July 17, 2003
Pride and Prejudice is a novel about love, marriage, propriety, relationships, and many other themes. An important element of the story is the use of reflection. Through reflection, the characters are able to think through what is occurring around and to them. They come to understand themselves and situations better. From the characters’ experiences and from other things we have read and discussed in class, I came to see the importance of reflection in my own life and how it is a necessary tool.
Webster’s dictionary defines reflection as “a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration” (1107). The act of reflection can be done in many ways. One way that the characters in Pride and Prejudice use to reflect is through letters. Writing back and forth to each other, Elizabeth and Jane communicate what is happening in their lives while they are apart from each other. As they communicate events, their own views and interpretations are realized at the same time that they are conveyed to the recipient.
Darcy writes to Elizabeth to explain his background and his actions so that she can more fully understand him. He is able to talk of a painful subject because he is writing it. Elizabeth has time to read the letter as often as she wishes and ponder what it says. Because of the letter, she is able to comprehend a bit of Darcy’s past and a lot of his character. But she is also discovers things about herself when she thinks, “How humiliating this discovery!—Yet, how just a humiliation!….I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself” (Gray 137).
Movie portrayals of letters are a little more difficult because it is hard to convey on film what one has written. Andrew Davies did an excellent job with Darcy’s epistolary explanation as well as Mrs. Gardiner’s letter near the end of the story. Davies created scenes—some sort of flashbacks—that the letters were dictating. This way the audience could watch what had happened instead of watching the character read a letter, as is done in the BBC 1979 version of the book.
Other moments of reflection in the book take place through the old-fashioned way of simple thinking. Upon reflection, Elizabeth slowly comes to see her thoughts and affections for Darcy change. She eventually realizes that she would accept his proposal if he were to offer again. The movie works around some of these many moments of personal thought by having Elizabeth converse with Jane about her evolving feelings. For instance, one time of reflection leads Elizabeth to feel that she “was now most heartily sorry that she had…been led to make Mr. Darcy acquainted with their fears for her sister” (Gray 202). The movie has her mention this point aloud while talking with Jane and proceeds to have Elizabeth explain herself.
The movie does not detract from the use of reflection by using this tactic, though. Reflection can also take place through conversation. Some people are better able to figure out what they are thinking and feeling by talking it out with another person. Such a person can help the distressed one decipher what is in their head. Jane and Elizabeth do this with each other throughout the book and the movie. Each is able to relieve their pent up emotions and thoughts and understand them logically.
After recognizing the use of reflection in Pride and Prejudice, I realized that it is something I often do in my life. I knew that my moments of reflection were beneficial and helped me understand myself better. But it never occurred to me that reflection was important to others, too. I especially never thought that I would find it in literature.
Just like in the book, I reflect through writing, thinking, and conversing. My writing comes mostly through my journals. I wrote daily for seven years before college. As I got busier, it was harder for me to find time to write. However, I always felt my thoughts were cooped up and incomprehensible until I was able to express them on paper. I have many journal entries of ideas that wander and flow until they make some sort of coherence and I reach a realization of why or what is going on with me emotionally and mentally. I also express myself through personal letters and e-mails. I come to know myself better because I try to make myself understandable to my correspondents. In my attempts to be clear, I figure out exactly what and why I did certain things that I am telling them about.
Thinking is one of my favorite past times. I often go on walks to places with beautiful, inspiring views and let my mind go free. It follows all sorts of paths, but it helps me interpret me. My college Book of Mormon professor recommended that we spend at least half an hour a day pondering stuff. That time is a time for one’s self and it helps the person stay in touch with who they are. In class, we were talking a lot about marriage confirmations. We read the article by Elder McConkie and heard students’ personal accounts. I think pondering was a big part of their experiences. I saw that contemplating decisions is not just for marriage alone. It can be for any decision. At present, I am trying to determine whether or not to serve a mission. I have spent two weeks of deep thinking and I foresee many more in the future. The thoughts help me see what my true desires and reasons are. Others’ biased inputs cannot influence me when I sit down with myself and listen to the one that matters most in this decision—me.
Often I find myself upset and I can’t figure out why. It helps to have a friend around with whom I can talk to. Usually I do not say anything profound and I frequently repeat what I’m saying. But I eventually come to understanding why I feel a certain way or why I did a certain thing. My friend’s assistance and similar desire to figure out what is wrong aids my progress to self-discovery. An example of this was a few days ago I started to cry while talking to my roommate. We couldn’t figure out why I was crying. We slowly analyzed what was going on in my life and discussed why and how events might be affecting me. We were able to understand that I was under a lot of stress from school, friends, health problems, and the mission decision. She helped me see what some of the causes were that I was not able to discern.
Reflection, as we learned from Tony Tanner in class, “enables a person to change his version or interpretation of things.” Whether it is through personal writing, correspondence, conversation, or personal time, all reflection can lead to our better understanding ourselves. We can reason out what is occurring and how we perceive it. We can change our views about topics that we did not comprehend as well before but afterwards know better because we have taken the time to think about them. I know that reflection is not just for me. It helps everyone. If a fictional story and my own personal experiences can prove this, then it is worth a try for others who may doubt the importance and vitality of reflection. Without reflection, we will not, as Elizabeth says, truly know ourselves.
Gray, Donald, ed. Pride and Prejudice. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company,
Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. New York, NY: Random House,