My housemate/informal landlady/rescuer/excellent friend Chen is a wonderful person. She can do so many things that just don’t come naturally to me: she understands what solicitors do, thinks about things like the nutritional values of food, has different forks for eating cake. Sometimes she interprets me commenting on this as thinking she’s boring, which is simply not true (she is actually very interesting) – I am extremely envious that she is much more of a proper adult human being than me, less fundamentally ridiculous.
Never has this difference in personality been clearer than watching Austen together. We both like literature, and enjoy Austen (to differing degrees – see my next post for more information!), but Sense and Sensibility seems to have been written with us in mind. I, she of wailing tantrums and terrible taste in men, am all sensibility, and capable, spinach-eating, DIY doing Chen is sense.
It makes sense that she would like Elinor and I’d like Marianne, just as I’m a passionate defender of Lydia Bennett, who she can’t stand. Our viewing of the BBC adaptation last night gave rise to conversations so reminiscent of Sam Ellis’ Are you a Jane or a Cathy?
debate in How to Be a Heroine as to be accidental plagiarism.
[Exbit A. Willoughby onscreen fondling ankles, talking about Lord Byron]
Chen: Don’t say it
Me: I like him! He’s good isn’t he?
Chen: (Eyes rolling) You are WRONG!
[Exhibit B. Willoughby cuts a lock of Marianne’s hair. Necks are brushed]
Me: Oh, it’s very romantic though, isn’t it?
Chen: (Makes an alarming, snorting sigh of disbelief and frustration)
[Exhibit C. Willoughby, having debauched and impregnated a child, is trying to explain himself to Elinor]
Me: He’s sorry! Look, he’s alright in the end.
Chen: (Radio silence)
[Exhibit D. Marianne is now in love with boring old man Colonel Brandon]
Me: It’s unbearable. I can’t bear it. I liked Willoughby best – imagine settling for –
Chen: (Incredulous and Not Having Any of It) Listen, Brandon is *lovely*! He’s a decorated military man
Me: (Interrupting quietly) I’m against that
Chen: – a decorated military man, he’s kind, he visits with gifts, he goes off on missions on his nice horse to sort things out…
Me: Christ. I suppose you’re going to say you liked Darcy next, are you?
Me: Pfft. Leave them alone is what I say. Let people make their own mistakes. I always liked Wickham to be honest.
[Our scene concludes with a pointed silence]