A Boy’s Prejudice Against P&P

A Boy’s Prejudice Against P&P

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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:

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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.”

“WHAT?”

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.

 

25 Responses to A Boy’s Prejudice Against P&P

  1. I don’t think any of my children– 2 sons and a daughter– have read Jane Austen though all have college degrees and two have advanced degrees. My daughter real most of my regency romances but wouldn’t read Austen or Heyer. They were all gone from home when the 1995 movie came out but I don’t think any of them went to see it. I probably read P & P as a child and promptly forgot it. Saw the old Olivier movie but wasn’t driven to read the book.
    I didn’t even have Austen in English classes– not even in a graduate course in history of the novel or 19th century literature. The coverage in that class started sometime after 1835 or so. I started reading Austen because I was interested in the history of the time. The movies have introduced many to Austen but not all who like the movies will read the books. The younger generation often finds Austen and even 20th century authors much too slow.It takes more to get people reading books who are used to texts on phones and tweets..

  2. I had to beg my father and brother to read Jane Austen. My father became an instant fan once he read one book. My brother had to be bribed. I promised to watch a movie or read a book of his choosing if he would just read Pride and Prejudice. I ended up having to watch Cloverfield and reading a book called Ready Player One which I loved. Though he claimed he still did not care for Austen he will randomly quote from the novel. Now I have the challenge of getting my husband to join the fun.

  3. Well you are lucky with those concessions – I have neither husband, son nor daughters who will watch the movie or read the book. Although they do know the name of Jane Austen as being my favorite author and P&P as my favorite book. I have bought my granddaughter the children’s cardboard books related to JA’s books. Hoping I can interest her as she grows.

  4. I am blessed with a hubby who will watch all the JA movies – and recalls them correctly! “Isn’t this the one where the girl falls off the wall?”, etc. Great guy!

  5. I do not have children yet but I would love for my kids to read Jane Austen and if I cannot get that, I would be more than happy to share with thema few hours watching Pride and Prejudice. However,I would try also the 1995 version heheehe

    I think he will eventually get around it!!

    My partner has started P&P twice but I am not sure he even got to finish a few chapters… I will try again next year. At least we has consented to maybe watch Pride, Prejudice and Zombies one of these days… it is a start!! However, I have to admit that he has come with me to see two performances of Pride and Prejudice and he enjoyed them.

  6. Not sure how old your son is, but he looks quite young. If he’s younger than 16 or 17, his teacher is doing him (and all her students) a great disservice by having them read a novel with so many subtle levels, varying themes, and incredible irony. The brain does not develop (in most people) the ability to truly analyze a work of literature until age 16 or older. As an educator, I hate to see brilliant works of literature forced on young people who are not yet capable of fully comprehending them. It will likely only further deter their interest in literature in general and that author in particular. I teach P&P to my high school seniors, and I can tell you that MANY young men end up loving this book. And they enjoy the 1995 mini-series more than the 2005 movie. They think the girls are prettier in the 2005 version, but they don’t find it funny and they say it loses the spirit of the novel. I don’t let them watch until they’ve already read because I don’t want their first impression of the story to be influenced by a film. I have known seventh grade teachers who teach Hamlet to their students. To me, that is beyond absurd. There is no way seventh graders are going to appreciate the psychological depths of that play. I hope your son with give Austen a chance when he gets a bit older.

    • My son is 14. The picture is actually of my 10 year old since my 14 year old wasn’t around when I wrote the post. Yes, I would agree that P&P might be above them, but it is part of the curriculum at their school, so it’s not really the teacher’s fault. It’s more of an administrative decision. I might need to discuss that with someone, huh?

    • My son is 14. The picture is of my 10 year old since the older boy wasn’t around when I wrote the blog post, so he looks way too young. Sorry about that. I cheated a little there. I would agree, though, that 16 is probably a better age for boys to read P&P. It wasn’t the teacher’s decision. The book is part of the curriculum at my son’s school, so it’s more of an administrative policy. Such is the way of schools anymore.

  7. I feel your pain. It’s very frustrating that boys/men get socialized to think they can’t enjoy “girl’s books” and nobody ever seems to worry if girls/women will relate to “boy’s books.” I mean, seriously, have you ever heard a girl say she couldn’t get into Tom Sawyer or Harry Potter because the protagonist is a boy? Does any girl in high school complain that they don’t want to read The Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn because it’s all about “guy stuff” (which it is)? Somehow there’s this idea that things with female protagonists are for females and things with male protagonists are universal. It’s just plain old sexism. Although, of course, a lot of people don’t realize they’re playing into it. I’ve tried very hard with my son to get him to read things with female protagonists (although, ironically, he mostly likes nonfiction). He read one of the graphic novel adaptations of P&P (I think there are three) and really enjoyed it (at age 11) and watched the miniseries. I don’t think he was all that interested in the romance (nor, for that matter, was my daughter), but he loved the humor. Collins was a particular favorite.

    • You’re right, Victoria. I’ve noticed that my boys are much pickier about books than my daughter, and sexism is definitely a factor in that. They are missing out on so much history and culture.

  8. My son, I’ll call him Mark Davis, realized Jane Austen is a chick magnet. In a few years you can use this argument. That said, it does help to have reluctant readers listen to the Audible audio book (downloaded onto their smart phones) while they look at the words in their books. If they type notes or add bookmarks in their Audible, the notes automatically transfer to the Kindle version. If they click on the footnote, the section of the book it refers to comes up. In the Kindle, the footnotes become separated by chapter, which makes it easier to look through a physical book, too.. And it makes searching through footnotes a snap. (I have over 600 footnotes in my Audible of Mansfield Park, and it makes it so easy to search .) This link shows you a hundred classics that are FREE Kindles. And once you “purchase” the FREE Kindle, you have the privilege of purchasing a normally expensive Audible for 99 cents. (You MUST buy the corresponding Kindle first.) Believe me, this is THE WAY TO GO. http://www.amazon.com/www.amazon.com/s/ref=amb_link_365138102_3?_encoding=UTF8&node=6522096011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=browse&pf_rd_r=1YSZFKVVWC4Q2ACH8YFE&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1524160502&pf_rd_i=5744819011

    • P.S. Congratulations on the “P&P”-loving husband. My husband just forks over vast quantities of money each year to send me to JA seminars and conventions. Though he did fly halfway across the country to watch me watch “Sense and Sensibility” at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. A month later (at the age of 59) he made his first JA-related joke. It was August 8, 2016. Asking for the salt substitute, he said, “Please pass me the Mrs. Dashwood.”

  9. Haha! I have a house of men that refuse to read Pride and Prejudice or any other “girly” Jane Austen book. My sons won’t even watch any film (not even one with zombies if it is associated with P&P or Jane Austen.) Seriously, the fastest way to clear the family room is to say “I think I will watch P&P. Who wants to watch with me?” 🙂 Well, a couple nights ago, my eldest was discussing why he was not going to continue reading a particular fantasy series (some interesting and valid points based on careful consideration of plot and characterization and such) and that led into my sharing a plotting issue that I was having. In the course of our discussion, I gave in general terms the situation with Bingley and Jane….Bingley’s friend told him she doesn’t like you as much as you like her, so give it up. So Bingley does and then he finds out that no, she actually does like him, so now he is going to try to win her back. His in depth commentary….”Well, that’s stupid.” No, it was not a point in favour of Pride and Prejudice. 🙂

  10. This is SO funny! My daughter loved P&P (book and movie) but not my son. I think he saw a few scenes from time to time – mainly because I tended to have the movie running daily for “research” LOL! Getting him to read anything other than sci-fi novels or gamer guides for Call of Duty and World of Warcraft would have been a fruitless effort. *sigh

    Keep trying, Rebecca!

  11. Some years ago my nearing 80 year old father discovered he could read free books on his phone. I told him P&P is my fav so to my surprise he started reading it. I checked in with him later to ask how it was going rather expecting he would have given up on it. He responded with a groan, “I thought Elizabeth would NEVER get married!” I was proud of him for finishing even if it wasn’t his fav.

  12. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story with us, Rebecca! Don’t lose hope, he might get to read and like it yet, but YES I’d definitely count what you’ve achieved so far as a win 😀

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