PERSUASIONS ON-LINE

V.27, NO.2 (Summer 2007) “What are men to rocks and mountains?” Romanticism in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice SARAH AILWOOD Sarah Ailwood (email: sla396@uow.edu.au) is completing her Ph.D., titled “‘What men ought to be’: Masculinities in Jane Austen’s Novels,” at the University of Wollongong. She is also an active member of the Canberra chapter of the Jane Austen Society of Australia.

The 2005 Focus Features adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright, is an insightfully Romantic interpretation of Austen’s novel. Wright’s Pride & Prejudice takes as its central focus Austen’s concern with exploring the nature of the Romantic self and the possibilities for women and men to achieve individual self-fulfillment within an oppressive patriarchal social and economic order. Pride & Prejudice foregrounds this aspect of Austen’s novel in its narrative and thematic concerns and in its representation of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy as Romantic figures, presenting Austen’s novel as a Romantic text. Pride & Prejudice selectively identifies and highlights the Romantic qualities of Elizabeth and Darcy’s respective personalities and functions within the novel, particularly in terms of their relationships as individuals to the social worlds in which they operate. Wright also uses the capabilities of film in visualizing Elizabeth’s character, and in the extensive use of natural settings and landscapes, to present Austen’s treatment of the conflict between individual desire and the social order in terms of Romanticism. Jane Austen’s relationship to Romanticism—in terms of her treatment of elements of Romantic ideology in her novels and her connection to the six male poets who were until recently considered to constitute the entire literary movement in England—is an issue which has challenged and often troubled scholars of Austen’s work. Austen’s novels have predominantly been read in isolation from the works of her Romantic contemporaries, and her novels have been interpreted as critiquing, resisting or rejecting elements of Romantic ideology rather than as participating in or endorsing it. Recent studies of Austen in relation to Romanticism and her contemporaries have established more connections between Austen and Romanticism than have hitherto been acknowledged.1 This essay considers Austen’s exploration of the Romantic conception of the self in Pride and Prejudice, particularly as it is articulated through the characterization of Elizabeth and Darcy, and how Joe Wright emphasizes this aspect of the novel

particularly with regard to the representation of the two protagonists and their functions within . moral. Wright’s interpretation is.” which “has no firm ego boundaries. for self-comprehension. Throughout her novels. Mellor has argued that rather than viewing the self in terms of autonomy and social detachment. the journey of Elizabeth and Darcy is presented in Wright’s film as the struggle of two Romantic heroes to achieve self-realization independent of the social world they inhabit. has commented that “Romantic poets are driven to a quest for self-creation. Particularly focusing on the poetry and personality of Lord Byron. and argued that they “stand firmly as individuals outside of society. and the effect of gender difference on the power of individuals to realize and fulfill the self through the autonomous pursuit of individual desire. by nature. who feature in Romantic poetry. Thoroughgoing rebels. Romanticism has been considered as reflecting and endorsing a conceptualization of the individual self as autonomous. Wright characterizes Elizabeth and Darcy as Romantic figures by presenting them in terms of the Romantic conception of the self. as we know. in the following terms: “selfawareness. all-consuming and socially detached or isolated. a recognition of the demands and complexities of his own private being. for self-positioning that is unprecedented in literature” (26). socially detached and autonomous is a specifically masculine approach. In Pride & Prejudice. This conception of a socially detached self was also represented in the characters. In recent years. however. . basic to the position assumed by the romantic hero” (321). Wright’s film focuses on Elizabeth and Darcy’s mutual struggles to achieve self-fulfillment through the pursuit of individual desire within an oppressive patriarchal social order. . Traditionally. with family members. Austen’s treatment of the traditional conception of the Romantic self and its gender complexities is the central narrative and thematic focus of Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice. Peter Thorslev has related the Romantic poets’ concern with self-understanding to the role and function of the artist: “one article of faith in every Romantic’s creed was that the artist was solitary and superior. Garber has summarized constructions of the self. or even religious codes of the worlds in which they find themselves” (22). Austen works to valorize a relational over a detached conception of the self and demonstrates that both women and men benefit from developing a relational rather than an isolated self. Frequently. a hero and a leader above the common herd” (18).in his film adaptation. by birth. is exceptional in this regard: rather than endorsing a relational model of the self. and they have worked towards creating an understanding of Romanticism which incorporates representations of the self from women’s texts and constructions of femininity. Austen is instead concerned with exploring the traditional Romantic conception of the self as solitary and socially detached. usually men. Pride and Prejudice. Anne Mellor and other literary critics have persuasively argued that the traditional Romantic conception of the self as individualistic. I argue. friends. Marlon Ross. or by breeding. Thorslev argues that Romantic heroes “are solitaries . Dramatized using Romantic natural settings and landscapes. firmly grounded in Austen’s novel. This approach to the self is reflected in both the personalities of the male Romantic poets and in the representation of individual characters within their poetry. they invariably appeal to the reader’s sympathies against the unjust restrictions of the social. This relational self not only was more ideologically available to women writers but also was a more accurate reflection of their lived experience than the autonomous self endorsed by male Romantics. Thorslev has similarly explored the poetic representation of Romantic heroes. lovers” (186). the characters of Romantic poetry turn from the social world to seek self-fulfillment in nature. for example. because of the acuteness of their minds and sensibilities—but most of them are solitaries also because of conscious moral choice” (66). is. particularly in the figure of the Romantic hero. and experiences its place in the world as an entanglement in shifting relationships. women writers of the Romantic period instead embraced a “relational self.

contemptuous of others and bad-tempered. This conflict is evident from the film’s selective foregrounding of this issue within the narrative. celebrated by her Romantic contemporaries. Pride & Prejudice is deeply concerned with Austen’s treatment of the tension between the pursuit of individual happiness and fulfillment. The Byronic hero. According to both Stein and Lutz. aspiration and aggressive individualism” (1). As Lutz has commented. however. her question engages with the contemporary Romantic inquiry into the value of the social and natural worlds and their respective capacities to enable the realization of the individual self. Thorslev 10-12). the Byronic hero achieves redemption through the strength and fidelity of his love. and the dual interpretations of the question inform this adaptation of the novel. which not only stressed the autonomous and socially alienated conception of the self but also developed a particular masculine type which has become known as the “Byronic hero” or “Byronic masculinity” (Lutz 7. Gardiner regarding the recent deficient behavior of Mr. and its extensive use of natural settings. “‘What are men to rocks and mountains?’” asks Elizabeth Bennet. Wright’s characterization of Darcy particularly draws on the image of masculinity associated with Lord Byron. Elizabeth’s inquiry “‘[w]hat are men to rocks and mountains?’” recurs in Wright’s Pride & Prejudice (once spoken by Mary Bennet. rocks and mountains can be interpreted in two different ways which turn on her use of the word “men. one aspect of a public debate on the nature of ideal or appropriate English masculinity which dominated the Regency period. mountains. As it proceeds from her conversation with Mrs. and rivers’” of the Lake District with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. however. and “lacks social skills and an ability to relate to other people” (10). Additionally. however. often a love “for one who is perpetually inaccessible to him” (Stein 10). “in the Regency. The fact that her question occurs during a discussion of a tour to the symbolically Romantic landscape of the Lake District lends support to this interpretation. although failed and deeply wounded. is characterized by “ambition. Pride & Prejudice remains true to Austen’s novel in its treatment of the conflict between individual self-realization and the demands of society. . Darcy. Elizabeth’s use of the word “men” can also be read as specifically applying to the male sex. MacCarthy 558. Wright’s use of the visual capabilities of film attributes to Austen a greater investment in Romantic imagery than can be supported by the novel itself (which does not. which are presented as fundamentally in opposition to the social world in which Elizabeth and Darcy operate. Although the film does at times depart from Pride and Prejudice in its use of Romantic imagery to reinforce its interpretation. true Byronism lies in the man who.Austen’s broader commentary on the nature of the Romantic self. On another level. he is arrogant. the film’s concern with promoting a Romantic interpretation of Austen’s novel overshadows other available readings.” If we read Elizabeth’s use of “men” as relating to humankind generally. Further. Elizabeth’s inquiry into the comparative value of men. its use of the visual capabilities of film to construct Elizabeth and Darcy as social outsiders. its characterization of Elizabeth and Darcy accurately reflects the novel’s concern with the complicating factor of gender in the pursuit of Romantic individualism. in both his personality and his poetry. however. an interpretation which reflects her disillusionment with these representatives of contemporary masculinity. celebrate Elizabeth’s desire for individualism by positioning her atop a windswept cliff face in the Derbyshire landscape). Wright’s Pride & Prejudice responds to Elizabeth’s disillusionment with the male sex by constructing Darcy in the image of masculinity embodied or endorsed by male Romantic poets and their poetic heroes. and its potential to rupture the social order. Bingley and Mr. anticipating with delight her tour of the “‘[l]akes. and once by Mr. and expressing her intention to absorb the landscape authentically and unlike “‘the generality of travellers’” (154). as Atara Stein has argued. can be redeemed by love” (Lutz 19-20). Gardiner). for example.

Unlike Elizabeth. her pursuit of her own individual happiness eventually leads her to the most eligible man in the novel. and the culture of sensibility. In Pride & Prejudice. Jacobinism. and “Romantic need for self-expression” reflect distinct aspects of the Byronic hero (35-36). and reflects the Byronic nature of his personality. as he is constructed in Austen’s novel. Austen constructs the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy as in fact enabling Elizabeth’s individuality and self-fulfillment. for example. demeanor. and while Austen frames such an outcome as disastrous for a woman in Elizabeth’s socio-economic position. Claudia Johnson argues that Darcy reflects the essential conservatism of the novel and its privileging of the social order over the individual: . and the pursuit of personal desire even where it causes social rupture. by Charlotte Lucas. Scholarly readings of Pride and Prejudice frequently focus on Elizabeth. Darcy’s choice to privilege his individual happiness despite this disruption embodies Austen’s endorsement of Romantic individualism. Austen can effectively have her cake and eat it too. Wright similarly foregrounds the Byronic features of Darcy’s personality. Rather than endorsing a relational approach to the self for her heroine. With regard to Elizabeth. arguing that Darcy’s pride. an intellectually independent heroine who needs to find a path for herself within the restrictive social and economic order that confronts her. Austen leaves this tension unresolved: while Elizabeth’s assertions about marriage for love and not for financial security are authentic. Elizabeth is ultimately not forced to pursue individual desire despite social and economic obstacles. Elizabeth faces the real possibility of social isolation. Sarah Wootton has extensively examined Darcy as well as Captain Wentworth of Persuasion in terms of Byronic masculinity. simplify Austen’s treatment of Romantic individualism.2 Such readings. however. even at the expense of social rupture. Austen’s treatment of the tension between the desire for self-realization and the difficulties of achieving it within a social order is central to Pride and Prejudice and recurs throughout her work. which is much more complex with respect to Elizabeth and which also strongly influences her characterization of Darcy. Throughout Pride and Prejudice. sneering at the vanity and silly folly of those around him” (43) and argues that his redemption lies in “love overpowering considerations of class” (44). who are so vulnerable to the vagaries of patriarchal society. through Darcy she decisively endorses the pursuit of individual desire and the realization of an autonomous self. Austen instead uses her heroine to highlight the difficulties for women in realizing the autonomous and socially detached self celebrated by traditional Romanticism. Lutz has commented that Darcy “influenced the creation of many later dangerous lover figures in his powerfully aloof stance as the rich misanthrope who stands apart. In contrast. she clearly privileges Elizabeth’s individualist stance over the contrary approach adopted. however. to present him as a Byronic hero who is driven solely by his love for Elizabeth and whose love can enable Elizabeth to achieve the independent selfhood she so desperately seeks. While Austen leaves the tension between individualism and social harmony unresolved in Elizabeth’s character. With regard to her heroine.Several critics have recently noted these Byronic aspects of Darcy’s personality. however. and Wright’s Pride & Prejudice effectively and convincingly captures this complexity in Elizabeth’s character. Darcy does have to choose between individual happiness—fulfillment of his sexual and emotional love for Elizabeth through marriage—and maintaining the social and familial order. and tend to conclude that Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy signals Austen’s endorsement of the establishment over the potentially disruptive individualism associated with Romanticism. so her assertions regarding the rights of the individual at the expense of social cohesion go untested. Unable to wholly endorse the pursuit of Romantic individualism by women such as Elizabeth.

Rather than advocating the maintenance of the social order. These assumptions are unsustainable either within Austen’s novel or the broader context of early nineteenth-century gentry masculinity. however. external pressures such as social and family expectations do not affect him. is plainly incongruous within this social space. Darcy is the only one whose marital choice is allegedly bespoken and whose marriage causes a social and familial rift. Wright uses a distant shot to silhouette Elizabeth against a white sky: she and a solitary tree are the only two figures in a rural landscape. the fact that Darcy is male (and is therefore endowed with the power of choice) and wealthy (and therefore can afford his choice) makes possible his marriage to Elizabeth: a poor woman of lower social rank (Elizabeth Bennet. The fundamental opposition between the natural and the social worlds. Johnson’s analysis of Darcy’s role in the novel’s exploration of this issue. Austen uses Darcy to assert the individual’s right to pursue happiness according to his or her own free will. and second. then. with her muddy boots and hemline. rests on two assumptions: first. become starkly clear when she arrives at Netherfield: the highly formal and ornate interior of the Netherfield breakfast room visually clashes with the natural world outside. a solitary task that symbolizes both her intellectualism and her desire for self-sufficiency. (74) Johnson states that “Darcy may conform to conservative requirements for one of his rank and sex. and to suggest otherwise is to ignore a fundamental aspect of gender relations that historians of masculinities are gradually bringing to light as well as one of Austen’s central concerns in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth’s incongruity within the social world is presented not only through her association with the natural world but also through the film’s visualization of her within social . he embodies it. Elizabeth’s position as a Romantic figure is particularly strongly emphasized by her walk from Longbourn to Netherfield when Jane is ill. Miss Bingley’s comment that “she looked positively medieval” highlights Elizabeth’s disregard for modern social forms and practices. She is reading a book. According to Johnson. Its hero accordingly is a sober-minded exemplar of the great gentry.Pride and Prejudice corroborates conservative myths which had argued that established forms cherished rather than prohibited true liberty. her unfashionable brown coat and her long hair blown about. and Darcy through his inept social performance. The film opens with the sun rising over a glistening landscape and cuts to the viewer’s first image of Elizabeth. But the patriarchal economic and social structures of Austen’s world not only affected women: they also had a profound impact on the lives of men. and she is walking through a rural landscape. a dutiful son and affectionate brother. that because Darcy is a man within a patriarchal social order. and Elizabeth’s association with the natural world. emphasizing her association with Romantic individualism. as a man. that his choice to pursue individual happiness instead of bowing to such pressures cannot by definition be disruptive of the social order because. the world of Pride and Prejudice allows men simultaneously to support the establishment and pursue their individual happiness. and safe-guarded rather than repressed individual merit. but Elizabeth emphatically does not” (75) and suggests that the reader’s pleasure in the story lies in the fact that it is this “sober-minded exemplar of the great gentry” who “secures the happiness the novel celebrates” (73). The first section of Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice establishes Elizabeth and Darcy as Romantic figures through their individual isolation in an uncongenial social world. Clearly. in fact) would certainly face considerably more obstacles to pursuing this kind of individualism. sustained rather than disrupted real happiness. Of all Austen’s protagonists. and Elizabeth. immediately signaling her connection with the natural world. Elizabeth is presented as socially isolated through her repeated associations with the natural world and her depiction alone within social settings.

the film presents it as a result of his dislike of social forms and practices. Whereas the novel attributes Darcy’s social reluctance —particularly to make conversation and to dance—to his snobbery. clearly establishing that men. The process of learning about Darcy through Elizabeth’s subjectivity proves particularly effective later in the film when the viewer comes to understand Darcy’s characterization in terms of Byronic masculinity. in her attempts to embarrass Elizabeth at Netherfield. particularly in relation to the possibility of her long-term social exclusion. In contrast to Elizabeth’s association with the natural world and her visual separation within social settings. is not a social performer and only a reluctant social participant. After she verbally disarms Darcy at the Meryton assembly. Mr. that the process of verisimilitude does not operate in the novel (the reader’s access to Darcy’s interiority provides the reader with information about him that is unknown to Elizabeth.” and his body language and facial expressions suggest discomfort and unhappiness rather than hauteur or disdain. having apparently escaped the party and especially her family. Wright also uses the camera to this effect at the Netherfield ball. Initially. the assembly parts as they walk to the other end of the hall. that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters” (3). the first part of the film establishes Darcy’s position as a social outsider through his social performance. poor soul. and they continued to be observed in silence by the neighborhood gentry until the music begins. Bingley and Miss Bingley arrive at the Meryton assembly in Wright’s film. are subject to social and family expectations and pressures in their marital choices. and . and Wright’s decision to foreground it reflects his desire to construct Darcy in terms of Byronic masculinity. Austen states that “[h]owever little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood. This aspect of his personality is present but not prioritized within the novel. the dancing and music stop immediately and the company turns to stare at the newcomers. visualizing her separation from the society in which she lives. using long camera shots which move between rooms. emphasizing the social perception of men as marriage commodities and highlighting the fact that men. are vulnerable to the power of the socio-economic order in the world of Pride and Prejudice. she walks alone down the center of the assembly hall and out the door: the camera focuses exclusively on Elizabeth and blurs the other figures in the shot. Miss Bingley. particularly regarding his attraction to her). as well as women. rather than Darcy. Wright’s use of verisimilitude—through which the viewer learns about Darcy through Elizabeth’s increasing knowledge of him—is a result of the film’s almost exclusive focus on Elizabeth’s subjectivity and its privileging of her visual perspective. Darcy. but that it does operate within the opening scenes of Wright’s film. leaning against a wall in a darkened room. like Elizabeth. I argue. It immediately becomes clear that Darcy. strongly and sensitively conveys to the viewer her incompatibility within this social world and the complexity of her position. focusing on different characters. Following the “truth universally acknowledged” of her famous first sentence. by contrast. this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families. Jennifer Preston Wilson has identified this process of verisimilitude as operating in the novel. The scene strikingly dramatizes the Meryton neighborhood’s response to the arrival of these two eligible men. Wright’s introduction of Darcy to both the Meryton neighborhood and the viewer cleverly reflects Austen’s concern with the commodification of men in the early nineteenth-century marriage market. Elizabeth comments that “he looks miserable. Wright’s representation of Darcy departs from Austen’s method of constructing his character in the novel. The image at the end of this sequence of Elizabeth alone. When Mr. and the dancing recommences. to privilege Elizabeth’s visual perspective and present her as an external social observer rather than a social participant. During the Meryton assembly. takes on the role of elitist snob at the Meryton assembly. as the viewer learns about Darcy only as Elizabeth’s knowledge and experience of him increases. as well as women.settings.

particularly in terms of their sexual and emotional feelings. he is framed by a window and standing adjacent to a caged bird. The notable exception to this pattern is Elizabeth’s use of the natural world as a means of escape and emotional release after she learns of Darcy’s role in separating Jane and Bingley: she runs alone through the park in the soaking rain. and forecasts the film’s resolution by suggesting that it is this social isolation that will ultimately unite them. This moment visualizes Darcy and Elizabeth’s isolation from their social world. and the other couples disappear from the shot. reflecting the uncomfortable social confinement of Darcy and Elizabeth. Pride & Prejudice represents the conflict between the pursuit of men’s individual desires. and the interior of Rosings represent the social expectation of marriage for wealth and status. of the film. The episode at Rosings continues the film’s earlier use of contrasting interior and outdoor settings. her daughter. Darcy pointedly refuses to participate in her criticism of Elizabeth. These scenes were shot in Burghley House. His love for Elizabeth becomes obvious in his conversation with her at dinner when he is drawn to her playing the piano and in his awkward and apparently pointless visit to her at Hunsford. It is not that Darcy does not hold these proud and prejudicial views—his conduct in separating Bingley and Jane. The film’s narrative becomes a question of how these two Romantic figures will maintain their individual integrity and also achieve personal happiness and fulfillment within a fundamentally incompatible and highly regulated social world. virtually all of the scenes at Rosings and Hunsford are shot indoors. and his insulting behavior toward Elizabeth during his first proposal. he finds the forms and practices of social interaction offered by his society unfulfilling. even from each other. Elizabeth and Darcy’s next meeting at Rosings provides greater insight to the viewer. The fact that they recommence the dance alone indicates that they genuinely are just going through the motions of social performance. Darcy and Elizabeth’s dance at the Netherfield ball visually encapsulates both their respective determination to maintain the integrity of their individuality. and while in their totality the murals may assume a different meaning. emphasizing that not only Elizabeth but also Darcy finds self-realization in the natural world. symbolizing the oppression of the social order that Lady Catherine represents as well as its capacity to repress individual men as well as women. which Darcy himself has internalized and will need to overcome to achieve personal happiness. the film does not foreground these aspects of his personality because it is more concerned with presenting him as a socially alienated Romantic figure. Wickham. Lady Catherine de Bourgh. . and their mutual positions as social outsiders. Rather. of the difficulty of Darcy’s social position. This outdoor scene culminates in Darcy’s first proposal. suggesting that the natural world similarly provides him with escape and freedom from the oppressive Rosings interior. In contrast to the beginning. his reluctance to criticize the Bennets also reflects his isolation even within his own social class). signifying his enclosure within a social order which seeks to control not only women but also men. both as individuals and as a couple. At the climax of their heated discussion about Mr. and the pressure on men’s marital choices within a patriarchal social order. laying the foundation for his later characterization as a Byronic hero. and the roles and responsibilities which are imposed upon them by a patriarchal social order. indicating the strength of her emotions and the impossibility of physically containing them within a social setting.at the Netherfield ball: on each of these occasions. Darcy’s unhappiness throughout his time in Hertfordshire indicates that. like the Romantic hero. her family and her neighborhood (indeed. The potential of this social order to subjugate men is reflected in the murals on the wall behind Lady Catherine. both remain essential parts of the narrative. if not to Elizabeth. they stop in the middle of the dance and closely face each other. When we first see Darcy at Rosings. the paintings that form the backdrop to these scenes feature men laboring under tyrannical conditions. The camera focuses exclusively on them. and the end. By depicting Darcy within this interior.

passionate feeling is reinforced when he later delivers his letter to Elizabeth and swiftly rides out the gates and through the forest. For the first time in the film. and driven specifically by his love for her. Later she sits on the gnarled and moss-coated roots of a tree. This new understanding of Darcy as a man of flesh and blood and. almost utopian settings. in fact. Wright uses this change to present Darcy in pursuit of Elizabeth. It later follows her visual perspective around the murals of the Pemberley interior. is reconfigured in the film as a walk through a sculpture gallery. his passion for her is clear when he says. and the interior and grounds at Rosings. an embodiment of the Byronic hero. so significant to her understanding of Darcy in the novel. Elizabeth’s tour of the gallery. Wright’s extensive use of landscape throughout this section of the film highlights an aspect of Austen’s novel that is frequently overlooked by scholarship: her decision to locate Pemberley in Derbyshire not only indicates its parity with estates such as Chatsworth. As she travels into Derbyshire. Wright represents Elizabeth’s changed view by privileging her visual perspective and by specifically focusing on her eyes. now considered a masterpiece of eighteenth-century English garden design. but also characterizes Darcy in terms of the symbolically Romantic landscape of the Peak district. which presents Darcy’s visit to Rosings as a routine family event.Darcy’s first proposal strongly reflects his own personal torment resulting from the tension between marrying in accordance with the social and economic pressures that have colored his view of the world and acting on his sexual and emotional love for Elizabeth. reflecting the interest of several Romantic poets. While he insultingly elaborates on the social and economic barriers between them. above all. the camera presents Elizabeth’s gaze into the sun through her closed eyelids. Darcy’s connection with this Romantic landscape. I had to see you. which reinforces his characterization as a Byronic hero. While it effectively utilizes contrasts between interior and outdoor settings. “I came to Rosings for the single object of seeing you. Throughout this section of the film. which are sensitive to aesthetic developments throughout the eighteenth-century and Romantic periods. placing her as part of this wild and rugged landscape. As she approaches Pemberley. reminiscent of her own physical freedom in nature. This scene allows the viewer to see Darcy as a man driven by passionate love who is fundamentally alienated from his social world. the film then cuts to a close-up of her face to allow the viewer to see her emotional response. is consolidated through Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley. The first proposal scene was shot at the Temple of Apollo in the garden at Stourhead. an image which could have been drawn directly from a Romantic landscape painting. which features works of classical Greek sculpture. deer run through the open spaces of the Derbyshire countryside. is particularly striking in comparison with their later meeting in Derbyshire. As in Austen’s novel. Wright’s film also draws distinctions between different landscape and gardening styles. Darcy’s passion for Elizabeth is further dramatized by their physical intimacy even after she has rejected him.” This statement from Darcy—that he traveled to Rosings for the sole purpose of seeing Elizabeth—is an important departure from Austen’s novel. The fundamental incongruity between Darcy and Elizabeth. escape into the natural world similarly providing him with an emotional release. Wright uses a long camera shot to depict Elizabeth standing atop a cliff. including . the taste and aesthetic principles of which the Romantics sought to debunk in preference for wilder. Darcy’s physical appearance during the first proposal scene suggests that he is more than a stiff upright gentleman: he is soaking wet and disheveled. It is appropriate that Darcy’s unsuccessful marriage proposal should occur in a setting that symbolizes the social and aesthetic order that both characters clearly find so oppressive. in Pride & Prejudice Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley is central to her understanding of Darcy’s character. reflecting the strength of his love for Elizabeth and his (albeit reluctant) willingness to shirk social forms to fulfill it. more natural and rugged landscapes. and his characterization as a Romantic hero. which contrast with the murals at Rosings by depicting men and women in pastoral.

and particularly with Byronic masculinity. another figure of flawed yet heroic masculinity.” affirms Darcy’s characterization as a Byronic hero: he is a man driven by passionate feeling.Byron. That proposal. largely in separation from social forms and practices.” as she runs upstairs to escape her ever-present family. the basis of his interpretation of Elizabeth and Darcy as Romantic figures—in terms of their defiant individuality. in Austen’s endorsement of the pursuit of individual desire and happiness despite social rupture. Pride & Prejudice is narratively and thematically focused on the capacities for men and women to achieve self-realization within a social and economic order and on the demands that order places upon them. which can provide these two social outsiders with a means of coexisting while also retaining their individual integrity. The Pemberley estate. Elizabeth sits alone under a tree. The camera again takes Elizabeth’s visual perspective as she looks out the window at the Pemberley gardens: the change in focus from translucent to clear glass reflects her new clarity of understanding of Darcy’s character. and the viewer. Although Wright’s use of visual imagery moves beyond Austen’s novel. Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice is an essentially Romantic interpretation of Austen’s novel. and the nature of their relationship—lies in Pride and Prejudice itself. wealth. she cannot achieve it on her own. after the absconsion and then marriage of Wickham and Lydia. whose love is eternal and who pursues his desire for Elizabeth despite its disruption of the social and familial order. This substitution specifically associates Darcy with the image of the Romantic hero developed by the Romantic poets. here presented as a Grecian-style sculpture rather than a painting. status and the pressure of social expectations are clear from the encouragement and assistance he provides to Bingley in proposing to Jane. As viewers. “for once can you just leave me alone. is heightened toward the end of the film: after her confrontation with Lady Catherine. Elizabeth’s social alienation. Darcy’s second proposal. even at Longbourn. within the Derbyshire landscape. Wright uses the visual capabilities of film as well as natural settings and landscapes to position Elizabeth and Darcy as Romantic figures and present their relationship as a union of individuals that enables mutual self-fulfillment rather than as a social integration. their social isolation. appropriately. wonder whether such an outcome will be possible for these solitary individuals. That neither Darcy nor Elizabeth is properly dressed and that this meeting would be socially considered as clandestine reinforce the fact that their relationship has been negotiated exclusively on their terms. the viewer increasingly comes to see Darcy as a Byronic hero. NOTES . Wright presents the union of Darcy and Elizabeth as enabling these two Romantic figures to co-exist as individuals in a society with which they are both fundamentally incompatible. is presented in the film as a Romantic oasis from an alienating social world. In its extensive use of Elizabeth’s visual perspective. before reaching Darcy’s portrait. Elizabeth’s gaze falls first on a sculpture of Achilles. in ancient and modern Greek culture and mythology (Graver 42-43). of course. she yells. occurs where the film begins: in the countryside around Longbourn at dawn. we realize that only Darcy and Pemberley can safely resolve the conflict between Elizabeth’s desire to maintain her individual integrity and the demands of her social world: as a woman deprived of economic and political power. and. particularly his statement that “you have bewitched me body and soul. and Darcy walks across a field by himself: both the characters. After their engagement. Such a resolution seems impossible. like Elizabeth. Wright’s film reflects the visual nature of Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley in Austen’s novel. Darcy’s psychological development throughout the narrative—which enables him to mend this situation—and his changed views about the importance of class.

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