Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Dish for Darcy: Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'

Little children are almost totally egocentric. They think only of themselves and their needs. Gradually, they learn that other people exist and that to some extent those people's needs matter as well. Nobody ever gets over this egocentricity completely, of course. Listen to teenage girls talking (and most teenage boys too) and notice how many of their sentences begin with 'I...'.

Later in life, women are usually better than men at considering the needs of other people, of intuitively knowing what other people are feeling and thinking in a given situation. Very few men are good at this. (This partly explains why women are so much better at the sort of novel that explores the little everyday motivations that drive a group of characters.)

All of this brings me circuitously to Mrs. Bennet and a question she asks her daughter Elizabeth. Near the end of the novel, she wants to commission a meal that will appeal to her latest prospective son-in-law, Darcy. So she asks Elizabeth what is his favourite dish. Although Elizabeth does not answer, we may be sure she has already found out what is Darcy's favourite dish. On the other hand, I bet he does not know her favourite dish.