Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

Book: The Other Wes Moore
Basic Information : Synopsis : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words : Book References : Good Quotes
: Table of Contents : References

Basic Information:
 Author: Wes Moore
Edition: eBook from the Public Library
Read: April 12, 2017
323 pages
Rated: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:
As the title implies, the author whose name is Wes Moore tracks another Wes Moore who lived only a few blocks away from him in Baltimore. Both are about the same age and both are African-American. One ends up being a Rhodes scholar, the other in prison for murder.

Thoughts:
You would expect in a book like this, there would be some prescription for how to make things better. But at the end, it sounds like Wes Moore is still sorting out his thoughts which is a bit refreshing, also a bit dissatisfying. The dissatisfying because you want the way to have things different. But refreshing because you realize that people come in so many different ways that doing one thing will never fit all people or even most of them.

Wes Moore leaves the prescription to others to state. Even then the answer given is to be involved. And that is the call to action. Not more government programs or more money or another organization, but individual involvement in individual lives.

The involvement of people close to the author made the difference between the two Wes Moores. Even though the other Wes Moore had his brother saying don’t go the way I did and a mother who was concerned. They were not effective nor energetic in keeping him away from running drugs.

The thoughts on manhood is interesting. The way the author was through the military’s way of owning up. It seemed like the other Wes Moore was still searching for what it meant to be a man. The South African story at the end is the author’s way of supporting that there is a need for ritual from when a child becomes an adult. Age does not make the difference, but outlook does.

Part I. Fathers and angels.
I was taught to remember, but never question. Wes was taught to forget and never ask why. The other Wes is so much sadder, much of it caused by the failings of a father. But I am not sure you can talk about the father's failings without understanding the father more. Was it fleeing a responsibility which he never wanted?

...pondering an absence [of their father]. This is a key meditation of our society. What has become of the fathers, and secondly, how can we be responsive to those who are fatherless?


Part II. Choices and second chances.
The author is coming to visit his namesake in prison. He stops and noted the daily miracle of my freedom. This is something we are so used, that I take it for granted.  It is only when we are faced with the loss of something which we appreciate what we have.

The other Wes asks the author, when did you become a man. The answer: when I first felt accountable to people other than myself. When I first cared that my actions mattered to people other than just me. But the author seems discontent with the answer, a bit too pat. He cannot identify a moment when he felt like he became a man.  The other Wes gets pretty close when he says that second chances are pretty fleeting.  There is a sharp edge between heading right and heading down. Author Wes Moore adds in about second chances and last chances.


Marking territory
The other Wes Moore wanted to be like his drug pushing brother; the brother wanted him to stay clear of that lifestyle. Sometimes it is the person who has made a mistake and cannot get out of it is the best person to keep us away from a problem. the “don’t do what I do, do what I say.” May seem hypocritical, yet it may be the best someone can do.


Part III. Paths taken and expectations fulfilled.
The other Wes Moore kept repeating his innocence, even though there was conclusive proof that he was involved. The author wonders, did he think if he repeated this enough times, he would be innocent? How about us? Do we repeat something about ourselves hoping that it is true?

Then there is a meaningful section about expectations. Is it our expectation of ourselves which forms us? Or those placed upon us?  The conclusion is that our expectations are influenced by those others have on us.

The land that God forgot
Books suddenly become alive for the author.  He was able to learn about various situations and imagine himself in them and see how he could work things out. The academic life grew on him.

Also the military school surrounding the author formed his thinking from easy ways to doing the right things.

excuses are the tools of the incompetent was pounded into the author by Sergeant Major Harry Harris. While I do not think this is an absolute truth, I know I perform better if I do not look for excuses.

The above can be contrasted with the other Wes thoughts about God. Where was God when things went wrong?  When bad things happen? The conclusion on this was, He certainly did not reside where this Wes Moore was.


Surrounded
The other Wes Moore never thought about the long term arc of his life. Do I think about where I am going and what I am doing? How does this fit in for the next five years? Ten years?

The author realized he had been very fortunate not to end up like his namesake. Others had been set onto the wrong path by tiny misfortunes-he had not been. He realized that his missions has to be to pull up others behind us. This was done for him and he wanted to do it for others. This is a good realization to have. Even for someone who was not from the projects. We cannot say that we are completely self-made as we are a product of our circumstances as well.

...admire the beauty and culture. But make sure you do not leave without understanding the history. That is something which we all should do wherever we are. When I am in Yosemite, it is not enough to see its beauty, but understand how we got to this place, so that as the future unfolds, we are not the slave to its past.

The author asked his South African host "how are you able to forgive?  ... How are you so able to move on?" The answer is less than intuitive: She gave me an easy half smile and took another sip from her mug. "Because Mr. Mandela asked us to."

I'd expected more. "I'd expected her to tell me that she was still working on her revenge scheme, ... But her simple and profound answer helped me to understand ubuntu  was not simply a word. It was a way of life. Her candor and exquisite simplicity framed the rest of my trip and helped me better understand the land I was living in. We are part of a community and must learn to live in one or we will self-destruct. Even if parts of that community has done us wrong.

There is a ceremony which the author’s host son will be going through which will mark him becoming a man. It will be painful. But the son says  it’s not the process you should focus on; it’s the joy you will feel after you go through the process. Wisdom from a young man.

As a note: this ties in with the question from the other Wes Moore-when did you become a man? In the South African case, it was after he had gone through the ceremony. Maybe that is what we lack. A boundary which says you are no longer a boy, but a man and now must take responsibilities as one.


Epilogue
The author talks about the camaraderie of being with fellow soldiers, those who have the same mission and understanding, along with the passion. He also talks about the fellowship of those who serve and who have commitment, integrity and sacrifice. There is not a sense of aloofness which you get in our society.

The author also talks about the process of writing this story. How he listen, took notes and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps of getting the story right. I am thinking about how we no longer have that passion for making the story right, but would rather twist our stories to fit our beliefs.

He also talks about What made the difference [between the two Wes’s]? He does not have a ready made answer. One thing he does bring up is the place of strong mentors in his life at crucial times. There is also a need to give young people the opportunity to make the best decisions on their lives, along with the information and tools and support.

What changed the author? He does not feel going to military school was the changing point. But when he felt himself surrounded by supportive people-his mom, grandparents, and extended family.

He concludes that it is up to us, all of us, to make a way for them [boys and girls growing up].

Afterwards
Wes Moore points out that lives typically do not change at a single moment, but are an accumulation of events. But even more important is a person perceives themselves in their own story. To me it is a rare person who can understand themselves enough to both be on stage and see the part they play.

A call to action / Tavis Smiley
the battle of life is won in the trying and serving.
Evaluation:
 Good book with interesting lines of thoughts about how two similar people can grow up to be two different men. The author does not leave us with a prescription to correct the situation, but advocates involvement in people, particularly at critical times in their development.  Wes Moore’s background is as a scholar rather than a writer. His writing is fair, but not with charm or excitement. So when you read this book, read for content not great writing.

 
Notes from my book group:
Some of the thoughts which came out from our OSHER group were:
  • Expectations
    • The expectation others place on us influences our own expectations and consequently our own results
  • Each person is different.
  • Do not give up on the person, even if they give up on themselves
  • Mental and physical health
    • This has a great bearing on what we are able to do.
  • Focus on the people around me
  • Hope Now For Youth
    • A local example of a group who are changing gang members.
  • Individual responsibility to be a solution
    • Just because we are ok does not relieve us of the responsibilities to others.
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Other Wes Moore:
1. How well does Moore describe the culture of the streets, where young boys grow up believing that violence transforms them into men? Talk about the street culture—its violence, drug dealing, disdain for education. What creates that ethos and why do so many young men find it attractive?
2. In writing about the Wes Moore who is in prison, Wes Moore the author says, "The chilling truth is that his life could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his." What do you make of that statement? Do you think Moore is correct?
3. Oprah Winfrey has said that "when you hear this story, it's going to turn the way you think about free will and fate upside down." So, which is it...freedom or determinism? If determinism, what kind of determinism—God, cosmic fate, environment, biology, psychology? Or if freedom, to what degree are we free to choose and create our own destiny?
4. The overriding question of this book is what critical factors in the lives of these two men, who were similar in many ways, created such a vast difference in their destinies?
5. Talk about the role of family—and especially the present or absence of fathers—in the lives of children. Consider the role of the two mothers, Joy and Mary, as well as the care of the author's grandparents in this book.
6. Why did young Wes, who ran away from military school five times, finally decide to stay put?
7. Why was the author haunted by the story of his namesake? What was the reason he insisted on meeting him in prison? Talk about the awkwardness of the two Weses' first meeting and their gradual openness and sharing with one another.
8. From prison, the other Wes responded to the author's initial letter with his own letter, in which he said, "When you're in here, you think people don't even know you're alive anymore." Talk about the power of hope versus hopelessness for those imprisoned. What difference can it make to a prisoner to know that he or she is remembered?
8. The author Wes asked the prisoner Wes, "when did you first know you were a man?" Talk about the significance of that question...and how each man responded.
9. Has this book left you with any ideas for ameliorating the conditions that led to the imprisonment of the other Wes Moore? What can be done to ensure a more productive life for the many young men who grow up on the streets?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)
New Words:
  • Inshallah (Introduction)
Book References:
  • Fab Five by Mitch Albom 
    My American Journey by Colin Powell

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: This is the story of two boys living in Baltimore with similar histories and an identical name: Wes Moore.
  • Last Line: How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.  (quoted from William Ernest Henley)
  • excuses are the tools of the incompetent  (chp. The land that God forgot )
  • ...admire the beauty and culture. But make sure you do not leave without understanding the history. (Surrounded)
  • it’s not the process you should focus on; it’s the joy you will feel after you go through the process (Surrounded)
  • the battle of life is won in the trying and serving. (A call to action / Tavis Smiley )
Table of Contents:
  • Part I. Fathers and angels.
    • Is daddy coming with us?
    • In search of home
    • Foreign ground
  • Part II. Choices and second chances.
    • Marking territory
    • Lost
    • Hunted
  • Part III. Paths taken and expectations fulfilled.
    • The land that God forgot
    • Surrounded
  • Epilogue
  • A call to action / Tavis Smiley.

References:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Pride and Prejudice

Book:Pride and Prejudice
Basic Information : Synopsis : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words : Good QuotesReferences

Basic Information:
Author: Jane Austen
Edition: eBook from Guttenberg
Read: April 5, 2017
353 pages
Genre:  Fiction
Rated: 5 out of 5

Synopsis:
Simply said-the Bennett family has five daughters and they all need to get married. How to do it is the question. Of the five daughters, three of their stories are told: Elizabeth, Jane and Lydia.  How they get married and to whom is the story line

Rather than going through the who elaborate and interwoven set of stories, Wikipedia has a perfectly good story synopsis, along with charts showing character relationships and descriptions. Please take a look there.


Thoughts:
The love of books by Elizabeth and Jane is what first caught my attention in this book. For the first few chapters these women had books in their hands, enjoying them, particularly Elizabeth. I am not sure that Mary enjoys her books, but at least she is reading. The other two sisters, Lydia and Kitty are almost illiterate.

Pride and Prejudice. These are themed throughout the book. But with the skill Austen has, you do not notice them as as much until at the end you understand that the title really should have been, Pride and Prejudice Overcame By Love. You see how both pride and prejudice kept Darcy and Elizabeth apart, but how some force, they are still brought together.


Chapter 1
You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it." Mrs Bennet is always interrupting Mr. Bennet. Mr Bennet plays along with this propensity, stringing his wife along until she is ready to hear from him.

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. This is a serious flaw in Mrs Bennet. She does not take the time to observe and understand her husband. You wonder how true this is when we see others-we take a first approximation and just leave it at that without delving deeper. I suspect that most people are worth at least a second look. We just need the eyes and ears to see and hear them.


Chapter 3
To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.  But what about those uncoordinated fellows like myself? Were we destined never to fall in love?


Chapter 4
I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but I always speak what I think This was said by Elizabeth to her sister Jane. I think being plain spoken is  good. But I am not sure that is always good. Sometimes our thoughts can be better said in a different way than thought. Maybe with caring instead of gruffness, understanding instead of. And then I think of GK Chesterton saying in A Man Called Thursday:
I should think very little of a man
 who didn't keep something in the background of his life
 that was more serious than all this talking.


Chapter 6
there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement. Interesting statement. I think that Austen means by the nudging of others so that they become a couple. That may have been true then, but now, I do not see much reluctance in becoming a couple.

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.  On the surface, this seems to be true even now. But beyond the sight of others I think a happy couple works at it, sacrificing for each other and enjoying each other’s company.

They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life. Is this true? I do not think so. I do not think a complete laundry list is advisable either. But at least you should know the general character of your potential life-long partner.

Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, Is this the most damning statement in the book?



Chapter 7
their minds were more vacant than their sisters. I stand corrected about damning statements. This talks about Lydia and Kitty.

From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now convinced. Really sounds like there is not much to redeem with Lydia and Kitty. They had better get married while they are young because they never will on their intelligence.

"I admire the activity of your benevolence," observed Mary, "but every impulse of feeling should be guided by reason; and, in my opinion, exertion should always be in proportion to what is required." I suppose someplace in this mess of a statement there is something to think about. Instead this is a sample of Mary who tries real hard to be intelligent , but comes up with pretty pedantic stuff.


Chapter 8
I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these. Or any day I should say.

no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. Not sure what this means, but it sounds like it should mean something.

"All this she must possess," added Darcy, "and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” Darcy not only wants someone to run the house and look attractive, but also be able to talk with and plan with.


Chapter 9
But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever. This is said by Elizabeth in connection with a conversation on the character of people. There are people who change so much and so often that you never know if there is a real person inside of them.

I can be equally happy in either. Said by Mr Bingley in reference to his preference of city or country. A man who can be happy wherever he is. That is good contentment.

I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love! I wonder if this resonates with me because I never understood poetry?


Chapter 10
My ideas flow so rapidly that I have not time to express them—by which means my letters sometimes convey no ideas at all to my correspondents. In this day and age, that could be said about a lot of e-mails. While letters seems to be more of a means to have thoughtful communications.

Nothing is more deceitful," said Darcy, "than the appearance of humility. Being humble is nothing to either try for or appear to have or even to defend that you are humble. Those very acts tend to remove the cloak of humility and work pride into the equation.

The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance. I could write a paper on this one. Instead, let us just leave it as Austen said it.

what is there so very laudable in a precipitance which must leave very necessary business undone, and can be of no real advantage to yourself or anyone else?

this is too much, to remember at night all the foolish things that were said in the morning. A good way to keep relationships.

To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding Elizabeth is arguing with Darcy. Darcy is talking about if you yield to a friends wishes without approving of the friends wishes, there is not merit in doing so. Elizabeth’s argument is that you need to understand why your friend wants something.



Chapter 11
The wisest and the best of men—nay, the wisest and best of their actions—may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke. There is sometimes I feel like I am guilty of this sin. A good reminder that by demeaning something serious you demean a person.

I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good. True


Chapter 15
Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society; Your surroundings or even education cannot overcome self-serving, get ahead manners.

being in fact much better fitted for a walker than a reader. But why not both? This was a description of Mr. Collins when asked to go for a walk when he was reading. He found reading and the knowledge gained from there to be of little use.

Chapter 18
Elizabeth was not formed for ill-humour; Is this to be counted as a virtue for Elizabeth? Or is because your temperament which is part of you, not developed anything to be praised for? The development of such a temperament is something, not the form you took at birth. On the other hand, it is nice to be around such a person.

This is no very striking resemblance of your own character, I am sure," said he. Each of them is silent unless they have something to say. Both are taken to as if they are too good for their surroundings. But darcy comes back with this rejoinder after Elizabeth states it.

The present always occupies you in such scenes. Just after Elizabeth says that in a ballroom her head cannot be in book.

It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first.  If we are never going to change, we had better be right in the first place.


Chapter 24
The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it That can come from two sources. 1) You see the potential for it. God has endowed our world and us with all sorts of potential and we fall so woefully short. Even Syphilis pushing his rock locks like a good endeavor compared to our efforts. 2) We see the evil which we willfully do.

that the woman who married him cannot have a proper way of thinking.  This is said with Mr. Collins. Elizabeth is concerned with her friend and cousin, Charlotte.  But later on we find that Charlotte has figured out how to have Mr. Collins happy and herself content without him having the slightest notion he is being manipulated.

...without scheming to do wrong, or to make others unhappy, there may be error, and there may be misery. I suspect in our attempt to do good, many a time our aim is amiss and we do the unintended harm.


Chapter 27
Where does discretion end, and avarice begin. This is speaking of marrying well. Austen points out that our motives for marrying, but in reality for all things, can be intertwined. Such as where does saving for retirement look like prudence and it being frugal or stingy? This really gets to the place of inner motivations. We cannot really know others. We can only know ourselves. And even then, we can trick ourselves into thinking we are going down a path of goodness, when we are on a gradual decline. It seems to me that it is better not to take short cuts, but to be good at the beginning so there is no issue about if I am doing something wrong. I know what my motives are then, it is more of a matter do I have the wisdom to do the good thing.

Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all. Elizabeth says this in a fit of frustration. At times this may be the wise move, at least of the person is not full of conceit.

What are young men to rocks and mountains? Elizabeth’s exclamation when she learns she has been invited to go on vacation with her uncle and aunt.

Chapter 28
every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind.  There is something about not naming everything and just absorbing. Same way with taking pictures. Sometimes it is better to just see with one’s eyes than be calculating a good shot.

Chapter 29
Every park has its beauty

Chapter 36
who have prided myself on my discernment. We all can be fooled, we can all see only what we either want to see or what others want us to see. A lesson to continually learn.

vanity, not love, has been my folly

Chapter 42
true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.   In this case, Mr Bennett had married a person like Lydia, someone who had energy more than brains. He enjoyed libraries rather than company.  Austen points out that the philosopher will be able to look for reason anywhere, even in places he might find unpleasant.


Chapter 43
She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. So often when man “improves” upon nature, he forgets that it is not to replace nature, nor can you be better. You can understand the contours of nature, but you cannot make it better.

real elegance-this phrase contrasts Darcy with many of the people who Elizabeth knows.


Chapter 44
She endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favour. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined, to be pleased. After all kinds of rocky starts with Darcy and Bingley, Elizabeth now decides to go all out for them, to make a favorable impression.


Chapter 48

The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison of this. And it is the more to be lamented. This is in a letter from Mr. Collins to Mr. Bennett concerning Lydia running off with Wickham. He goes to admonish Mr Bennett this is really Mr. Bennett’s fault to allow such a behavior. There is a reason why Elizabeth did not want to marry Mr. Collins.


Chapter 50
When the first transports of rage which had produced his activity in seeking her were over, he naturally returned to all his former indolence. Mr Bennett is not one who likes to have his quiet broken and Lydia broke the tranquility which he had come to expect. On top of that, Lydia’s boyfriend, Wickham, was demanding money for him to marry her after the disgrace he lead her through. But once on the move, Mr. Bennett acted fast to return to his normal tranquility

because with such an husband her misery was considered certain. Speaking of Wickham’s character and Lydia’s choice.


Chapter 55
And this," said she, "is the end of all his friend's anxious circumspection! of all his sister's falsehood and contrivance! the happiest, wisest, most reasonable end!" The thoughts of Elizabeth about marrying Darcy after being so opposed to him for so long.

"If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness. Speaking about Jane.


Chapter 57
I should very strenuously have opposed it. You ought certainly to forgive them, as a Christian, but never to admit them in your sight, or allow their names to be mentioned in your hearing.' That is his notion of Christian forgiveness! I wonder what Christian forgiveness he is talking about-that is Mr Collins, who is a parish minister. I think Austen is mocking ministers who are in name only Christian without the relationship or spirituality behind it.




Chapter 60
I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun. Darcy explaining how he fell in love with Elizabeth. He did not know he was in love until he was in love. Sort of a good thing, otherwise it might take us forever to be a couple.

To be sure, you knew no actual good of me—but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.

My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; While a spouse should know their spouse’s bad characteristics, they should not be mindful of them.

though the uncomfortable feelings arising from all this took from the season of courtship much of its pleasure  In this case, Darcy and Elizabeth spent much of their courtship trying not to love each each. This did deprive them of the joy which comes during this time. On the other hand, they were very sure of each other. This sureness will last a lifetime rather than a season. Sounds like a good bargain.


Evaluation:
When this became part of my book groups selection to read, I was thinking, oh well, I guess I need to read this because it is a classic after all, but I do not need to like it. I was first drawn in with the leading figures of this book all being thoughtful and well read. Then with the tension between the characters. And then finally the goodness portrayed here.  

The book was well written and interesting. Just the dynamics between all of the characters made it a worthwhile read.

 
Notes from my book group:

My questions:
  • In a statement which would never make it today, Austen suggests that in order to marry well a woman must be pretty, respectable, and have money. Why is the appropriate starting point for the book? Is this true today?
  • Which character did you empathize with? Which character left you sort of blah? What would their Facebook pages be like?
  • What functions does marriage play in this book? Where does romance fit in? Calling? Does it seem more functional than idealized? Is that good?
  • What do we learn about Pride? About Prejudice?
  • If you were Darcy, would you have chosen Mrs Bennett as your mother-in-law?
  • Except for Mrs. Bennett, was Mr Bennett’s life ideal?
  • Lydia and Wickham seem to be made for each other. How so, or why not? Did they get what they deserve? Do we get what we deserve?
  • Somebody has counted that there is 59 letters in this book. How effective are they? What do you they convey which dialogue or narrative could not?
  • What lessons were learned by the time we finish with Pride and Prejudice?
  • Why is this book so popular?

1. Pride and Prejudice is probably Austen's most famous, most beloved book. One element, the initial mutual dislike of two people destined to love each other, has become a cliché of the Hollywood romance. I'm sure you can think of numerous examples.
This book has been described by scholars as a very conservative text. Did you find it so? What sort of position do you see it taking on the class system? It has also been described as Austen's most idealistic book. What do you suppose is meant by that?
2. In 1814 Mary Russell Mitford wrote: "It is impossible not to feel in every line of Pride and Prejudice...the entire want of taste which could produce so pert, so worldly a heroine as the beloved of such a man as Darcy.... Darcy should have married Jane."
  • Would you have liked the book as well if Jane were its heroine?
  • Have you ever seen a movie version in which the woman playing Jane was, as Austen imagined her, truly more beautiful than the woman playing Elizabeth?
Who doesn't love Elizabeth Bennet?!!
3. Two central characters in Austen have her own first name.
  • In Emma: Jane Fairfax is a decorous, talented, beautiful woman.
  • In Pride and Prejudice: Jane Bennet is everything lovely.
What do you make of that?
4. Lydia and Wickham pose a danger to the Bennet family as long as they are unmarried and unchecked. But as a married couple, with little improvement in their behavior, this danger vanishes.
In Pride and Prejudice marriage serves many functions. It is a romantic union, a financial merger, and a vehicle for social regulation. Scholar and writer Mary Poovey said that Austen's goal "is to make propriety and romantic desire absolutely congruent."
  • Think about all the marriages in the book with respect to how well they are fulfilling those functions.
  • Is marriage today still an institution of social regulation?
  • What about it would change if gay marriage were legally recognized?
5. Austen suggests that in order to marry well a woman must be pretty, respectable, and have money. In the world of Pride and Prejudice, which of these is most important? Spare a thought for some of the unmarried women in the book—Mary and Kitty Bennet, Miss de Bourgh, Miss Georgiana Darcy, poor, disappointed Caroline Bingley. Which of them do you picture marrying some day? Which of them do you picture marrying well?
6. Was Charlotte Lucas right to marry Reverend Collins?
7. What are your feelings about Mr. Bennet? Is he a good father? A good husband? A good man?
8. Darcy says that one of Wickham's motivations in his attempted elopement with Georgiana was revenge. What motivations might he have had for running off with Lydia? (Besides the obvious...)
9. Elizabeth Bennet says,".... people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever."
  • Do any of the characters in the book change substantially? Or do they, as Elizabeth says of Darcy, "in essentials" remain much as they ever were?
10. Elizabeth is furious with Darcy for breaking up the match between Jane and Mr. Bingley. Although he initially defends himself, she changes his mind. Later when Lady Catherine attempts to interfere in his own courtship, he describes this as unjustifiable.
  • Should you tell a friend if you think they're about to make a big mistake romantically?
  • Have you ever done so? How did that work out for you?
(Questions issued by Penguin Classics edition.)

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1. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good
fortune, must be in want of a wife.” This first line has become one of the most famous in English literature. In addition to setting the narrative in motion, how does this line alert us to the tone of the novel and our role, as readers, in appreciating it? What does the line imply about women? (From the Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago pamphlet on Pride and Prejudice, 2005)
2. Elizabeth is upset to learn that Charlotte has accepted Mr. Collins’s marriage proposal (Vol. 1, chapter XXIII, p. 95). Do you think Charlotte should have married Mr. Collins? Did she choose him or did he choose her? What do you think influenced her decision to accept him? Is Charlotte a romantic? Is Elizabeth?
3. How does Pemberley play a role in Elizabeth’s change of heart? Does she really fall in love with Darcy after seeing his estate? Trace the development of her feelings for him. Why is Darcy attracted to Elizabeth? Trace the development of his feelings for her.
4. What might have happened if Elizabeth had accepted Darcy’s first proposal? Do you think he really expected her to accept? How does the first proposal change their feelings for, and opinions of, each other?
5. Several letters are reproduced in full in the text. What is the effect on you as a reader when you read a letter instead of getting the information contained in it from the third person narrator? Why do you think Austen might have used letters so often in this novel?
(There are 59 references to letters in the book.) Madison Public Library
6. How does the title Pride and Prejudice relate to the original title Jane Austen used for the novel, First Impressions? Do you think Pride and Prejudice is a better title? Why? How does it relate to Elizabeth? Darcy? Does it relate to other characters in the novel?
7. Which of her four sisters—Jane, Kitty, Mary or Lydia—does Elizabeth most resemble? How do the sisters’ different perceptions of people affect the choices they make? How do you think others perceive them?
8. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet do not agree on very much, especially when it comes to their daughters’ futures. Who is the better parent…Mr. or Mrs. Bennet? What role does family play in this novel?
9. Darcy says that Wickham tried to elope with Georgiana for revenge. Why does he run away with Lydia (other than the obvious…)?
10. Lady Catherine’s visit to Elizabeth to persuade her not to marry her nephew Darcy actually has the exact opposite effect and propels them toward the final conclusion, their marriage. What is it about this use of dramatic irony that is so appealing to readers? What other examples of irony do you find in the novel?
11. The novel has many universal themes that make it relevant today and inspire
contemporary spin-offs and adaptations. Imagine the Facebook pages of each of the Bennet daughters. Who would be most active on Facebook? How would their entries differ from each other? Would any of them choose not to be on Facebook?
12. Why is this novel so popular? Why do readers keep coming back to it, even after the original suspense is gone and they know how it ends?


New Words:
  • superciliousness (6):haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression.
  • complaisance (6): inclined or disposed to please; obliging; agreeable or gracious; compliant:
  • Loo-table (10):  a table model from the 18th and 19th centuries, originally designed for the card game loo, which was also known as lanterloo
  • Piquet (10):  a trick-taking card game for two players, using a 32-card deck consisting of cards from the seven to the ace.
  • Panegyric (10): a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something.
  • Approbation (10): approval or praise.
  • quadrille (14): a square dance performed typically by four couples and containing five figures, each of which is a complete dance in itself.
  • affability (14): the quality of being affable; geniality.
  • curricle (44): a light, open, two-wheeled carriage pulled by two horses side by side.
  • complaisance (44): inclined or disposed to please; obliging; agreeable or gracious; compliant:
  • simpered (55): smile or gesture in an affectedly coquettish, coy, or ingratiating manner.
  • missish (57):  affectedly demure, squeamish, or sentimental.
  • diffidence (58): modesty or shyness resulting from a lack of self-confidence.


Good Quotes:
  • First Line: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
  • Last Line: Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.
  • I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library (Chp 8)
  • But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever (Chp 9)
  • I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love! (Chp 9)
  • Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. (Chp 10)
  • The power of doing anything with quickness is always prized much by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance. (Chp 10)
  • This is too much, to remember at night all the foolish things that were said in the morning. (Chp 10)
  • The wisest and the best of men, … may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke. (Chp 11)
  • I hope I never ridicule what is wise and good (Chp 11)
  • It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first. (Chp 18)
  • The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it (Chp 24)
  • ...without scheming to do wrong, or to make others unhappy, there may be error, and there may be misery. (Chp 24)
  • every view was pointed out with a minuteness which left beauty entirely behind. (Chp 28)
  • Every park has its beauty (Chp 29)


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