The Bildungsroman And The Big Screen

2424 words - 10 pages

Abstract — The female bildungsroman, also known as the bildungsromane, is known as a sub-genre of novel where the principle focus of the novel is the education of the protagonist. Literary critic M.H. Abrams defines the bildungsroman as, "the development of the protagonist's mind and character, as [s]he passes from childhood through varied experiences…into maturity and the recognition of [her] identity and role in the world". The character of Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen's celebrated novel Pride and Prejudice is one such bildungsroman heroine. The reader is given insight into her psychological development as she matures over the course of the novel. She begins the novel as a clever, but somewhat immature character. While she initially revels in her powers of discernment, she later learns that she has allowed prejudice and her own pride to blind herself to reality. Her education and maturity are the principal foci of the novel and the principle foci of film adaptations of the novel, as well. In order to illustrate this continuing emphasis on development, this paper discusses relevant passages from the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The paper also analyzes how three modern film adaptations deal with the maturation of Elizabeth Bennet-- focusing on the ways they recognize the power of Austen’s coming-of-age narrative and its importance to the plot, independent of the courtship of Darcy and Elizabeth. The three modern adaptations analyzed within are as follows: Pride & Prejudice (2005) directed by Joe Wright, Bride & Prejudice (2004) directed by Gurinder Chadha, and Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) directed by Sharon Maguire.

Elizabeth Bennet overcomes many obstacles on her journey to adulthood. The most profound obstacle she overcomes, however, is her own prejudices driven by her initial inability to perceive with clarity of the people around her. Her prejudice too often blinds her to many salient facts. In the novel and the films, Elizabeth is the focal character. The novel centers itself, excepting few brief narrative interludes, almost exclusively on Elizabeth and her observations. The movies do this as well: Bridget Jones’s Diary is interspersed by voiceover narration from Bridget, the modern English equivalent to Elizabeth Bennet, who struggles with adulthood and uncertainty in her own judgments and perceptions. In this updated version of Jane Austen's novel, Bridget is a single woman in her thirties - an age at which contemporary viewers are more likely to relate with her urgent need to find a place in the world. As with most incarnations of the tale, the audience is invited to relate to the world from Elizabeth’s (counterparts) point of view. Her uncertainty is understood and her misjudgments and prejudices are empathized with by the audience because they can easily identify what led her to make these mistakes.

The way the audience is invited to relate to Elizabeth in the film adaptations is often a deliberate process....

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