Good Afternoon dear readers,
Today I would like to share with you a guest post under my readers reviews feature, even if this post is not exactly a review, but more of an analysis of my 2 favourite novels: Pride & Prejudice and North & South.
My guest today is Apala Bhattacharya, a dear friend I’ve met online due to our mutual love for The X-Files. As we started talking, we realized that we had much, much more in common. We both have degrees in the media areas, we love history and we are fascinated by period dramas, namely the North and South BBC adaptation.
We also share our love of Pride and Prejudice, but she didn’t know about the world of JAFF. I introduced her to it, and once she started reading JAFF, she was hooked!
Today she shares with you her view on P&P and N&S, and also a great idea she came up with for readers and writers of JAFF and North and South variations. I know you will love the idea! I’ll explain everything at the end of the post. 🙂
Pride and Prejudice and North and South: A Comparative Analysis
by Apala Bhattacharya
Most people will tell you that Darcy and Elizabeth make the most iconic romantic pair in the history of classic literature. Less well-known, but equally loved, is John Thornton and Margaret Hale of North and South. Both novels bind together nuanced perspectives of human nature and human struggles, with love stories that are timeless.
As if the books weren’t enough, the TV adaptations of both these novels cast the most perfect men for the roles. Colin Firth set hearts aflutter with his charming reserve and wet, wet shirt; Richard Armitage set the bar for hot businessmen who redefine enduring passion. (Christian Grey who?) Both characters are one half of an iconic pair; but let us consider who all four of these characters are as individuals, as couples; and what they might have in common.
Elizabeth and Darcy, Margaret and Thornton
In each of these romantic pairings, one half of the couple is a perfect foil to the other. Elizabeth confronts Darcy’s pride, and he is a better man because of it. Darcy makes Elizabeth realize that first impressions are often prejudiced. In the end, Darcy is humbled, Elizabeth’s prejudices are rectified, and they live happily ever after together.
The theme of ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’ runs through North and South as well. Margaret’s prejudice towards traders and the North, gives way to the realization that there is nobility in honest, hard work. Thornton learns that more can be achieved through understanding and cooperation, than with an Us vs Them attitude. In both stories, one helps the other reach a place of greater understanding.
Our female protagonists are somewhat alike. Elizabeth and Margaret are both sensible, thoughtful, intellectual women – no silly women are they. (Unlike Fanny in North and South, and Lydia in Pride and Prejudice.) Both conduct themselves with grace under pressure. Both are humbled by the events in their lives, and are the better for it.
Darcy and Thornton have some things in common as well. Though one may be part of the landed gentry, and another a self-made man, they are neither of them charmers – both tell it like it is. But it’s not what they say that matters, it’s what they do. They rise to the occasion when their ladies are in a tight spot. Both passionately propose to the women they love, only to be summarily rejected. In time, both women have a change of heart, but it was rough going for a while. I’d imagine Darcy and Thornton would enjoy commiserating. (Crossover fanfiction idea. Writers, could we?)
Austen and Gaskell: their enduring legacy
Like her protagonist Elizabeth, Austen revels in the ridiculous. She holds up a mirror to human flaws, and does it with humour and charm. Whether it is Mr. Collin’s sycophancy, Charlotte’s mercenary approach to love and marriage, or even Elizabeth herself – Austen parses human motivations and reactions with surgical precision. And that’s why we love Austen. Her writing epitomzes the saying “It’s funny because it’s true”.
Gaskell is a more sombre writer. At least six characters die in novel. Plus, Thornton’s father killed himself. Cheerful subject. She doesn’t shy away from exploring death, disease, poverty, feudalism, capitalism and class divide. Gaskell explores these subjects with a real earnestness that is reflected in Margaret’s conversations with Thornton, Higgins and her father. A Victorian woman wasn’t supposed to exhibit intellectual curiosity, so here’s Gaskell breaking gender stereotypes, like Austen does with Elizabeth. They are both quite feminist for a world that had not yet created the term ‘feminist’.
Unlike modern literature, classic literature wasn’t binary – it wasn’t escapist romance vs high art. Pride and Prejudice and North and South aren’t just great love stories; they’re great literature. Literature that will give generations of women unrealistic expectations of men, forever.
Did you like this post? You can find many more such as this and some others with a more serious and historical component at Apala’s new blog where she shares her love books and films set in historical eras (specially Victorian). She blogs as The Anglophile at https://perioddramamadness.wordpress.com/
Now I would also like to share with you a project that started out with a difficulty Apala found when searching and choosing her next book to read. It’s easy for us JAFF regulars to find the JAFF book to read that’s perfect for us, but for someone who is new to this world and doesn’t follow JAFF blogs, it can be confusing. So Apala asked me if I would help her develop a file that would list all the JAFF books available, and that sounded difficult but a great idea 🙂
We’ve been quietly working on setting up the JAFF google sheet for the past month. Now her blog has a list of what we hope will be the most complete list of all JAFF books, with info on the type of novel, number of pages, formats available, price, amazon links, etc. Of course we couldn’t stop there, so we also created one for the North and South Fan Fic, which I believe is almost complete. These are crowd-sourced lists (with a moderator), so we hope you will add names of books we’ve missed out on – perhaps your favourites, or the ones you have written and published. As most of you know, there are dozens of JAFF books coming out each month, so it would be completely impossible for us to add them all, that’s why we need your help! With everyone’s input we might actually create a list where we could find hundreds of JAFF books and sort them out by our favourite genre, author etc. We have even added some books published this week 🙂
If you are insterested, go here to find the lists for JAFF, North and South Fan Fic, Historical Fiction, and Period Dramas: https://perioddramamadness.wordpress.com/category/lists/