Pride And Prejedice – BBC Production Essay, Research Paper
?A great text not only reflects society, but also challenges its way of thinking.? How true is this statement?
A great text can be defined as one that our civilization deems valuable- a text that not only portrays the workings of society, but also defies existing constructs of the times and encourages progression in society?s attitudes towards relevant issues. Such a text is Simon Langton?s 1995 production of Pride and Prejudice. Through the characterisation of the main character Lizzie, Langton challenges viewer?s opinions by employing economic, philosophical and religious paradigms to portray Nineteenth Century English Society.
The social structure of 19th Century England encompassed the basic social class system whereby different social classes could be distinguished by inequalities in areas such as power, authority, wealth, education, religion and culture. Langton successfully portrays this society through elaborate sets and costuming as well as strong characterisation. Through the characterisation of Lizzie as a strong willed, independent young woman of her time, Langton is able to question the values and beliefs held at that time. He uses strong dialogue and an actor with a confident and daring exterior and clothes her in mostly casual clothes to portray a personality that is relaxed and comfortable with oneself and one?s moral fibre. This individual has a heightened understanding of the existing institutions, and does not simply accept the constraints forced upon her, as many in her position did, but uses her own judgement to determine for herself her own set of values and ways of behaving.
The economic paradigm is explored and examined by Langton in Pride and Prejudice in a very direct manner, illustrating to viewers the situation faced by English Society in the 1800s. Langton establishes clear class differentiations through extreme contrasts in costuming, props and elaborate sets. Sharp and direct dialogue coupled with almost awkward camera angles complete the images, which Langton then delivers to viewers- an apparent distinction between the various class groups.
The economic situation faced by the Bennet Family is one of desperation and urgency. While all members of the Bennet family were aware of this, Lizzie was unwilling to compromise her happiness for financial comfort in life- a way of thinking very ahead of her time. She demonstrates this through her actions by standing up for what she believes in. Lizzie?s refusal of two marriage proposals from two fairly distinguished and respectable men who would guarantee her financial security in life, confirms her outright disregard for the many pressures placed on her by society to conform to the accepted way of behaving. She does not only deny Mr Collins? request, but very firmly tells him that her ?feelings forbid it in every respect? and once again explains that she will not marry someone if happiness and love are not involved. The outrage and distress depicted by Mrs Bennet shows the enormity of Lizzie?s astonishing reaction to the proposal. Lizzie reveals to Jane, ?nothing but the deepest love would entice [her] to matrimony?. This view that was not entirely understood in the 19th Century, but marriage was seen as a matter of convenience. Here, Langton?s defies the set values inherent in the 19th Century concerning the priorities of an individual, and in doing so creates a text that can be commended for its advanced and bold thinking.
The character of Mr Collins and the clergy profession represents religion in Pride and Prejudice. Langton questions the role that religion played in the 1800s by portraying the character of Mr Collins as a repulsive and inconsiderate clergyman with all the wrong ideas and values in place. The viewer, very early on, becomes aware that this man has no true ties to the Christian religion and bases his existence on the material world and those who are in control of it- he flaunts his position and his contacts- an obvious sign of his lack of humility. His personality traits are not suited to the position of clergyman and Mr Collins is portrayed as a character of ridicule, this suggesting the declining role of religion in the 19th Century. This idea is reinforced when viewers see that Mrs Bennet uses church as an opportunity to gossip and her daughter Mary, the righteous one, is seen as an outcast. But the strong role religion did play in the past does not go unnoticed- religion did shape the strong values that were inherent in the 1800s. Religion influenced the knowledge that society used to judge Lydia?s elopement as unacceptable. Lizzie?s very acute awareness of the role of religion in her society allowed her to see things operate in a greater perspective. She understood the foundations on which her society based their values and wished to challenge and question the hypocritical nature in which religion was represented- the intolerable Mr Collins.
The philosophies of 19th Century society mainly involved money and status, and reputation and virtue. Money and status are examined and defined through use of costume and set design, while reputation and virtue are illustrated through costume. Langton challenges such issues through the individual Lizzie. This strong-minded character is not daunted by people of higher status to her, such as the Bingley sisters and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lizzie treats people as individuals irrespective of class- Lizzie will judge a person by one?s personality. She sees herself as an equal- ?He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman?s daughter.? Her strength of character is displayed for viewers in her reactions to issues faced by her, such as Lady Catherine?s confrontation. The rude manner in which Lizzie was approached would have been intimidating for someone in her position, but she was able to respond appropriately without losing her composure. Lizzie has an ability to see things rationally and to respond reasonably. She independently questions the society in which she lives with the knowledge of the existing values.
Langton has given viewers in the 20th Century Pride and Prejudice- a text that gives us insight into Lizzie- an individual who defies societies constructs to achieve her own happiness and fulfilment. The economic, religious and philosophical paradigms explored in the text challenge our preconceived ideas about 19th Century English Society and individuals that have promoted the progression of society?s ideals. This text is a valued production as it not only reflects the heart of society, but also confronts issues that hindered it.