Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Heroine Completes Her Hero's Journey

Fifth post on Pride and Prejudice.

Just when Elizabeth Bennet feels attraction to Darcy and he seems to return her regard, she learns from her sister Jane's letter that Lydia has run off with Wickham, and her world falls apart. This event is without doubt the ordeal every hero must face. Lydia represents the shadow, who acts on the base innermost desires inside of everyone. Certainly for a Regency Miss, the desire to thwart the very tightly corseted society demanded of every woman with any pretense to gentility, must have been a very strong hidden dream.

It is often hard by today's standards where the individual is judged by their actions to understand how one sister's moral failure tarred her siblings, but that is how society used to view women, and not so terribly long ago. Lydia's indiscretion affected the matrimonial chances of all of her sisters. If Colonel Foster and Elizabeth's father and uncle did not take immediate action to find Lydia and force Wickham to marry her, the whole family would be smeared with her shame (as would Colonel Foster, with whom Lizzy was staying). None of the Bennet sisters would have made good marriages. Elizabeth knows this and feels guilty for not having disclosed Wickham's character. A promise to Darcy stopped her. Luckily, the couple is found, and they marry.

The visit of the newlyweds to the wife's family is, in turn, hilarious and disgusting. Their arrival begins the journey back from the wilderness Elizabeth has been in on her journey to find love. Lydia is unrepentant, still careless and oblivious of anyone but herself. while many sixteen-year-olds share these characteristics, most are not so totally ignorant, most know right from wrong. Perhaps Mrs. Bennet's behavior had an undue influence on Lydia; after all, Lydia was her favorite. But if that is so, why did her influence not affect Jane and Elizabeth, who are both clearly humiliated by Lydia's actions and behavior? Lydia, during her visit, forgets a promise and tells Elizabeth that Darcy was at the wedding.

This information drives Elizabeth to find the truth of Darcy's involvement in forcing Wickham to marry Lydia and save the family's reputation. When Darcy visits, he is distant, throwing Elizabeth into a flurry of self-doubt. His intervening with Bingley brings Jane her happiness, but Elizabeth doubts any man would offer again after the refusal she gave Darcy. Before Elizabeth can finish her journey, she must face more gatekeepers. One comes in the form of a letter from Mr. Collins to her father, and Elizabeth must dissemble to her father. The other is the more formidable ordeal in the visit from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who demands Elizabeth's promise not to marry Darcy. Here Elizabeth proves true to her journey's lessons and faces rudeness and hostility with calmness and honesty. It is not long after this visit that Darcy returns to Longbourne. When Elizabeth faces him with her thanks and gratitude, she earns her heart's desire. Mr. Darcy renews his pledge of love and desire that Elizabeth should become his wife.

The last minor ordeal Elizabeth faces is telling her family she has won the prize, the elixir of life, marriage with Darcy, that her quest sought. Both she and Darcy are changed people, both have found love in their choice of mate, and as true of many journeys, Elizabeth will not return home, but begin a new life as a woman married to an affluent man.

I hope these few posts on Pride and Prejudice have shown how the Hero's Journey has worked through this story. I am a true believer that stories are tied to our individual psychologies and our own paths along the Mythic Hero's Journey.

The five posts on Lizzy's journey:


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