A Bringer of New Things

I want to read and learn all I can, write thoughtfully and truthfully, live according to reason and ever more mature wisdom, and savor every wonderful little gift of life.

What I Admire about Elizabeth and Jane Bennet

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One of the most interesting aspects of art is how the same work can speak different, individual meanings to each new observer. Here is what I take away from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. What personal meanings does the book speak to you?

I deeply admire two chief qualities of the characters Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, qualities they display oppositely, as foils to each other.

I admire Jane’s commitment to honoring people, especially her family. She insists on speaking only positive words about other people (though she goes too far and makes it a prejudice; she insists on seeing only positive qualities of others as well). When I see the destruction caused by negative words spoken behind people’s back, not only in workplace and social contexts but—more devastatingly—in speaking badly about one’s significant other, sibling, parent, child, or other relative, I strongly desire to have Jane’s commitment to loyally honoring and protecting her loved ones through her words.

But I admire Elizabeth’s assertiveness. She also goes too far with it (her titled “prejudice” propels the story’s plot), but I do admire how she speaks her mind (unlike Jane). Since I spent most of my life trying to pacify and agree with everyone, I now pursue the ability to speak my own opinions boldly.

The ideal, to me, would be to combine the sisters’ good qualities—to have Elizabeth’s assertiveness and Jane’s commitment to honoring one’s relationships.

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One comment on “What I Admire about Elizabeth and Jane Bennet

  1. Witness
    August 29, 2013

    Jane’s value, in refusing to see evil in others, partakes of loyalty, respect, simplicity, and, as you say, honor. All of these can be misused. Jane’s loyalty is pretty unexamined; she applies it equally to everyone.

    The refusal to recognize evil paves a wide path for those who would do harm. Jane worships the god of giving the benefit of the doubt to the exclusion of other gods, such as those of intelligent self-care, of integrity, of fairness, and of protecting the helpless. Such single-minded devotion can feel nice, but it’s rarely in the service of goodness.

    I agree that Jane and Elizabeth have a lot to learn from each other; Jane needs to turn up the heat, and Elizabeth needs to turn it down. Happily, they both do, just enough to make life good.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking reflections.

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