A few weeks ago, I sat with my son and his English teacher at his student conference. (I’ve changed their names to protect the not-so-innocent.) Ms. Lewis was explaining to me that they were in the middle of Pride and Prejudice, and Matthew confessed that so far, he’d only read 40 pages. “There’s only so much love a family can have for Jane Austen,” he said, “and in our family, my mom got all of it.” That wasn’t quite true. My husband loves Pride and Prejudice too. He even bought me the Colin Firth miniseries for fun and has watched it with me several times. Even so, I vowed that this son would learn to love Pride and Prejudice.
During the next week, I tried several times to cajole him into reading with me. I might as well have asked him to join the Pemberley swim team.”Mom,” he said, “It’s so hard to understand, and the parts I do understand aren’t that great. I mean, why should I care if a bunch of girls get married?”
In response, I drew him this:
He was NOT impressed.
I turned to my older son, who had also read Pride and Prejudice as a freshman (or so I thought.) “Remember how you read Pride and Prejudice? You said it wasn’t as good as Jane Eyre, but you still liked it, right?”
“Umm,” Steven said, “I didn’t actually read it. I just said I did.”
At this point, I consulted an article on TheArtofManliness.com called “Why Men Should Read Jane Austen.” It made some very good points, namely that:
- Austen will help men develop their theory of mind (whatever that is),
- Reading Austen is an essential part of becoming culturally literate,
- Austen’s stories teach important life lessons.
- And Hugh Laurie is in Sense and Sensibility.
My son’s response: “Can I use the computer since you’re done looking at that site?”
My response: “Not until you read Pride and Prejudice. It’s for your own good. It’s one of the best ways to understand women.”
My son shrugged and left the room.
Later that evening, my husband suggested that perhaps we should watch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies together. Matthew thought that was a good idea, but I could just see him during the final exam: “I liked the part when Mr. Wickham became an incontinent paraplegic. And the other part where Elizabeth cut off that guy’s head.” Yeah . . .
A few days later, I walked into the living room to see that my husband and Matthew were watching the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. I sat down with them, and we laughed through the first few scenes. My husband quietly left the room to play video games, but Matthew stayed. He and I watched the whole thing, and he only groaned during the kissy part at the end (Mrs. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy, Mrs. Darcy) that wasn’t actually in the book.
Usually I would consider this a defeat because he still hasn’t read the book, but hey, how many moms can say their teenage son watched the entire Pride and Prejudice movie with them? Sometimes you just have to take what you can get.