Equal Engagement: In Marriage And Between Cultures

1696 words - 7 pages

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice illuminates a social courtship between the proud Mister Fitzwilliam Darcy and the shrewd, unconventional Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth is proud of her own identity. She astutely justifies herself as “a gentleman’s daughter” (Austen 337) in her confrontation with the prejudiced and class-conscious Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mister Fitzwilliam Darcy, who shares Elizabeth’s sharp tongue, comes from a family of high social status; his privileged upbringing instilled in him “pride and conceit” (Austen 349) that blinds him from acknowledging the similarity and equality between him and Elizabeth. Upon first proposing to Elizabeth, he does not realize that he is not raising her social status by marrying her. They are of equal authority in marriage; their similar personalities makes them all the more equal and complementary to each other. Thus, their marriage, following a second, sincerely worded proposal, signifies Darcy’s recognition of Elizabeth’s worth, and through his recognition, Austen argues for the fundamental equality between husband and wife.
Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice, a Bollywood adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, places Jane Austen’s emphasis of equality in marriage within an intercultural context, where the difference in culture is the source of social tension. As West meets East, American tycoon William Darcy sparks cultural conflict with his presumption of Indian girls’ “simple” and traditional characteristics and of their ready subordination to American men. Parallel to Elizabeth’s assertion of her father and Darcy’s equal class standing, Lalita’s fierce rebuttal of Darcy’s assumption highlights his ignorance of the Indian culture, especially his inability to understand the Indian tradition of arranged marriage, as the main hindrance for a more equal interaction between Lalita and Darcy and also between America and India. By exercising film elements of characterization, camera angles, and music, Chadha uses Austen’s equality in marriage to portray traditions and modernity as equivalent authorities, thus demolishing the hierarchical divide that mars a possible genial relationship between America and India.
In the first balcony scene, Darcy’s exchange with Balraj explicitly reveals to viewers for the first time his assumption that Indian girls and their culture are unsophisticated and inferior. Responding to Balraj’s wish to marry Jaya, Darcy offhandedly says, “If you really want to get marry, why don’t you just hook up with some Indian girl from England, or even America.” Darcy’s use of “hook up”, an American slang that connotes sexual interaction, depreciates the value of Indian girls by turning them into mere sexual objects. Moreover, his specific suggestion of “Indian girls” from England and America directly shows his prejudice against, not only the ethnicity of Indian girls, but also the Indian tradition of arranged marriage that he assumes have raised native girls to be...

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