- Sep 2017
Charlotte knows her views and states them without ambiguity, rendering Austen’s great formal innovation, free indirect speech, notably irrelevant.
Interesting insight. Austen's narration style becomes unnecessary, as Charlotte's language speaks for itself (pardon the pun)
Charlotte’s short speech is punctuated with terms of finality—“entirely,” “in the least,” “always”—even as it loosely follows a couple from “beforehand,” through marriage, to the horizon of having “passed your life.”
Austin's use of diction to determine a major factor of Charlotte's decisions on marriage.
This “Jane Austen,” the author of a body of texts that circulated across four continents within decades of their publication in England, has a less obvious relationship to the western ideal of the liberal autonomous individual
A weak aspect to this article is that Moe often makes unclear transitions in her argumentation. This is one of these cases.
Further, does this then mean that Austen has her own individual understanding of "modernity"? Then, perhaps, both Elizabeth and Charlotte are modern in their own respective ways.
subjective orientation toward freedom, progress, and self-growth that is so clearly formative for Elizabeth Bennet is not taken for granted by Austen as normative for all women. Charlotte Lucas marries Mr. Collins and expects to live a fulfilling life with him. Conscious of Elizabeth’s differing views, Charlotte anticipates being hurt by her friend’s disapprobation, but makes no excuses for her marriage as an act martyrdom or of submis-sion to crushing necessity
Moe argues here that Elizabeth is the progressive one, yet it seemed to me earlier in the article that Charlotte's actions would be expressed as modern in their own way (at least that is what I gained from reading aspects of this article). Is Moe trying to prove both?
feminist critics tended to work within a liberal framework for evaluating individual agency as the pursuit of freedom
Interesting point. Is Charlotte's decision considered "individual agency," or a casualty of the patriarchy?
Elizabeth empties the ritualistic forms of her friendship with Charlotte of real feeling
I appreciate that Moe points this out. I remember first disliking Charlotte and blaming her for the dissolution of her friendship with Elizabeth. But as Moe notes, it is Elizabeth that severs their emotional connection.
Charlotte’s marginalization highlights the limitations that Elizabeth’s views about intimacy place on her emotional and intel-lectual curiosity.43 Austen reminds us of the lack of communication between the two former friends by having Elizabeth hypothesize at the end of her visit that she knows Charlotte’s real feelings, though they go unvoiced: “Poor Charlotte!—it was melancholy to leave her to such society!—But she had chosen it with her eyes open; and though evidently regretting that her visitors were to go, she did not seem to ask for compassion” (P, 233). Though Woloch argues that Elizabeth, by this point in the novel (after visiting Rosings and having read Darcy’s revealing letter) “has become the consciousness around which the novel—as a totality—is oriented,” Elizabeth’s parting interpretation of Charlotte’s inner life offers another example of Elizabeth reading social situations aslant: she is confident Charlotte is “evidently regret-ting” her departure, but perplexed that not only does Charlotte not ask for compassion, but she does not even seem to.
Wow! This is a great excerpt. Here, Moe not only identifies Elizabeth's misjudging of what a "modern" woman chooses, but she again also points out Elizabeth's flaw in putting words/thoughts in other peoples' mouths/minds. Charlotte is (assumedly) content in her role, but it is Elizabeth projecting her own fears onto Charlotte's decision that makes her, in the end, a poor friend to Charlotte. This, again, further the nearly impossible question: who is the more modern woman?
By portraying Charlotte as a superior helpmeet who is more than Mr. Collins deserves, Austen hints that the distinction Elizabeth makes between full, scripted banality and empty, untrammelled elegance is a false one
Something a reader should question, however, is the context of Darcy's comment. Does he say this because it's truly how he feels, or because he wants a wife in Elizabeth, as well? Also interesting how because Darcy makes opinion of Charlotte as a wife, it becomes assumed as "correct"
a happy married future can hold more of the same, not the wholesale change Elizabeth anticipates
By comparing Pride and Prejudice's concerns of marriage to Emma and Mansfield Park, Moe improves her argument about Austen's comprehension of marriage by using relevant texts to apply to Charlotte and Elizabeth's respective situations.
Time was full for Charlotte, though “not yet” weighing on her, while Elizabeth imagines her own as promisingly empty
One of Elizabeth's flaws, I believe, is that she often feels that everyone should think and react like her. She does not understand why Charlotte would marry Collins, but is not truly willing to try and empathize with her decisions.
free indirect speech translates the internal contradictions of Austen’s characters to her readers.36 Charlotte is granted by Austen that formal device which critics have long agreed mediates the complexity of her characters at other moments—when her motives shift from relieving Elizabeth of Mr. Collins’s irksome companionship to thinking about the benefits of securing him as her own husband, for example—but here, when Charlotte wants to make clear to her friend that she has not chosen an unhappy life, she is articu-lately straightforward. Charlotte’s mode of communication only adds to Elizabeth’s discomfort about her friend’s attitude toward intimacy.
More mention of narrative and strong example of Austin's FID. Charlotte's language changes when her subject manner changes. Does Austen choose to make Charlotte a complex, or flat character? I find it amazing that Austen's language (which, as a reader, is easy to overlook) provides so much detail and depth to her characters and their situations.
But, Charlotte’s cathexis of marriage as an institution stands in striking comparison to Elizabeth’s acute surprise at her own hidden internal depths and her sudden discovery of a change of heart about the object of her affection. Charlotte does not experience a sudden change of heart, nor does she acknowledge that fear of approaching middle age prompted her sudden engagement, since I think we are supposed to believe her (Elizabeth certainly does), when she reveals “marriage has always been [her] object.”
Moe's comparison of Elizabeth and Charlotte strengthens her arguments about the institution of marriage within this time frame. Though both women have different expectations of what mate they will end up with, they are both inherently and consciously seeking marriage. But how does this play into the concept of modernity? Does that make them both un-modern? Or does the method of how they both were marriage make their distinct in their different levels of modernity?
Charlotte seems to inhabit the worst of both worlds; even in the domestic sphere her movements, conversation, and enjoy-ment are all checked.
Moe seems to contradict herself at times. Is Charlotte "modern"? Within the same paragraph, she seems to promote Charlotte choice, while also diminishing it. Or is Moe trying to argue that despite an optimistic, "modern" thought process, women's happiness and success are still in the hands of the men they marry? It is unclear.
From Charlotte’s perspective, personal fulfillment, growth, and happiness progress (or regress) with equal precariousness inside or outside the couple, and a loving marriage appears to her as an external, only occasionally relevant condition of her future internal well-being. Marriage is a tolerable constraint within which her flour-ishing does not have to be seriously curtailed.
I would argue that this is a "modern" determination of marriage for the period.
She severs the moral and conceptual bonds linking marriage to progress, conjugal harmony to personal growth, and future happiness to the judgment of character, all of which Elizabeth teaches herself throughout the novel to see as natural and necessary.
I think this is a very interesting insight. However, I think Moe does herself a disservice by briefly mentioning this finding without further description. Since part of her argument relies on narrative/text, a further exploration of this idea and Charlotte's particular language would have enhanced her many points.
Charlotte detaches marriage from a timeline of improvement. She has no easy hopefulness about marriage and progress, couples adapting together, happiness augmenting in time, or self-growth and marriage working in tandem.
I appreciate how Moe is connecting her argument about Charlotte to the concept of "time" and progression, while not directly mentioning modernity. This is a clever method of implying her argument without outright saying it.
Her expectations that individual flourishing takes the form of unconstraint form a striking contrast to the role that self-discipline and the repetitious practices of everyday existence promise to play in Charlotte’s married life.
Moe's language is a bit ambiguous here; is she critiquing or promoting Charlotte's choice? "Self-discipline" is a positive quality and outcome of her marriage to Collins, but "repetitious . . . existence" is made to seem both dreary and wrongful. Of course, no one decision can be simplified to "good" or "bad," but I find her language in this point--which should be a strong closer to the paragraph--to be misleading.
Elizabeth’s process of self-realization through discovering how wrong she was is consistent with her more general practice of negatively inhabiting social expectations. Her course of self-affirmation through negation is opposite to that of Charlotte Lucas, who, despite her age and appearance, surprises and overjoys her family by doing just what young ladies are supposed to do and what everyone supposed she would fail to do: marry.
Moe purposely poses the two characters against each other to express their severe difference in behaving "modernly." Yet, this succinct sentence is a disservice to the full reasoning for Charlotte's choices. It is easy to judge Charlotte as a contemporary reader, but her decision--though not remarkable--it still not something we should completely bash.
An ideal man is an incomplete catalog of qualities waiting to be augmented, and in an ideal couple, each participant accrues from the partner precisely that which their relationship demonstrates each lacks alone. By this logic, falling in love catalyzes recognition of one’s short-comings, even as it promises to compensate for them.
But couldn't this definition of marriage, then, apply to Charlotte and Mr. Collins? Before their marriage, Elizabeth thought quite highly of Charlotte. Couldn't Charlotte's strong qualities improve Mr. Collins'? And though he is not an exceedingly charming character, I am sure he has a few qualities that Charlotte could be improved from.
Understanding social forms as the moral fabric created by so many individual participants helps explain how Elizabeth can imagine herself personally affected by actions not directed at her.29 Actions must be sincerely felt so that social norms, like marriage, can be naturalized as self-expression. She would like Charlotte to feel secretly repulsed by her marriage or to discover that her friend’s equanimity disguised feeling oppressed by the circumstances that cornered her into marrying without love. It is Charlotte’s equanimity in the face of marrying Mr. Collins that most disturbs Elizabeth and helps her clarify her own expectation that a woman’s internal well-being should be either jeop-ardized or affirmed by marriage
At first, this concept seems a bit unrelated to the article, as Moe begins to discuss Elizabeth Bennet's sensitivity and the impact of other characters' choices on her. However, this is Moe's method of bringing up narrative, again, as she describes Austen's methods of using narrative to expose this emotional, affected side to Elizabeth. She also bridges this back to the discussion of marriage and why Charlotte's marriage feels so personally offensive to Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s discontent stems from the way that she grafts individual choice onto social forms. Marriage, for Elizabeth, should not be defined by its being an omnipresent social form; it should be made meaningful by the intentions behind it.
Moe aptly presents her argument again, as she argues that Elizabeth's frustration with Charlotte, for example, has to do with her own issues managing her frustration with "social forms." Moe allows the reader to "fill in the blank" here, as the reader can use this piece of information to better understand Elizabeth's reaction to Charlotte--her frustration is in Charlotte's refusal to resist the social forms that inherently oppress women and impact the emotional aspect of marriage. By giving her reader room to make this judgement herself, Moe's argument consequently becomes more concrete.
Identifying her own suffering with Jane’s, she tells Mrs. Gardiner, “We do not suffer by accident,” by which she expresses how Bingley’s abandon-ment and Charlotte’s betrayal painfully revealed to her that persons whom she had thought were “independent” were in fact “slave[s]” to material comfort, the opinions of friends, or the easiest social path.
Moe here argues that Austen manipulates Elizabeth's narrative to compare her own pain/conflict with Charlotte to that of Jane's with Bingley. Her analysis of Elizabeth's character strengthens her argument's credibility.
interpreting action as intention involves quite a bit of circumstantial squinting, but that making claims about injury also involves taking responsibility for one’s own interpretive position—a mandate, as we shall see, it is not clear Elizabeth fulfills when she judges Charlotte (P, 167). (That Elizabeth’s intentionalist thinking has irreparable consequences for her regard for Charlotte is anomalous in a narrative about misjudgment and repentance.
"Narrative about misjudgment and repentance" is essentially caused, in the case of Elizabeth and Charlotte, by conflicting modernities
The different theses Moe presents to her reader are all an original take on reading Charlotte and Elizabeth's argument, and Charlotte's individual views, especially considering the extensive description of the typical reading of these characters which Moe provides us with.
This introduction, though at times distracted from the main point through inclusion of so many outside theories and readings of Elizabeth/Charlotte/Austen, definitely engages the reader, provides grounding for Moe's argument, and makes this subject appear significant in understanding the conflict of modern viewpoints in Pride and Prejudice, as well as to better understand Charlotte as a character and her decisions.
Charlotte Lucas offers a compelling point of departure for bringing the critical perspective of “multiple [ / ] modernities” into eighteenth-century novel studies.
MAIN POINT/THESIS part 3: Charlotte is a different kind of character, applies to several forms of "modernities" and should be critically examined.
development of modern subjectivity, where the modern subject is assumed to be oriented toward freedom and inner-directed action, overlooks some of the most intriguing aspects of disagreements among women in Austen’s novels and foregoes an opportunity, which becomes more pertinent to feminists every day, to make the novel relevant to subjects and especially to female subjectivities whose self-cultivation takes the form of perseverance, self-discipline, and the daily prac-tice of living in accordance with social practices that do not appear germane to liberation. Charlotte Lucas presents conceptual challenges to feminist theorists and gender analysts because her expectations do not fit those of a romantic plot.
THESIS part 2: the development of "modern subjectivity." This can sometimes draw attention from disagreements between women in Austen novels. Charlotte challenges the "social practices that do not appear germane to liberation." She does not follow a romantic plot.
Moe questions the problem with viewing Elizabeth as the sole modern, feminist character.
By focusing on Charlotte Lucas, I aim to show that heterogeneous ways of thinking and feeling about marriage, about the decisions of other people (and of women, especially) are not only imaginable, but of interest to Austen.
THESIS part 1: diverse methods of thinking/feeling about marriage and why this matters to Austen (through focusing on Charlotte)
Yet, grounding Austen’s development of female subjectivity in novel studies has the unintended consequence of limiting the modes of female subjectivity recovered to those that fit the liberal paradigm of private, inner, autonomous selves screened off from (though foundational to) the public activities of communication, exercise of reason, and pursuit of freedom. This mode of proceeding makes subjects like Charlotte Lucas irrelevant and a hindrance to the consolidation of the novel form
Moe finally refocuses on Charlotte and the common reading of Charlotte.
Austen’s novels were diagnostic of her social world and conservative in the sense that they offered social compromises rather than fractious challenges to the uncertain social future of her moment.
OK, clearly Moe has done her research, as she has provided a great number of sources about Austen's writing, Austen's characters, Austen's personal/written setting, and so forth. The consistent inclusion of reputable sources strengthens Moe's argument (as it makes her assertions seem well based on research), but I am finding it also a bit distracting. She is jumping from topic to topic with inexplicit transitions, and providing so much outside detail, that it is taking away from her own contentions. More analysis, as I have highlighted here, is what would make this article even better.
Also, this notation makes sense, as it extends to Charlotte's marital decisions.
The agency of the critic is exemplified in discovering and naming the overlooked agency of Austen’s female subjects, who in themselves demonstrate Austen’s attentiveness to the limits of patriarchal norms and her willingness to transgress.
Again, Moe is using secondary sources to accentuate that Austen writes about women constrained by patriarchy. Here, however, she includes the concept of "Agency" (for both critic and character), which connects to her argument about Charlotte's actions.
Through both analysis and prescription, paying attention to how women can take powerful stances, even from positions of weaknes
Like Charlotte? Moe should make this connection more explicit. If Auerbach is not associating Charlotte to this label, Moe should.
determined by recent feminist literary critics’ efforts to revise the long history of Austen scholarship
Moe writes this article to combat the frequent reading of Charlotte Lucas' decision to marry Collins, focusing on a feminist literary critical lens.
My focus on Charlotte Lucas resonates with recent critical trends that depart from the assumption that the novel’s telos, particularly as revealed in the courtship plot, is the representation of personhood through characterological depth and interiority
One of the main purposes of the article. Moe sets out to oppose, or at least challenge, previous readings of the novel (and is thus her placement within a scholarly discourse), to reconsider how actions of "characterological depth and interiority" are formed within the courtship plot, and how it is impacted by cultural modernity. She does this through a reading of Charlotte Lucas.
Narratives have limited resources—formal development, narrative attention, and thematic social goods—that are unequally distributed between protagonists and minor characters. In the process of being “minored,” the many clarify the one; in Pride and Prejudice, minor characters “contribut[e] to the development of Elizabeth’s consciousness.”5 As Elizabeth’s close friend and, in many ways, catalyst for her development, Charlotte is both a minor character par excel-lence and a register of the costs of such a system of individuation
It is important to relate the concept of cultural modernity and Charlotte's choices to narrative, as that is the main point of the argument (though Moe's thesis is not clearly stated just yet). Also fascinating to label all the minor characters are developmental aspects to Elizabeth; this is quite dehumanizing, but is quite arguable. Austen, therefore, purposefully has Charlotte marry Collins as part of further promoting Elizabeth's vehement feelings about marriage.
Charlotte’s views seem “not sound” to Elizabeth because they are anachronistic to developing standards of mutual regard that govern modern hetero-sexuality
Moe is methodically challenging Austen readers who nearly worship Elizabeth Bennet and believe she can do no wrong by using quotations here, implying the idea that although Charlotte does not abide by the same ideology of marriage that Elizabeth does not mean that she is "wrong" for making these choices. This is a purposeful, and clever, way for Moe to extend Charlotte's likability.
narrative of cultural modernizatio
"Cultural modernization" is terminology to consider throughout this entire piece. What does it mean to be "culturally modern"? Do the characters of this text (Charlotte, specifically) perform actions that are "culturally modern"? Moe states that Austen critics have labeled Charlotte/Elizabeth's conflicting ideas on marriage a result of "cultural modernization," but what does this really mean? Who is defining this? This concept, however, is part of the core of this article's purpose.
Yet, Charlotte’s stance is important to think through two hundred years later as a reminder of the multiplicity of attitudes toward intimacy, conjugality, and self-fulfillment in Austen’s fiction. This multiplicity remains unstudied by a tradition of Austen criticism that too often remains bound, even in contemporary feminist forms, to the analytic and prescriptive parameters of liberal personhood as those are under-stood to have emerged at the end of the eighteenth century.
Moe points out that many Austen critics do not view Charlotte's decisions regarding marriage as "modern," yet as a victim of the 18th century patriarchy, Charlotte's actions make a lot of sense.
- modern subjectivity
- Mr. Collins
- cultural modernity
- cultural modernization
- elizabeth bennet
- 18th century
- feminist lens
- Charlotte Lucas
- free indirect discourse
- social forms
- secondary source
- courtship plot
- Elizabeth Bennet
- pride and prejudice
- Austen texts