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Pride and Prejudice and GRIT

By Cindy Murphy

Tags: Cindy Murphy, Jane Austen, Books, GRIT community,

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

Pride and Predjudice and Zombies cover

Just as it is universally acknowledged that nearly everything written about Jane Austen must start with a variation of the opening line of Pride and Prejudice. I recently read the bestseller (and soon to be movie) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, co-authored by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. I found it a hilarious spin on a classic piece of English literature. It was not exactly a parody; Grahame-Smith didn’t totally rewrite Austen’s 19th century romance novel to suit the zombie plotline; approximately 85 percent of Austen’s original text remains. The addition of zombies is a sub-plot to the familiar beloved story of the Bennet sisters, now skilled in the deadly arts as zombie-slaying warriors. As overtly ridiculous as the premise sounds, it was pulled off with much of the same sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant sarcastic humor prevalent in all of Austen’s books.

I followed it up with Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen, and Austen alone, without the help of Grahame-Smith or zombies to add excitement to the book. I’ve always like Jane; those that don’t, vehemently deny the contents of her stories have much worth. I've read more than once that you either like her, or don't – there's really not much of an in-between. Often criticized for ignoring issues of worldly significance, she always stuck very close to home, and wrote about what she knew.

Some complain that nothing much happens in a Jane Austen novel. She grew up in a close-knit family in a small hamlet in southern England, and lived through the American and French Revolutions, and tumultuous period of disorder in the Napoleonic era. Her stories, though, contain not even a mention of the turbulence of those times. There are no political upheavals or secret plots to overthrow the government; neither can you expect to find action-packed chase scenes, murders, or blood and guts (except for the occasional dozen or so zombie slayings).

What you will find is a rich tapestry of life as Jane knew it. It is the excitement in the ordinary – the drama of everyday living. Her scenes are mostly rural, never venturing far beyond the tranquility of English village life. It was a life marked by the simplicity of time moving at a much slower pace than it does now – and the contentment and amusement found in such a life.

Her writing is a social commentary of the time, of both its virtues and its shortcomings. She has a keen observation of people and everyday life, coupled with a wry wit that can't help but make me smile. This is just the reason her stories have remained popular with so many for nearly two hundred years – they make a person smile.

Unlike the Grahame-Smith’s slaughtering of the famous opening line of Pride and Prejudice, the following quote remains in its original form in the zombie version as it first appeared in Jane’s:

“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”

Pride and Predjudice cover

I thought this was interesting, probably because I’ve never really thought of vanity and pride as being synonymous. You can strut your stuff and be proud as a peacock and be so vain you probably think this post is about you. Vanity is definitely not a virtue, but is pride so immoral?

According to some, pride is considered a cardinal sin – one of the Seven Deadly ones, right up there with wrath, greed, sloth, lust, envy, and gluttony. The bible claims, in so many words, that pride comes before a fall.

The dictionary claims “pride” is first, a sense of one’s own proper dignity or value and self-respect; second, it is pleasure or satisfaction taken in an achievement, possession, or association, such as parental pride. Mixed in with the list of definitions are words such as “conceit” and “ostentatious displays.”

But aren’t conceited, ostentatious displays more of vanity than pride? Merriam Webster’s says vanity is “inflated pride in oneself or one's appearance.” This would follow Austen’s quote that vanity is how we portray ourselves to other people. But can you have an inflated sense of pride if there's no one around to impress? If a lumberjack fells the biggest tree in the forest, and no one is there to hear his boast, and “ooos” and “ahhhs” over his feat, is it really that impressive? Can he just feel satisfied and proud of a hard day’s work without being condemned to hell for feeling such things ... or in the least, not made the subject of a Carly Simon song?

Of course he can. There can be no vanity without pride, but all pride does not constitute vanity. It seems though, that the focus is often on the kind of stubborn pride which causes us to refuse to admit we were wrong, or on the arrogance that comes with vanity. Check the multitude of inspirational quote sites on the Internet. While quotes about Jane Austen run fairly equal; there are nearly as many negative things said about her writing as there are positive; quotes about “pride” are overwhelmingly lopsided. The vast majority of them attach a negative connotation to pride, with only a handful depicting pride in a positive light.

Two in that handful are Margaret Thatcher’s contention that “disciplining yourself to do what you know is right and important, although difficult, is the highroad to pride, self-esteem, and personal satisfaction,” and an unknown author’s thought that “pride is a personal commitment. It is an attitude which separates excellence from mediocrity.”

It doesn’t sound so bad does it?

“Community pride” and “hometown pride” have almost become buzz terms, as people strive to make their small towns and large cities better places in which to live and raise their families. Without this pride there lies the danger of indifference. Detrimental to success, indifference breeds a stagnant community which fails to keep its current residents or attract future ones, and then the community itself, fails.

At the nursery, we take pride in providing quality plants, gardening advice, and a high level of customer service; I take pride in performing my job to the best of my abilities. Both exceptional students, one with quirky humor and funky style, and the other with a quiet, unwavering love of nature, my daughters are my “pride and joy.” I could not be more proud of them.

I am proud too, to be a part of the GRIT community and share this blog section of GRIT’s website with a wide range of interesting people. It strikes me now, how much GRIT and a Jane Austen novel are alike. No, I don’t think I’d ever open the pages of GRIT and find in it that it’s been universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a fortune must be in need of a wife. Neither would I expect to find in-depth war coverage, political analysis, or a study on economics; I can go to Time and Newsweek magazines for those topics. There is no action-packed drama of high-speed chases (except for the occasional runaway pig). But there are similarities. While I would be really surprised to read a blogger has attended a neighbor’s ball, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find she has been invited to a meal to share in her neighbor’s harvest (where hopefully homegrown brains are not on the menu). I will find bloggers who share their simple joys found in the ordinary, and I will read of their successes and disappointments in every day living. Here, I will find a celebration of life that moves at a slower pace in a world that sometimes seems as if it’s spun out of control. There will always be something to make me smile. And zombies aren’t needed to make me do it.

cindy murphy
5/10/2010 7:01:40 PM

Vickie! I've been wondering where you've ran off to - it's good to see you again. Hope you had a nice Mother's Day also.

5/8/2010 3:48:42 PM

Cindy, Your post gives me much to think about and the book sounds like it will be a great read. Can't wait to go to the library. Have a great mothers day vickie

cindy murphy
5/5/2010 9:54:17 AM

Michelle...I missed trying my hand at making dandelion crowns this spring. I too missed trying dandelion greens which are supposedly best in early spring before they flower, when the leaves are still young and tender; just something I've wanted to try for the heck of it - they're supposed to be very good and healthy too. The pretty yellow flowers are gone already - even the fluff has disappeared and the stems are standing there naked. Naked stalks, I don't think, would make a very pretty crown. Ah, well....I know there will be plenty more "crops" of dandelions this summer! Thanks, Pam, for stopping by. You're right, that's what makes this place so interesting - you never know what'll show up in people's blogs here, from biddies to snakes, to...zombies. I had to laugh at your "biddy" explanation. Shhhhh, don't tell, but I call some of the librarians here, the Library Biddies - though they aren't nearly as young as chicks, they do have a "fowl" disposition at times!

5/4/2010 11:29:15 AM

Hi Cindy, Now I have to find time to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! I agree with you 100% on all the interesting articles and folks here on Grit and the print version as well. You just never know who or what may show up. From biddies(that's baby chicks down here) to snakes. Enjoyed your post as always. Have a great day. Pam

michelle house
5/2/2010 8:51:12 PM

Cindy, doing good, there is alot of dandelions here as well, I haven't made a crown yet, but I am sure I will. lol

cindy murphy
5/2/2010 9:02:33 AM

Hi, Michelle. I hope you and your family are doing well also. I was thinking about you and your granddaughter last week - everywhere I look is a glorious display of sunny yellow dandelions, and they reminded me of the beautiful crowns of them you make for your granddaughter. Hugs in return.

michelle house
5/1/2010 11:34:20 AM

Hi Cindy, Interesting read as always. Hope all is well with you and yours. Hugs Michelle

cindy murphy
4/30/2010 7:13:34 PM

Hi, Shannon. Thanks for your comments. It's the small stories that together make up life's great epic, I think. Glad you stopped in, and enjoy your weekend.

s.m.r. saia
4/30/2010 7:29:28 AM

Cindy, I really enjoyed this post. I am definitely pro-pride. :0) As to Jane Austen, I remember liking the books when I read them, a very long time ago. I do beleive that the human condition is of "worldly significance" in all of its incarnations, and that her novels are not (and should not be considered to be) of less significance because they aren't about international politics or wars, etc. I agree with you that life is reflected in the small stories as much as in the epic.

cindy murphy
4/29/2010 10:54:01 PM

Hi, Dave. The cover of the book may be a bit gruesome, but there is nothing scary in the book at all (I think zombie fanatics would be disappointed in the lack of blood and guts). It's a comedy...just as Pride and Prejudice is often described as a romantic comedy (no zombie romance either; another reason for zombie fans to be disappointed). I do read a lot in the winter, when the nursery is closed, and I have some extra time to do it. During the work season, I mostly stick with short story collections, or nonfiction on odd topics that you'd think nobody would write a book about - books in which each chapter is a story in itself, so if I don't get around to picking the book up for a week, I haven't lost my place in the story. I remember those television series also - Dr. Quinn, Little House on the Prairie, and I vaguely remember Christie (a doctor too, if I'm remembering it correctly). As to being a deep thinker - I am not. I just have some weird ponderings at times. Have a great weekend.

nebraska dave
4/29/2010 10:31:59 PM

Cindy, first it’s snakes and now it’s zombies. That first picture is a scary picture. I can really tell that you read a whole lot more than just Popular Science, Handy Man, and Extreme How to magazines. The people here at Grit are deep thinkers. I haven’t read “Pride and Prejudice” nor have I seen the movie “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. However, I do like to read books about life in other times of history. The 19th century is one of my favorite times. I am a little different in that I liked TV series like “Little House on the Prairie”, “Medicine Woman”, “Christie” and other early American movies. I did read “Moby Dick”, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, and “Huckleberry Finn” which are all on the politically incorrect list. I endured “Tale of Two Cities” only because my literature teacher made me. Pride I believe can be either good or bad. I can have pride in my work which means I do my work to best of my abilities or I can become puffed up and make sure everyone knows that my work is always better than theirs. Pride should always be coupled with humility. Humility to be means someone who is strong in character but does not feel the need to prove strength in character. As for prejudice, my first best friend was a full blooded Omaha Indian. Dad had a hired hand who was black who from what I’m told was someone a one year old liked being around. When the sixties hit and the riots raged, I just didn’t get what was happening. I didn’t see it happen in my home.

cindy murphy
4/29/2010 10:28:26 PM

Hi, Mountain Woman. Thank you for your comments. I love your description of the bond shared at Grit - a love for the land and to live on it gently, and leave it a little better than it is now. You are right - there is no vanity in it. But it is something each and every person should take pride in doing. I hope you get a chance to read "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies". If Austen is one of your favorite authors, you'll love it....or hate it. LOL. It's just absurd enough to be fun. Enjoy the day.

mountain woman
4/29/2010 3:29:41 PM

Cindy, What an interesting article on so many levels. You have me thinking about pride now. I am proud of lots of things and a job worth doing is a job to be done well and I take pride in the outcome. Gardening, training my horse, parenting, so many different things for which I have pride. Any new hurdle I can conquer, I do so with pride yet I don't consider myself vain and I have no patience for those that are overly concerned with how they appear to the outside world. Jane Austen has always been a favorite of mine. I consider her novels quiet reflections of her time and her insight into characters full of breadth. I think of her as a keen observer. As to Grit, I loved what you wrote. We are each and every one of us so different who blog here, from those who live in the city to those who live on acres in the country, yet we all share a common bond and that is our love for the land and to live on it gently and leave it behind just a little bit better than it is now. No vanity there for sure. You have piqued my interest about the zombies so I'm off to find the book. Thank you for a most enjoyable and challenging essay.