Favorite Scenes

Favorite Scenes

I rewatch my favorite scenes in movies without watching the whole movie. There are three scenes I’ve rewatched many times, and they don’t come from Jane Austen movies.

I suspect that if someone mentioned the movie Dirty Dancing (1987) there would be people who have seen only a single scene from it. It’s the finale, the dance between the two leads. In Seven Brides for Seven Brothers the barn raising dance is another scene that I love. The Princess Bride has many wonderful scenes, but the I-am-not-left-handed duel is particularly fun.

These are action scenes, and particularly suited to movies. There are people who think of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice wet shirt scene was in the book. Powerful scenes and images make us remember movies. But what about great scenes or sections from books?

I reread extensively, not only whole books, but scenes from books. I’ve reread my favorite scenes or sections from books many more times than I’ve read the entire books. Sometimes the scenes are short, sometimes they are long. In Emma, I like a very short scene, which I’ll include in its entirety.

Emma had no opportunity of speaking to Mr. Knightley till after supper; but, when they were all in the ballroom again, her eyes invited him irresistibly to come to her and be thanked. He was warm in his reprobation of Mr. Elton’s conduct; it had been unpardonable rudeness; and Mrs. Elton’s looks also received the due share of censure.

“They aimed at wounding more than Harriet,” said he. “Emma, why is it that they are your enemies?”

He looked with smiling penetration; and, on receiving no answer, added, “She ought not to be angry with you, I suspect, whatever he may be.—To that surmise, you say nothing, of course; but confess, Emma, that you did want him to marry Harriet.”

“I did,” replied Emma, “and they cannot forgive me.”

He shook his head; but there was a smile of indulgence with it, and he only said,

“I shall not scold you. I leave you to your own reflections.”

“Can you trust me with such flatterers?—Does my vain spirit ever tell me I am wrong?”

“Not your vain spirit, but your serious spirit.—If one leads you wrong, I am sure the other tells you of it.”

“I do own myself to have been completely mistaken in Mr. Elton. There is a littleness about him which you discovered, and which I did not: and I was fully convinced of his being in love with Harriet. It was through a series of strange blunders!”

“And, in return for your acknowledging so much, I will do you the justice to say, that you would have chosen for him better than he has chosen for himself.—Harriet Smith has some first-rate qualities, which Mrs. Elton is totally without. An unpretending, single-minded, artless girl—infinitely to be preferred by any man of sense and taste to such a woman as Mrs. Elton. I found Harriet more conversable than I expected.”

Emma was extremely gratified.—They were interrupted by the bustle of Mr. Weston calling on every body to begin dancing again.

“Come Miss Woodhouse, Miss Otway, Miss Fairfax, what are you all doing?—Come Emma, set your companions the example. Every body is lazy! Every body is asleep!”

“I am ready,” said Emma, “whenever I am wanted.”

“Whom are you going to dance with?” asked Mr. Knightley.

She hesitated a moment, and then replied, “With you, if you will ask me.”

“Will you?” said he, offering his hand.

“Indeed I will. You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”

“Brother and sister! no, indeed.”

I like it partly because Emma admits she was wrong and Mr. Knightly was right. I also like it because we are given a hint that Mr. Knightly is interested in Emma.

In Persuasion, there are two very different sections that vie for first place. The first runner up is the first chapter. The description of Sir Walter is wonderful. But I must go for my first choice, that is the chapter where Anne says, “…All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.” I believe it is the most romantic scene in all of Jane Austen’s works.

Just in case you think I am a sucker for romance, Darcy’s disastrous proposal is a runner up in Pride & Prejudice. However, I prefer the whole section where Elizabeth stays at Netherfield Park. The sparing between Elizabeth and Darcy is wonderful, and I love how Miss Bingley repeatedly reveals her character.

Northanger Abby has a wonderful beginning, and I have to go with that for my favorite section, although it is hard not to like Henry Tilney’s interaction with Catherine or Isobel Thorpe and her brother revealing their characters to the reader without Catherine understanding it. I’ll still go with the first chapter, although I realize others may have other favorite parts.

Mansfield Park has the longest section that is my favorite. The whole section about Lover’s Vows is wonderful. About a dozen characters are drawn so well and interact in such an interesting way, it is a pleasure to read. From the time Mr. Yates arrives to the time Sir Thomas returns is beautifully written. It is over 17,000 words, which is clearly more than just a scene, but it is well worth rereading.

Sense and Sensibility has several good choices. I love how Mrs. Dashwood persuades her husband to break his promise to his dying father. The scene where Willoughby explains himself to Elinor, is also a great scene, especially since he reveals his underlying selfishness. But I think I must go with the scene in London, where Marianne shows Willoughby’s letter to Elinor, while Elinor conceals the reasons for her own sadness.

I don’t expect others to agree with me, but in this case disagreement can be interesting. What are your favorite scenes from Jane Austen’s books?

18 Responses to Favorite Scenes

  1. Mansfield Park has the Marmite factor amongst Janeites, but I find myself increasingly drawn to it and its theatricals, largely because of Austen’s skill at describing the interactions of the characters involved. A great recap of some eternal favourites, thanks Renata!

  2. Love Princess Bride and have read the book. And the final dance scene in Dirty Dancing is one I have watched all by its lonesome. I love the movie’s final scene in N&S but the book’s final words are just plain amusing…That woman…that man. I adore Capt. Wentworth’s letter and Anne’s words in that day and age were so true for women. For me there are also certain JAFF books which have scenes I reread over and over again. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Elizabeth’s confrontation with Lady Catherine, a real-life dragon! Besides being immensely satisfying, it is masterfully written and makes for compelling reading. I hold my breath throughout their conversation, every. single. time!

  4. I agree I love rereading scenes too! I love when Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth. and when they finally get together in the end.The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies!

  5. I’m like you, I reread certain parts of books that I love. One in particular. I have to agree with you about the Persuasion piece where Anne is speaking to about ‘love lasting longest’. Love that part.

  6. Two of my favorite all-time book passages come from Jane Austen works. My top scene is the “half agony, half hope” letter from Wentworth followed closely by Mr. Darcy’s disastrous first proposal. I also love the beginning sentence of P&P. This is why I prefer to read using my devices as I love to be able to easily bookmark my favorite parts and re-read those scenes over and over.

  7. You know, I don’t think my favorite scene from a Jane Austen novel is a romantic one. It’s a collection of scenes, but my favorite part of her writing is in Sense and Sensibility, when Mrs. Fanny Dashwood talks Mr. Dashwood out of helping the elder Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters. Second would have to be Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, but it’s difficult to select an exact favorite scene. Oh, or Mr. Collins, the way he proposes to Elizabeth. That always makes me laugh 🙂

  8. Mine is from Chapter LVIII, Pride and Prejudice. ‘If you will thank me,’ he replied, ‘let it be for yourself alone.That the wish of giving happiness to you, might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe, I thought only of you.’ Love it in Pride and Prejudice 2005 as well. Thank you for the post, Renata.

  9. I too love the final scenes of Dirty Dancing and so many scenes from Princess Bride – such a funny film! My favourite scenes ever are from P&P both 1995 and 2005. I love the proposal scenes and the Pemberley scenes especially but would be quite happy to sit and watch both versions on a continuous loop. (With pauses to read and ‘re read my vast number of JAFF.

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