Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: A Balm in Troubled Times

“I am grieved, indeed,” cried Darcy; “grieved—shocked. But is it certain, absolutely certain?”

These were the words that came to me immediately after Donald Trump was elected. I only wish Mr. Darcy were actually reaching for my hand to comfort me in my tears, as he did with Elizabeth Bennet when she discovered the true nature and intentions of the nefarious Mr. Wickam.

The scene continues with Elizabeth crying, “But nothing can be done; I know very well that nothing can be done. How is such a man to be worked on?….It is every way horrible!”

Darcy is equally bereft. “When my eyes were opened to his real character,—Oh! Had I known what I ought, what I dared, to do! But I knew not—I was afraid of doing too much. Wretched, wretched, mistake!”

I often turn to Jane Austen in times of wretchedness. There is something so timeless and calming about the way she captures the longings we all share—for happiness, security, love, even power.

In a blog called Why Is Jane Austen So Popular? author Micah Mattix refers to an argument that “the age of reason would mark the end of the age of chivalry, ushering in a world organized not by tradition but by fear and power.”

Austen’s world is a place where duty and honor are still revered. In the face of scandal, financial ruin, and gender bias, her novel is a reminder that all is not lost. Despite Mr. Wickam’s reprehensible character, the Bennets persevere. Jane and Elizabeth are not ruined. Though Mr. Bennet vows that Mr. Wickam will never be welcomed into his home, when the time comes, they make do. Civility always wins the day.

Elizabeth, despite her disgust for her new brother-in-law, chooses to be graceful, saying, “Come, Mr. Wickam, we are brother and sister, you know. Do not let us quarrel about the past. In future, I hope we shall be always of one mind.”

In today’s America we may be a long way from achieving one mind. But we are brother and sister. Hopefully we are more than our pride and our prejudice. Can we, like Austen’s characters, find in our hearts the warmest gratitude for anyone who may be the means of uniting us?

 

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