Reflections on a Lack of Accomplishment
(Bear through my depressed mumblings and you’ll be treated with some delightful reveries on Jane Austen. I promise.)
There’s so much I could choose to be depressed about this year.
No, not the tyrannical impositions our government has placed on its people. Not the riots. Not the lies of various political parties and not the insistence of many reasonable people in believing the lies.
I’m one of those people who explores these things to the best of my ability and then arrives at the conclusion that worrying about it too much is a waste of my life.
If I were to pick something to be depressed about, I would pick things a lot closer to home. Friends moving away—other friends lost. Life moving on … and I’m not quite sure I’m moving on with it.
I hate the transience of life, but I also hate moments when things are not moving at the rate I’d prefer. Generally the things that are shifting and changing are the things I want to stay firm … and the things that refuse to budge are the things I want to change.
I’m not a bestselling author yet, and I’m not able to make much headway in that direction. However, other elements of my life insist on changing—friendships, jobs, chores, the very way I live my day-to-day life.
The places I go. The things I do.
Will anything ever, ever settle down?
My laptop has been out for weeks now … and it looks like to make it run optimally I’ll have to send it out again. I don’t like the sound of that.
I also feel like there’s always something to do … thousands of things to do … and thousands of requests for more of my time.
Time is just about all I have right now—though of course I realize I can’t technically say, “I’ll have time tomorrow” because I could just up and die, but theoretically, I have time. But I’m not a very good steward of my time. At least, I never quite use it as thoroughly as I’d like to!
Mostly I have worse luck following a schedule than our puppies. Our puppies actually do a really great job following a schedule!
That said, I do get stuff done. As I’m writing this, it’s about half a week out from when I plan to post it (I, um, missed last week—sorry, y’all!), and I have a lot of stuff to do to prep for NaNoWriMo (and KDWC).
But I have done some things. I made some plans for maintaining a healthy lifestyle—I tried to figure out where to fit my various tasks in. I’m trying to make a loosely structured schedule for me to struggle, but of course I’m so distractible these days that it’s not really happening.
Basically, I’m fine, it’s fine, I’m all fine.
A lot of things I planned for the past week didn’t happen. The blog posts, the emails, the planning, the extra work so I wouldn’t have to do it later.
However, I also did get this blog post scheduled (presumably, if you’re reading this!) — and a couple emails written — and a bunch of Instagram planning done!
Given that I didn’t have my laptop throughout most of that time, that’s pretty decent! Besides, life has just been making me unfocused and stressed lately, so getting things done can be a big deal.
I love the sense of accomplishment after achieving a big task.
Which, because I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, got me thinking about what it means to be an “accomplished woman,” a concept Ms. Austen frequently pokes fun at, most famously in Pride & Prejudice.
An Accomplished Woman
“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant [Caroline Bingley, Continually Crushing on Mr. Darcy and Getting a Lot of Bad Rap for It #hypocritereaders], “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
My, my, Caroline! As Elizabeth retorts, “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women [Mr. Darcy’s claim]. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
So to be accomplished, I must:
- Know about:
- The modern language (so probably French and Italian as well as English)
- Also have a:
- Certain something about my air and manner of walking
- Certain something about my voice, my address, and my expressions
Honestly, I’m doing better than you’d think! I certainly know a great deal about music and singing, enough that I could perform (which, I believe, is Caroline’s principle meaning).
I don’t speak French or Italian, but I have enough “knowledge of them” through my study of Spanish and Latin to get by.
I can’t draw, but I imagine with practice I could do something to catch up …
And who knows about my airs and my voice and all. I try.
That said, these are, intentionally, all very vain, shallow accomplishments* – or at least the way they are used is doubtless very vain and shallow.
*don’t get riled up, musicians and artists and so on, before you read the next sentence!
So what then? What makes someone accomplished?
Actual Accomplished Women
according to Jane Austen
My first thought when my brain started wandering down this rabbit trail was, “Did Mr. Darcy think Elizabeth was accomplished? Was he trying to smoothly compliment her?”
I don’t think so. In fact, though I think Mr. Darcy was #majorcrushing on Elizabeth at this time, I find it more likely that he was stating his reasons for not being with her out loud.
“Keep it together, man. She’s not even accomplished. You should marry someone like Caroline – *involuntary shudder* – and make your dead parents proud.”
Actually, I need to take some time to further explore this Darcy/Batman theory, but I’m not talking about that here so let’s move along.
ANYWAYS, as I was saying, at this point, we know that Darcy is still fighting himself because he states later that “he can fight it no longer” and so on.
“I don’t understand,” indeed, Lizzy. I must agree! This is the type of thing that must be puzzled out after the fact.
This whole scene is a marvel – in the book, but especially in the movie! – and it proves conclusively that Darcy does NOT think of Lizzy as all he wanted in a woman.
Neither does Lady Catherine de Bourgh, of course.
But Darcy proposes to Elizabeth AND THEN (and this is so important) ADJUSTS HIS VIEW OF HER AGAIN POST-FIRST-PROPOSAL BASED ON WHAT SHE SAYS ABOUT HIM AND HOW SHE TURNS HIM DOWN (note: this both makes him think about her words about his actions – see his letter and subsequent actions – AND makes him thoroughly realize she is NOTHING like her mother/sisters).
So Darcy didn’t believe she was an accomplished woman when he made those little snarky comments. He didn’t believe she was an accomplished when he proposed (well, probably that she was #superhawt and #supercute and #supersmaht and #kindadecentatplayingthepianoiguess, but I don’t believe that accomplished really played into the decision at all).
However, at the first proposal, his grasp on what is important to him in a wife – e.g. accomplishments, e.g. Caroline Bingley *insert another involuntary shudder* – have slipped. Are disappearing. He thinks that he’s simply given up his standards.
Nope. Darcy isn’t giving up his standards. They are shifting. By the end of the book/movie, he does not like Elizabeth “against his better judgment” – he loves her because he knows she is the right woman to marry.
This scene, to me, says that he’s now seeing the real her … and really liking what he’s seeing. But whoops, she doesn’t even want to go walking with him! (From his POV, for obvious reason!) Still, I can see that adjustment in his thinking between the rain proposal >> the letter >> this scene.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think about classic Regency women, I think of Elizabeth Bennet. I think of her as being a woman who is what one should (minus the lessons learned!) have been in her era.
Now, Elizabeth had her own lessons to learn. ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE IS LYING AND COMPLETELY UNDERSTOOD AUSTEN’S INTENT IN WRITING THE NOVEL AND DESERVES TO DIE A BRUTAL DEATH BY A WOMAN-ONLY FIRING SQUAD. But I’m just not talking about that right now, so note that point.
What I’m saying is …
Austen is saying that what we view as accomplished isn’t ACCOMPLISHED in the eyes of her smokin’
hot rich hero
Basically, Austen is saying that, though her contemporaries considered a woman who could do ALL THE THINGS and DID ALL THE THINGS and WAS BASICALLY A FEMALE “ENTREPRENEUR” (e.g. wearer of many hats) OF HER TIME is NOT what Mr. Darcy, in the end, learned to love.
There are so many times when Elizabeth admits she can’t do this or that … she can’t draw, can barely play piano (no matter what Mr. Darcy says, that smokin’ rich liar*), she’s obviously not designing tables, and I never heard her spout French or Italian or whatever the “modern languages” are.
Anyways, as I was saying, Elizabeth is not “accomplished” in her own view, in society’s view, or in Mr. Darcy’s original view. However, she becomes “accomplished,” in a way, in Mr. Darcy’s eyes because he realizes that societal expectations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
And Elizabeth has #muchfineeyes
But that’s beside the point.
The point is, maybe I’m reading the wrong things into being “accomplished.” Maybe instead of doing more, I should stick to my strong suits.
And just laugh when the Lady Catherine de Bourghs (e.g. my own mind but shhh) of the world are confused by my lack of mad painting skillz and the fact that all my younger sisters are “out.”
ANYWHOS, I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this. I just wanted to give myself a kick in the proverbial pantsuit and suggest I needn’t look on myself so harshly.
Because I ain’t so bad, especially when compared to Unaccomplished Elizabeth Bennet. *sniffs in Modern Languages*
WHEW! That’s it. Okay, thoughts? What does it take to make an accomplished woman in modern day society? (Both realistically and based on expectations.) What are your thoughts on my whole Pride & Prejudice ramble? I’m halfway through rereading the book, so you’re sure to see more of this stuff down the road!