- Sep 2017
The keen feeling of hazard and loss that attends Elizabeth’s point of view—the caution Jane gives her that Elizabeth’s habit of interpretation will “ruin [her] happiness”—is lost in a critical interpretation that celebrates her character as a representative of either social progress, cultural conservation or aesthetic consolidation.
Moe excellently addresses how narrative and Elizabeth's ideas interferes (and mislabels) the possibilities of progressive and modern actions. Elizabeth ends her friendship with Charlotte (essentially) because of their difference of interpretation (of the "modern" action)
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?
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.
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?
Defending her future against the claims of the present (her embarrassing family, her disappointing friend), means that the future expands, freed of its current burdens, to accommodate a future self who will have grown with “greater importance” and a future couple whose mutual progress demands a marital space purified of all intrusions.
It's interesting that so many contemporary readers see Elizabeth's marriage as very conventional, when she is striving to fulfill this "future self." I would be interested in seeing Moe identifying the many critiques of Elizabeth's marriage as non-modern, and working through them to defend her argument.
The recognition of mediocrity exchanged by two characters, whom nineteenth-century readers recognized as “of superior order” to common novel characters, transfigures their self-consciously lacking public performances—his bad manners, her mediocre piano playing—into performances of intimacy, rather than class allegiance or simple dilettantism
Great point. Moe's description of Elizabeth and Darcy's connection through their "modern" misbehavior, as presented through narrative, addresses the points of her argument. However, this is quoted/paraphrased from a text (The Critical Review/Annals of Literature) from 1813, which I do not think is necessarily appropriate or relevant for such a modern (pardon the pun) article.
By doing just what she ought, Charlotte falls short of what Elizabeth would have a self-respecting woman do: surpass expectations by getting the more pedestrian ones wrong. She later gets Darcy to admit that his attraction flourished under her practice of not trying to please. Much of the flirtation between Darcy and Elizabeth draws on a mutual desire not to meet expectations
Moe defines what Elizabeth considers a "self-respecting," modern woman to be. By clearly stating this, Moe clearly accentuates the points and support to her argument.
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.
The intensity and dogmatism with which Elizabeth discovers—and relishes—how wrong she was, how mistaken she is capable of being, shines with a characteristically Austenian comic effect. The mirror of self-scrutiny reveals to her not only that she misjudged Wickham and shortchanged Darcy, but, more pleasurably, a portrait of a woman who makes and moves past mistakes
Probably why Elizabeth Bennet is one of Austen's most beloved characters! She is incredibly human and relatable.
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.
her policing throughout the novel of a “proper way of thinking” with regard to actions in general and marriage in particular
So true! But that spirit is what makes Elizabeth Bennet the extraordinary Austen heroine she is!
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.
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.
Austen develops heroines like Elizabeth Bennet to be ambassadors for novelistic generic acceptance at the same time that they are agents of social reform. The marriage plot is the exemplary union of both, carried forward by Elizabeth Bennet as the upwardly mobile bourgeois female subject who becomes responsible for the modernization of aristocratic culture into which she is accepted.
Moe acknowledges Elizabeth as the "modern" character, though her modernity is still restrained by the necessity of her getting married.
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.
- secondary source
- Elizabeth Bennet
- modern subjectivity
- Austen texts
- Charlotte Lucas
- cultural modernity
- pride and prejudice
- cultural modernization
- elizabeth bennet
- outdated source?
- social forms