Pride and Prejudice

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I was a twelve years old girl, holding in my hands a novel which had been in print for almost 200 years: the novel that first showed me what it feels like to love reading. Of course, I had read books before, and I had been lucky enough to like almost all of them, but none had succeeded in teaching me a lesson as this one had. Never before had I been introduced to a notion that would guide my actions and thoughts.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen was the perfect book for me, because it embraced the frivolous problems one encountered at that young age, such as interacting with society and understanding one’s place in it. Indeed, many themes found in it were outdated, and did not apply to me, just as they no longer apply to today’s world. Nonetheless, one central idea left the pages of the book , entering my mind. Like a small seed, it flourished, constantly fed by the water of my thoughts.

Pride was the concept that until I had read the novel was simply an unexplored term that flew past me many times, like a bird that examined new territories to which it was bound to return eventually; more importantly, it was the concept that would create a bridge to happiness for many years to come. As a child, I had heard about it, but most of the time it seemed be tied to  a negative connotation which made it appear dangerous to posses.

However, it didn’t take me long to realize the reason Mr. Darcy was such a compelling character was the fact that he was proud; not only that, but he embraced his sense of self respect, which created an aura of dignity around him. His attitude turned the light switch of my understanding on, and his words gave the notion new dimensions. It was as if I had just seen the sunrise for the very first time, and my mind was too busy admiring the beauty that was hidden underneath the scenery of words to fully grasp their implication.

Yet, in the following years, I came to completely  understand self respect, and how it can affect one’s life. A pure pride, which comes as a result of one’s achievements is always welcomed, and cannot be condemned as long as it emerges from an honest mind. It connects work to happiness in a way nothing else is capable of doing. It is one of the only things that can illumine a tired face with a smile after a day of labour. However, like a precious diamond, when it is worn without reason, and too often, it becomes an ugly rock, void of meaning or substance.

The simplicity of the story allows its lessons to shine, and reinforces its main characters as examples.  In a world where society places social status above everything, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are shown as they begin to understand which values have been forced on them and which they should keep. They come to understand that one cannot accurately assess another person based on first impressions, and that social class should not be grounds on which people are appreciated, as it is something acquired through birth, and not through personal effort. Thus, Mr. Darcy apprehends that he had made a mistake in believing that Elizabeth was beneath him and rejects the false sense of pride derived from that opinion.

Pride and Prejudice is a beautiful novel, which has left a deep print in the sand of my mind, at a time when the oceans of formation were under a storm. Hungry waves of knowledge and opinion hit the shore of my thoughts, molding and transforming it as if with hands. Reading the novel was a very strong wave, whose mark still reminds me that “…where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will always be under good regulation.” It is this realization that has helped me understand the true nature of this word, and allowed me to keep it as a diamond in my mind.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

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“It’s dark, now, and I am very tired. I love you, always. Time is nothing.” (Niffenegger 504)

The first book I’d like to discuss here is one that I read a while back, but I couldn’t resist the temptation of opening up again “just for this blog’s sake” (that’s the excuse I came up with). Normally, I try my very best not to reread books. Well, at least not for a few good years, because as time passes, perspective changes, and new lessons are learnt.

But back to “The Time Traveler’s Wife“, by Audrey Niffenegger. First of all, what you should know about this book is that it tells the story of a love between a woman (Clare) and a man who time travels (Henry). He meets her when he’s twenty-eight and she’s twenty, but she has known him from the age of six. How can that be? As strange of a notion as it is, Henry suffers from a gene mutation which causes him to travel through time, not knowing when this will happen, or where he will end up. That’s the reason Clare met him at such a young age: he time-traveled back to when she was a little girl. Why? That’s for you to discover.

The story itself is beautiful, but can be confusing at times. Like Henry, it sometimes shifts from the “present” to the past, speaking of moments that have already happened long before the characters began telling their story. The interesting thing, however, is that the entire novel gives you the sense that everything has already happened, as if present, past and future are one and the same, happening together over and over again. It crushes the idea of the linearity of time, thus throwing away one of the few things the characters can take for granted. And yet, both Clare and Henry have one thing to take for granted that most of us can’t: their future. They know most of what is going to happen before it actually happens. However, instead of giving them the appearance of being in control because they know, this throws them in a state of almost perpetual helplessness, because they can change nothing. Everything has already happened, so they are nothing but puppets at the hands of some capricious law of nature that remains unknown.

All in all, a gorgeously crafted story that exposes its characters just as they are: followed by a miracle which turned into a curse, and yet trying to live as happily as possible. They are honest and open, ready to speak of every single detail of their life, no matter how uncomfortable, strange, or just plain sad it might be.

Now, for the lessons:

1. “Super powers” come at a cost.  Well, it’s not like any of us actually have to worry about being “dislocated in time”, but there are things we can derive from this. If we blend this lesson into reality, we come to understand that many of the things we wished we had (better job, social status etc) are more “expensive” than we might initially guess. Some of these things come at a greater cost than money can cover.

2. Live in the present. This is such a used line, that I’m almost ashamed of writing it down. Almost. This is one of the things that no matter how many times we hear, it still makes no difference. We have a left hemisphere constantly preoccupied with what we did and what we will do, which means that the present becomes almost forgotten somewhere between the “why-did-I-do-it?” and the “what-will-I-do?”. In Henry’s life, the present moment already happened, as I discussed earlier, and though we are not cursed with an ability to see what the future holds, we still manage to lose the present, almost pushing it in the past. Let’s start thinking of “What-am-I-doing?”, for a change.

If you’d like to read more about living in the moment, click here.

There’s one more thing I’d like to add before ending: it isn’t a lesson as much as it is just something to think about: if you had to pick between knowing when someone dear to you will pass away, and not knowing, so that their death completely surprises you, what would you pick? This novel speaks of both cases, though it concentrates more on the first, suggesting once again that knowledge can sometimes be a curse.