It would be befitting to pen down the novel of manners to make today's woman and man rub shoulders with the presence and prevalence of mirage-like idealisms in the times we inhabit, in order to balance the scales.
An individual's standing in the society, must, after all, not be parameterized by the degrees of success and failure to match up with a mere herd mentality, but by how uniquely distinguished one is, from the same! For, there's no fun in contorting oneself to fit the bill which has been tampered with, countless number of times.
Jane Austen is most noted as a novelist for presenting to her readers, a sense of realism in her writings, commenting and critiquing upon the perceptions of society, often marred by judgements over how an individual chose to represent themselves to the masses. Appreciation by scholars and readers alike has made Jane's works to be admired as classics over the last two centuries.
I was compelled to think about how the novel of manners would be rephrased in today's times, thanks to a striking advert from Ariel, which spoke about gender bias being the 'talk of the town'. Given that, today's audience, ironically, is all empowered towards issues of the likes of 'women empowerment', I wondered how it would be for them to leave aside their Pride and shun all Prejudice.
How would it be for Austen's classic 'Pride and Prejudice' to be rewritten in tune to prevalent ideologies? Picture this rephrase by Yours Truly, for instance.
With its protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, the second of the five daughters of a gentlemanly Mr Bennet, Pride and Prejudice would proceed thus. Elizabeth's father, Mr Bennet, is a humble man who is mindful of his responsibilities towards his family. Elizabeth's mother, Mrs Bennet, on the other hand, is occupied with finding suitable husbands for her five daughters, who intend not to inherit much from their father. The eldest daughter, Jane Bennet's richness of character is attributed to her kindness and beauty; Elizabeth Bennet has in common with her father, the gift of witty, yet sarcastic perspective; Mary is identified as studious and devout while Catherine and Lydia are flirtatious and naive. The Bennet family puts up in Longbourn.
Elizabeth in particular, shares close ties with her father, closer than any of her sisters, not only because she's similar to him in most aspects but also owing to the fact that she has always been appreciative of his willingness to lend a shoulder to her mother over matters of the estate. As a matter of fact, she had, as a young girl, seen her father caring more about homely matters than her mother!
A certain Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy's arrival in the neighbourhood captures the attention of the Bennet family, who are on the lookout for prompt suitors! They had heard someone say that a wealthy, charismatic and sociable young bachelor, was moving into Netherfield Park in the neighbourhood. While Mr Bingley is well received, his friend Mr Darcy makes a less favourable impression as he appears proud and condescending at the first instance.
While Jane tends to like Mr Bingley's outspoken nature, she does not let the cat out of the bag yet. On the other hand, Mr Darcy disregards Elizabeth, who returns the gesture too.
On the first visit to Mr Bingley's house, Elizabeth and Jane are surprised by and appreciate the fact that the gentlemen have cared for the upkeep of their humble abode, all by themselves. One would not be able to say that there was not one lady in the house, for it to be so spick-and-span! Perhaps, both the men possessed the quality of not shying away from housework, apart from the appreciative characteristics to their personality too.
Elizabeth and Jane, thus end up admiring the men for being like their father in this respect, among themselves.
Mr Collins, a clergyman and heir to the Bennet estate, comes to visit the family. Mr Bennet and Elizabeth are much amused by his inadvertent fawning towards his employer, the noble Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as well as by his self-important and doctrinaire nature. Apparently, he arrives in Longbourn to choose a wife from among the Bennet sisters, and Jane is singled out, but because of Jane's budding romance with Mr Bingley, Mrs Bennet directs him toward Elizabeth.
After refusing his advances, much to her mother's disbelief and dread, Elizabeth instead familiarises with Mr Wickham, a militia officer who accuses Mr Darcy of severe mistreatment despite having been Darcy's father's favourite. The accusation and her attraction to Mr Wickham both increase Elizabeth's dislike of Mr Darcy.
The following morning, Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth, who puts down the proposal. Mr Collins recovers and promptly becomes engaged to Elizabeth's close friend Charlotte Lucas, who is a homely woman. Collins thus puts forward the notion of most men aiming for a good, devout wife, who immerses herself in household chores of the likes of cooking, cleaning, washing and not one productive task beyond that! Perhaps, he had held high, his impression as a young lad, of his mother single-handedly organising the household. Mr Bingley abruptly returns to London, which devastates Jane, and Elizabeth becomes convinced that Mr Darcy and Bingley's sister Caroline have conspired to separate her sister from him.
After a few months, Elizabeth visits Charlotte and Mr Collins. Darcy visits them at the same time too. Thus, Elizabeth is no mood to accept when Darcy arrives and, quite unexpectedly, confesses love for her and begs her hand in marriage. His proposal is flattering, to say the least, but it is delivered in an inappropriate manner.
Elizabeth rebukes him, and a heated discussion follows; she confronts him about her sister and Bingley, with treating Mr Wickham disgracefully and with having conducted himself towards her in an arrogant manner. Mr Darcy, shocked, ultimately responds with a letter giving a good account of his actions. Elizabeth, who had previously condemned his behaviour, is forced to admit the truth of Mr Darcy's observations and begins to see that she has misjudged him. She, quite rightly, attributes her impressionistic opinion to his coldness towards herself at the beginning of their acquaintance.
That the misunderstanding had given way to a prospective match was a matter of joy, as both Darcy and Elizabeth had harboured soft corners for each other on their insides, knowingly or not.