Thank you so much to everyone who suggested a title in my last post. I am so thrilled with the amazing response! I’ve got a couple of favorites, and as soon as I’m sure of one, I’ll let you know. 🙂
Now, as I’m about to release a book and am always writing another one, I’ve got book plots on the brain. I actually love Persuasion as much as Pride and Prejudice, and Emma was the first Austen book I ever read. My grandfather gave me a hardback collector’s edition when I was twelve. Needless to say, he didn’t know what he was starting.
I’ve had readers ask me if I will ever write a variation of another book, and I find myself a bit stumped. I can see variation options in Emma, but I have to admit that my favorite kind of variations, the ones I keep reading over and over again and recommend freely, are the ones that change the plot and/or circumstances, but leave the main characters intact. I don’t care as much if peripheral characters are changed, especially if that is an integral part of the story, but I like D & E to still resemble their canon selves – for the most part. I am fully aware that this is just my opinion, and like E herself, as my view of the world changes, so does my view of the characters, so even that can’t really be counted on for consistency. (As I write this, I realize one of my favorites has a rather different E, but as the alternate universe she lives in is so different, it fit. So you see, I am completely unreliable in my opinions.)
The problem with Emma is that most of the options I see for variations involve changing her character, which is rather persnickety, and changing Emma herself would be too much of a change for me. In Persuasion, the obvious change plot-wise would undermine the point of the book. Say she doesn’t listen to her family and they get together sooner, and there’s much less angst and worry. If that were the case, where would the story be? Young, wealthy woman marries penniless sailor. Tale as old as time. Compelling, but it’s been done.
So that leads me to why I think P & P is the story that gets made over more than any other. It simply has the most opportunity. My reasons for believing this are thus:
- Elizabeth is a loveable and fun heroine. Fanny Price is dull in comparison, Emma Woodhouse is meddlesome, and Ann Elliot is a bit of a pushover. (Not going into NA or S&S as it’s been too long since I last read them.) Women are the primary audience, and we like to relate to and/or like our heroines.
- Rich, handsome man goes after penniless, pretty-but-not-gorgeous woman is a timeless theme. What’s not to love?
- Darcy is so little described in the book that there is plenty of room for embellishment, imagination, and, of course, making him suffer. Which means we have the bare bones for a great romantic hero, but there is room to make him what we want. And we do – quite freely.
- Large cast. There are plenty of people in the story that can easily be expanded on and changed up, and plenty of places to add additional characters seamlessly that the possibilities are endless.
5. Everyone can relate to embarrassing family members. The Bennets, Collins, Lady Catherine; we’ve all been there and have cringed while hoping the floor would open up and swallow us whole. Relatability – it’s timeless.
6. Coincidences! There are so many of these in the book that we know Austen did it on purpose, but there are also so many that if we fidget with just one, we can drastically alter the story, making it deliciously adaptable and incredibly tempting. Here a just a few.
- Elizabeth overhearing Darcy’s comment. This changes everything!
- It raining and Jane getting sick at Netherfield. She could have arrived dry, spent the night in the storm, and gone home the next morning.
- Elizabeth happens to be present when Darcy and Wickham encounter each other for the first time. Coincidence?
- Wickham joins the militia (weird) and just happens to be stationed in Meryton where Darcy just happens to be visiting a friend and they just happened to have had a very ugly confrontation that summer.
- The militia comes at the same time as the Netherfield guests and Mr. Collins. When it rains, it pours.
- Mr. Bingley has business and goes to town right after the ball. What if he hadn’t had any business in town? Or what if it hadn’t rained the whole week before? Would he have gone before and then been back for the ball and never left Jane?
- Sir William Lucas stops D & E in the middle of their dance at Netherfield and imparts dangerous information. Not anyone else’s dance, or her dance with someone else. Theirs.
- Mr. Collins is rector to Darcy’s aunt and they are both visiting the same small town at the same time! What a coincidence!
- Elizabeth and Darcy are then both visiting the same aunt/cousin in the same place at the same time. Shocker.
- Col. Fitzwilliam tells her what Darcy did with Bingley and Jane the same day Darcy proposes. Horrid timing. And of course the colonel never thinks she could know the lady abandoned, even though he knows E and D know each other from the time he spent in Hertfordshire with Bingley.
- The meeting at Pemberley. This is the most suspect of all, and yet, probably my favorite in the book. Ten minutes either way and they might have missed each other completely!
- Jane’s letter telling of Lydia’s elopement arrives when it does, not a few days later or earlier, and Darcy happens to (randomly) be visiting her just as E reads said letter. How convenient.
Please don’t think any of this means I enjoy the story any less or that I am mocking it in any way. I assure you, I am not. I love the book and all its idiosyncrasies, and perhaps even more for its happenstances and coincidences.
It is because of these very things, these characters, situations, and opportunities that P & P is the most adapted book of Austen’s novels. At least, that’s my opinion.
Do you have anything to add to the list? Have I missed a compelling reason or a convenient coincidence? Tell me all about it.