion is colored with romantic, autumnal hues (although it is a romance of memory, which might not appeal to young girls).
    Okay, I'll try it

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    Quote Originally Posted by Laura Clarke View Post
    Its funny you say this because this is exactly what I don't like about him. This probably sounds weird but its like he's ... too perfect to be believable. I mean, I have no problem with him being a "good man," but he's also rich and handsome? Come on. I feel like Austen takes away the "romanticism" by making him like this - Elizabeth could be falling in love with Darcy's looks and money for all we know. And, don't forget he's conceited - yuck.

    And I love that quote you sent - I couldn't agree more! Bronte's writing grips the reader emotionally. Austen's writing just seems...cold
    We all wish (I hope) that we could enjoy as wide a variety of literature as possible, especially when it comes to canonical works that many readers of undoubted good taste love (which applies to the novels of both Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen). There's no reason to force oneself to read literature that doesn't appeal to one's taste, though. Reading novels as a duty is like attending a banquet at the point of a spear. However expert the chef, the food just isn't going to taste as good as it otherwise might. (Apologies to secondary school literature teachers -- but I stand by that opinion.)

    Personally, I like Elizabeth Bennet and don't hold her wit, sense of honor, independent mind, athletic body, and pretty face against her. Indeed, I like plain, other-worldly Jane Eyre, too.

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    All right, Ecurb, well said. I guess I'm just not a Pride and Prejudice kind of person. I didn't mind it the first time I read it, but after Jane Eyre... it just can't compare.
    And I love Rochester and aspire to be like Jane - I just can't help it.

    Just a hypothetical question for you: What do you think of St. John? I know this isn't really a fair question considering since Bronte doesn't spin him in a positive fashion, but lets just take him out of that "negative portrayal" and view him objectively. Since you're not a fan of Rochester, I assume you maybe prefer the "good guys?" I was just wondering because St. John (in a vague sense) always reminded me of Darcy in his ways of "fulfilling requirements" (handsome, gentlemanly, honest)

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    I'm no St. John fan. He's too self-righteous and intense for my taste, and he wants to kill Jane (by taking her to disease-ridden India). Darcy (I suppose) is a bit self-righteous, but he has a sense of humor about it, unlike St. John. Also, I like Darcy because he likes to argue -- remember how he tried arguing with Bingley, but Bingley refused? As may be obvious from this thread, I like to argue, too.

    My ideal Christian in literature: Septimus Harding, curate of St. Ewold (Trollope, several novels).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    He's too self-righteous and intense for my taste, and he wants to kill Jane
    That made me crack up for some reason.
    But yeah I figured that was a long shot - St. John was a little too intense to considered "likable" for probably anyone. But I think you'd agree that, in purely terms of what's good for the novel, he was a good character to have. He was important to the "second conflict" and he helped add to the religious theme of the novel (with Brocklehurst, Rochester, and St. John, Bronte truly touches all of the different "extreme" bases of religious faith - pretty impressive in my opinion).

    And is it just me or does Bingley literally have no personality throughout the entire novel? I mean, I see how Austen was trying to present all the different marriage pairs (Charotte and Collins, Lydia and Wickham, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, etc) but even Jane Bennet had somewhat of a personalty. Bingley just seemed, to me, like a good-looking, well-mannered rock.

    As may be obvious from this thread, I like to argue, too.
    Same! That's what people hate most about me

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    Hey...I don't mean to pick at an old thought, but I just read this more closely...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ecurb View Post
    Personally, I like Elizabeth Bennet and don't hold her wit, sense of honor, independent mind, athletic body, and pretty face against her. Indeed, I like plain, other-worldly Jane Eyre, too.
    It's not that I hold anything against her, its just that she's less admirable as a heroine because she doesn't have to work as hard. Its like this: Lets say you have a naturally brilliant person, and then a naturally non-brilliant person. If the less-brilliant person is able to achieve as much as the brilliant person, I'd say that they accomplished more. Its not the brilliant person's fault for being smart... its just that they then have to do more because they've been given more.

    So its not that Elizabeth Bennet did anything wrong... she just didn't do anything worth respecting, in my opinion.

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    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laura Clarke View Post
    Hey...I don't mean to pick at an old thought, but I just read this more closely...



    It's not that I hold anything against her, its just that she's less admirable as a heroine because she doesn't have to work as hard. Its like this: Lets say you have a naturally brilliant person, and then a naturally non-brilliant person. If the less-brilliant person is able to achieve as much as the brilliant person, I'd say that they accomplished more. Its not the brilliant person's fault for being smart... its just that they then have to do more because they've been given more.

    So its not that Elizabeth Bennet did anything wrong... she just didn't do anything worth respecting, in my opinion.
    She became self aware (faults and all) and grew from a country girl into a woman who could hold her own against Lady Catherine and her like. She grew to deserve and suit Darcy, and he grew to deserve her. Ok, she did this by observing the examples of folly that surrounded her and it's not exactly life or death but turning out how she did inspite of her family should be respected.
    ay up

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    The romantic hero embarks on a quest to seek his fortune. So does Elizabeth Bennet. She slays no dragons, climbs no Koshta Belorns, and discovers no magic rings. But she does gain her prince (is he a buried treasure?) and she deserves him, because of her wit, her energy, and her moral courage. She loves her sister Jane about as well as one sister can love another, and she (not yet one and twenty) stands up to dragon-like Lady Catherine, and intimidating Mr. Darcy.

    Charles Bingley is a minor character, but he is a good man, kind and gentle, which is why he doesn't like to argue, just as Jane Bennet is a good woman. I prefer Darcy to Bingley, and Elizabeth to Jane, but my preference may not concur with that of (say) God.

    Although it is true that equal achievements confer more MORAL virtue on those for whom they come with difficulty, I will personally avail myself of a cure for cancer whether it is invented by a diligent drudge, or a lazy genius. I might admire the diligent drudge, but befriend the lazy genius (he'd have more time to watch the Cubs games with me). As Elizabeth says to Darcy, after their engagement:

    "To be sure, you know no actual good of me -- but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love."

    The countless readers who are in love with Elizabeth Bennet DO know some good of her, but that is not why they love her. They love her for her personality rather than her character.

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