The author, Joanna Trollope, stated in a recent Guardian and Daily Mail article that one of literature’s beloved characters, Mr. Darcy, most likely gained his fortune from profits of the slave trade. Here are the two articles if you like to read them:
I’m not naive. There is a possibility that person of Mr. Darcy’s wealth could have benefited from slave trade, especially during that time period. But my question is what is the purpose of tarnishing an image of not only a romantic character, a fictional romantic character?
Jane Austen was a type of novelist that rarely used metaphors or hidden meanings in her work. If she wanted to explicitly connect a character with the slave trade, she would have put in their background. The only novel she did this with is Mansfield Park. Mr. Darcy is described as making his fortune from farming and having tenants on his land.
There are a lot of people who are wondering what is the big deal? “Mr. Darcy isn’t real.” But as any proper bookworm would tell you, fictional novel can be just as real as any historical figure. What really irks me is that here’s an author who is making all these presumptions without doing a proper background on the work or knowing Jane Austen at all.
Why did Trollope say all these things? Because she is writing an updated version of Pride and Prejudice. This novel is part of the Austen Project that was created by HaperCollins to celebrate the 200th publication anniversary of Pride and Prejudice in 2013. I have so many thoughts about this but I’ll just name a few:
- Trollope has done this before.. She wrote a modern adaptation of Sense and Sense and Sensibility in October 2013 and it…was…terrible! I won’t go into too much details here but if you want, you can read my review here:
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
The problem with these updated or continuation of Jane Austen novels is that authors are trying to write and sound like Austen herself which actually prevents the story to be compelling. That is what Trollope did here. Instead of using her own voice and writing style, I felt that she was putting so much focus on copying Austen’s style. That’s what lost it with me. Also, she really rushed through the story. What made Sense and Sensibility a classic is the time Austen took in character and plot development. That was severely lacking here. We all know the story, but if you are giving a modern version of it that does not mean you should not take your time in telling your version of the story. I also disliked the constant product placement throughout the novel. I get it is a 2013 version of the novel but that does not mean you have to keep throwing out brand names such as Facebook or YouTube all the time. I’m surprise she didn’t mention Google.
2. Although I haven’t read the other two books in the Austen project, I can tell by some of these book reviews, this project is not working. Austen’s novels contain ideals that are relevant to the 19th century, not for the 21st century. If you want people to be more familiar with Austen’s work, maybe you should promote Austen’s real works, instead of bad adaptations that may cause readers to be disinterested in Austen’s work altogether.
3. How are we suppose to look forward to an author’s derivative work when that said author criticizes the original work? We have no illusions about the 19th century. Austen read her writings to her family. Do you think they wanted to constantly hear about the “dark underbelly” of their time?
Maybe I feel so strongly about this since Jane Austen is my favorite author and Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book. Or maybe I feel strongly about a particular author making comments and criticisms without, apparently, doing any background information for herself. Let’s go with that.