For years I’ve been a fan of the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I first watched it soon after it came out in the mid-90s, and have watched it a few more times since then. I was thrilled to receive the Blu-ray version of it this last Christmas, and wasted little time in watching all six hours of it yet again.
Seated in front of our big screen TV with a group of girlfriends, drinking tea and eating crustless cucumber sandwiches, I saw the familiar scenes unfold, but something felt different. Like all young girls with literary aspirations, I had always identified with the witty and compassionate Elizabeth Bennet, but now I was starting to find her slightly annoying. Why was she so slow to see the true intentions of the taciturn Mr. Darcy? To me, his actions and demeanor were easily readable, but she seemed utterly blind to his real character. While I know that this is the central theme of the novel (to which the prejudice in the title refers), I had always seen things from Elizabeth’s perspective, and like her, viewed Mr. Darcy as a proud, misunderstood man who needed to be drawn out in order to be happy.
But now my perspective had completely shifted, and I felt a kinship with Mr. Darcy instead. There was nothing wrong with him, I realized, he was just an introvert! I felt with him the discomfort of forced sociability, and the frustration of being misjudged because of a wish to keep one’s private thoughts to oneself.
It may be that I’m projecting more onto the character than is reasonable, but it will be interesting to go back and read the novel through this “introvert” lens. Whether I will find confirmation of my theory there or not, I find it fascinating that with age, and increasing comfort with my own way of being in the world, old stories can transform into new friends.