Pride/Prejudice: a novel of Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, and Their Forbidden Lovers by Ann Herendeen

In the acknowledgments, Herendeen calls her work the “spawn of its author’s imagination,” and though I enjoyed reading it, I’m inclined to agree with her word choice. The book’s premise is that Darcy, Bingley, Elizabeth, and Charlotte are bi-sexual, and while that idea alone takes it out of Austen’s world, many of the circumstances and descriptions take it out of any world of refinement and civility.

“Fitz,” for instance, plans to marry Caroline, and Bingley to marry Georgiana, which is not so different from their initial stances in Austen’s original, except that Darcy and Bingley are already in a loving, sexual relationship with each other, which makes any marriage to sisters seem incestuous. The incest continues with Darcy’s idea that, when he marries Caroline, Mrs. Hurst will be available to him as well, as part of a package deal of sorts. The history of Darcy and Wickham’s relationship is altered by the bi element here, which means that Darcy, his little sister, his future wife, and her little sister were all drawn, at one time or another, to the same man. Without ruining too much, I’ll just say that multiple members of that list are “involved” with Wickham within hours of each other.

Phrasing, too, seems to put this text at odds with Austen’s. In the opening scene, Fitz quotes the first line of Pride and Prejudice as his own words and proceeds to perform fellatio on Bingley. Probably not how Austen envisioned the line, but who knows for sure? On the third night of Jane’s visit to Netherfield, Bingley is back to business, and the narrator describes him as “lying in Fitz’s arms, sweaty and dirty and so adorable Fitz could have licked him clean for the sheer joy of soiling him all over again.” I’m no prude, but does anyone else feel dirty even reading this line? Worse, however, are the lines that characters say in this book that we know they would never have said in Austen’s. Darcy, for instance, tells his little sister that she will “do very well, so long as [she] repress[es her] childish desire to show off” (since when is she a show-off?) because, after all, “young gentlemen don’t like a clever female.” By comparison, even vulgar puns (“Charles rejecting balls, of all absurd things—what had been, only a couple of weeks ago, his favorite pastime”) are of little import.

Yet vulgar expressions disturb nonetheless when they feel completely gratuitous. When Elizabeth visits Hunsford, for instance, and reaches out to her former lover, Charlotte is described as pushing Elizabeth’s “hand violently away . . . like a girl of twelve pawed by her drunken uncle.” Ew. That image was hardly necessary. You judge if the description of Darcy’s masturbation—“he let loose again, another long white string”—helps you understand the characters any better than you would without it. Henry Tilney gets dragged into the den of iniquity to which Darcy belongs (to leave it, he has to submit to the administrations of all the “Brothers”  “during the course of a long afternoon”), and Elizabeth just happens to walk by a bedchamber with a door that conveniently “had swung free from the jamb a few inches” just as Darcy prepares to enter Bingley.

Elizabeth’s witnessing of this event does not disturb her, and, as you know must happen, when Darcy and she fall in love, their passion is equally fervent.  I will leave you to discover how Darcy interacts with Wickham when Darcy goes to save Lydia, how Darcy interacts with Bingley after their marriages to the Bennet sisters, and how much—and when—innocent Jane really knows about the man she loves.

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Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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