Two to Tango

'Pride and Prejudice' & 'Shopgirl'

“I loathe you!”

“And I despise you!”

Pause. Kiss.

That’s the heartbeat (or love/hatebeat) of Pride and Prejudice and it has kept the novel and all its stage and movie versions happily throbbing no matter what else in them works and fails.

Elizabeth Bennet may be the most perfect incarnation of female ambivalence about romance ever created. Initially, she feels no need of a suitor. Though her silly, vulgar mother burns to have all five of her daughters married off, Lizzie is comfortable in her middle-class country life of genteel poverty as long as she has her books, her friends, and the affection of her kind, retiring father and her warmhearted older sister Jane. New neighbors materialize—the wealthy Bingleys (agreeable brother and poisonous sister) and their megawealthy, aristocratic friend, Darcy—and a marital horizon comes into view, but Elizabeth daydreams only on behalf of Jane. When Darcy blocks Bingley’s courtship of Jane, Elizabeth’s prejudice against him (first aroused by his supercilious remarks at a dance) fancifully expands his real haughtiness into unreal villainy, though it’s also clear that the tension between them has a sexual component. Later, when Elizabeth discovers that she has partially misjudged Darcy, her awakening to love is also a voyage into self-discovery.


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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.