Monday, September 15, 2014

Romanticism: Pride and Prejudice recast for age of social media

I wrote this paper some time back and think it's well suited for the satirical scope of this blog. . I'd leave the critical commentary for the end of the novella but if you've already read the famous novel "Pride and prejudice" by Jane Austen, you'd understand the conjugates and references to the witty characters Jane Austen had brewed:

Romanticism: Pride and Prejudice recast for age of social media
— Hassan Haider.

Mr. Bennet saw the words roll down his ticker, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife (Austen 1853).”
“What is with your status updates?” he asked his lady inquisitively.
“If you knew that tolet ad for the Netherfield Park on OLX website is now marked ‘sold’, you would also have investigated Mrs. Long’s tweet; it is now owned by this rich hunk, Bingley.” She elucidated with her eyes still glued to her laptop. “Let me just find his Facebook profile. There wouldn’t be any better opportunity for one of our daughters.You should send him a friend request.”
“You should probably let the girls search for him and send him friend requests themselves. But if you do, make sure to replace your own display picture with a kitten or a political logo, lest Mr. Bingley turns out to be a frandshipper who likes you more than them,” he remarked.
Mr. Bennet’s character wasn’t in full grasp of his wife, nor was his wit and sarcasm, even after watching him troll on message boards, blogs, forum posts and now facebook pages respectively as they trended the internet over the last twenty years. She was better off stalking, with her pedantic skill, young men on facebook and twitter to get her daughters married. It wasn’t long before Mr. Bingley was sent the invitation to the event Mr. Bingley created on facebook for an evening party. This unexpectedly turned into a reversal for Mrs. Bennet who did not appear to approve of the random comments from Mrs. Long about her nieces and liking Mr. Bingley’s every single comment on the event page. Mrs. Bennet was irritated with the assumptions she had to make about her difficulty to get past the privacy settings of Mr. Bingley’s profile. She could not add him as a friend since he had limited that to ‘friends of friends’. The idea of having to be introduced by Mrs. Long, who was always thinking of getting her own two nieces married, or waiting till she added him through her friends was not an option. This called in for Mr. Bennet to pay him a visit who eventually did, evening out the mood of his wife. The further impression given by Mr. Bingley’s posts tagged by ‘via Blackberry’ only increased Mr. Bennet’s aspirations for setting up a meeting.
Following the meeting, Mrs. Bennet and her daughters challenged their patriarch with their isochronic text messages to get to know something about Mr. Bingley, but his disparate skill with the keypad was unmatched by the six of them. There was nothing useful they all could get out of him and finally they had to rely on the tweets of their neighbour, Lady Lucas. Lady Lucas was of very high opinion of Mr. Bingley. The fact that Mr. Bingley was not having a twitter account seemed to have been put to full use with Lady Lucas’s tweet retweeted all over and trending as a major local topic. He had no idea to the extent he was being discussed around the neighbourhood. She had also tweeted about him having a party soon. Mr. Bingley soon visited Mr. Bennet at his net cafe and also hoped to see the Mr. Bennet’s daughters who were avouched for having un-photoshopped profile pictures and yet being found pretty. But this was not his day, the girls were not present at the cafe, they rather choose to leave one of the webcams on to see him from their home. Their eyes couldn’t miss saccading to the arresting reflection of his black heavy bike parked outside, visible in the cafe’s mercury polished glass.
This excursion was then followed by more of retweets about the gentleman. Bingley’s party being on the top trends revealed his public facebook invitations to a few ladies and gentlemen from london to his own party event page. This was not so welcomed by the Bennet girls and their mother, who were only satisfied after finding out that the ladies he invited were already added to his profile with their relationships set as his sisters. The event page was now full of excitement about the guests and their impressions. One of the gentlemen Mr. Bingley had invited, Mr. Darcy, was the only one who had a catchy impression, enough to get him his own group discussion among the old residents. With the outlook of his profile, a cover photograph of his Derbyshire mansion and a profile display picture with an italian beard and spikes fresh out of a gel ad, he was untimely regarded to be more handsome than Mr. Bingley by the women while his public sharing of moderate news posts put him in good books of the men. This was only till he didn’t start commenting on the event page and later appeared in the party. Although dressed fine, his demeanour was something that swerved the opinion away from him. His cool profile and riches of his mansion were out matched by his friend’s manners in addition to the rest.
Right after the party where Mr. Bingley danced with Jane Bennet, twice, they were added as facebook friends. Mr. Darcy on the other hand was asked by his friend to send a friend request to any one of her sisters; then Bingley went on to send him Elizabeth's profile link.
“I don’t send friendship requests to the women I don’t know,” he typed back. “And she is hardly pretty enough for me to send her a request. You should probably go back to your chat with Jane.”
Bingley took the queue. “Okay then,” he valedicted in a shortened internet jargon as he crossed his chat window.
This little introduction of Bingley and Jane Bennet later became the topic of the Bennet family group on facebook. Jane and Elizabeth posted in a series of comments debating about Mr. Bingley’s personality. Mr. Bingley on the other hand was known to have had a hefty inheritance but was not likely to buy anything since he was found spending more of his time using internet from his Blackberry on the go if not from his laptop back at his newly acquired property. Mr. Darcy on the other hand, having a completely different personality, was his best friend. Their personalities contrasted to add to their friendship. Where Mr. Bingley was cool headed, unlike the imperious Mr. Darcy, Darcy was the clever one with a better grasp of internet and its methods, which he never used. His facebook comments and posts tagged with an android phone link were at one point considered to be very impressive by the observers but were given away by their actual content asocial content he used to post. The age of the cellphones and social media where the type of smartphone you were using often gave the first impression of your personality, although gave Darcy the cool outlook of an android user, Mr. Bingley’s well mannered comments and lesser usage of the word “lol” saved him the disgust that his friend had lately started receiving. Despite these differences, the two had a high regard for each other.
Lucas family was one of those having mellow relations with the Bennets. Sir William Lucas was an honoured man, and a knight, with a strong social presence. Lady Lucas who was well known for her top tweets on the other hand was amicable but had the habit to retweet or mass email chain letters to family and friends. Her posts of Bill Gates’s monetary reward on forwarding so called Microsoft emails had often been an irritant.
“Tomorrow will be the best day of your life, if you send it to atleast ten more people immediately. If you ignore or delete this message, you will die within next ten days,” read one of her emails sent to the whole neighbourhood.
Not being too clever in character, her irking retweets, shares and forwards were only over rated. Mrs. Bennet found her to be a good companion but she was not much of a helping hand in supporting Mrs. Bennet’s ambitions. Their online group chats that evening passed with the discussions about Darcy and Elizabeth and the continuation of discussions about their new neighbours.
“Lizzy spoke to Mr. Darcy at the party,” Elizabeth received a tag notification in the group discussion followed by a stream of comments. “He seemed a bit self absorbed.”
“He must  have been taking pride in his high priced android smartphones that he didn’t even talk to Mrs. Long knowing that she kept an old Nokia model that could merely browse the internet,” observed Charlotte in a comment.
“I wouldn’t mind him taking pride in his expensive cell phones and riches if you all weren’t assuming I had dibs - the ability of first claim that outmatches any superhero’s powers - on Darcy,” Elizabeth vented back with the typical witty comments she had inherited from her father.
Tickers of the Netherfield and Longbourn residents were soon flooded with new friends additions. “Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Hurst are now friends,” read one. This went on to further show the increasing number of likes on each other’s wall posts.
Charlotte and Elizabeth didn’t stop discussing the affair of the new neighbours and its proceedings. They kept posting on their walls about how Jane and Bingley were to spend time together in order to fall in love or get married. Jane on the other hand was not planning the chats or parties like others did. Her idea of meeting Bingley and talking to him was inadvertent. Charlotte’s post on Elizabeth’s wall, which was now only readable to a quidnunc, had now over a few hundred comments only involving the two of them with occasional likes of other friends to Elizabeth’s witty comments. Absorbed in the lackadaisical discussion, Elizabeth missed that one of the lurkers reading the chat, who mistakenly liked one of Elizabeth’s witty comment, was Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy, who at first called her not pretty enough to send her a friend request, was hovering his mouse over the add button thinking of adding her. His unwary criticism of her was not to last much over the persona of her profile. The glowing blue cover photograph, matched with her blue hat and gown was now alluring for Darcy. Mr. Darcy found his chances to talk to Elizabeth on Sir William Lucas’s facebook fan page where he would often like her song video posts or comment on them.
Jane then got invited to a dinner event page with Louisa and Caroline Bingley alluding that they were to dine with military officers. Jane forgot to check weather updates and ventured off to the Netherfield Park. In the middle of her 3 mile journey, she crossed heavy rain. The rain soaked her cell phone and she could not call in a cab or a car. On reaching Netherfield, although she could enjoy the dinner, she fell ill. Elizabeth went after her to tend to her. Having to share the wifi, she and Mr. Darcy often had the same timings to use the internet. With better signals in the lounge, they had to share the space and often be in each other’s company for the time Elizabeth stayed at Netherpark field. The frequent company and the occasional queries about the internet being accessible that day gave the two a chance to get a bit better acquainted. Mr. Darcy, impressed by Elizabeth’s traveling alone to tend to her sister started being less rigged to her and started admiring her more. Elizabeth who didn’t admire his asocial behaviour could start to break only till she was added by Mr. Wickham whose profile’s ‘about me’ section was full of how he was not treated erroneously by Mr. Darcy. Although aware of its existence, Mr. Darcy was unwary of the fact that Elizabeth could get a look at Mr. Wickham’s, still maintained, profile on Orkut. Bringing their acquaintance to a standstill, Elizabeth getting to know Mr. Wickham turned out to be annulling for Mr. Darcy’s understanding with Elizabeth.
In a few days, Mr. Bingley’s current city changed to London. This further embittered Elizabeth who assumes it to be Mr. Darcy’s idea and could not ascertain or admit the true facts of Jane not appearing to be in love with Mr. Bingley till she got an explanation from Mr. Darcy in her facebook inbox. This stream of events for Elizabeth are a lot to absorb, Mr. Wickham elopes with her sister Lydia both deactivate all their social profiles. With that, and nowhere to be found, it is on par with vanishing from the earth. Not long after, Elizabeth notices Lydia’s facebook profile to be active again and its relationship status set to ‘married to Mr. Wickham’.
“Mr. Darcy,” read the ‘who was there’ tag on the marriage post on Mr. Wickham’s newly created facebook profile which appeared to be for the sole purpose of showing off the marriage since it did not contain all the indignation from his Orkut profile which was now nowhere to be seen.
Consternated by the new revelation from Lydia’s mistaken tag, Elizabeth unearthed that Mr. Darcy was actually responsible for tracking them, finally employing his internet skills, through google maps to guess where they could have gone and marrying them at his own expenditure. Mr. Bingley who moved to London and deactivated his social networks too, suddenly returned to the social internet and proposed Jane on her facebook ‘wall’. The sudden stream of events, involving Lydia, Jane, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy led Elizabeth to second guess her opinion of Mr. Darcy. This was an opportunity for Mr. Darcy to propose to Elizabeth, who accepted his re-sent friend request and said yes to his marriage proposal.

Critical and reflective commentary
Jane Austen’s original novel, full of wit, comedy and a classic plot also sets an epoch for the 19th century era. The classic and detailed coverage of the environment from dressing and living to modes of travel and norms make it look not less than a movie camera detailing a scene. The author often leaves the chapters to end with an argument or a discussion between characters with the focus fading out of it - something which is now a trend for ending scenes in a movie. This can be seen from the example of Mrs. Bennet and Sir William Lucas’s son at the end of chapter V where they discuss about what they would have done if they were as rich as Mr. Darcy (Austen 1853). The discussion is out focused by returning to passive commentary and leaving it to the fact that it only ends on them reaching their destination. This very much correlates with the movie camera zooming out from the top right of an ending scene where the characters walk on to a road’s end to their destination debating on something which also is then out focused into noise from far away. Such writing style makes you wonder how the novel would have gone if it was written in 21st century as has been tried by many (Neckles 2012). To critically know Jane Austen’s writing style in this novel, and in general, it is intriguing to think on the lines of a contemporary recast.
The recast starts with a recursive quote from the original novel’s starting line appearing as a status update of Mrs. Bennet. The strong wit of Mr. Bennet and pedantic stalking of his wife from the 19th century setup can simple be superimposed on their contemporary versions. Adopting similar style of writing and environmental setup that leaves the early 19th century dressing and fashion (once or twice blended with the contemporary) intact by the flavour of the original work while showing that the technology available is that of the 21st century unmistakably blends the two eras without making it look like a complete recast, rather a fused version. The manners and norms of the past on the internet blended with the internet jargon might seem something adventitious on part of the writer, but puts in the taste of actual wit present in the story which has been covered totally in the contemporary concept based on the relationships and the plot (Hindustan Times 2006; Rueckert 2006) yet leaving out the actual changes in the age in recasts of the work. The current task of updating the novel with respect to social media puts it into a new aspect. As such changing other aspects of the novel to the 21st century with the discretion only applying to the question itself clears out how the taste of the story changes if technology and internet were available in the exact setup of 1813. Pride and prejudice, which captured an international audience has resulted in films recasting the story which narrates the plot well but makes the accents and norms of the 1800s sound artificial to the modern age audience (Tookey 2007). The original book which sold around 20 million copies (June L 2009) says it all about the audience of the original work as compared to those of each recast which does not just end to the read itself but has also influenced real life psychology and social studies based on the characters of the novel (Phyllis 2007).
If to start a debate on the environmental setup of the story, you would find that inspite of being a romantic comedy, pride and prejudice detail about the neighbourhood with respect to the residents, locality and sighting appearances of the property of each family can safely said to be well explained in the book. Such recasts might be easier to represent in films (Arnold 2005), but it is a challenge representing the contemporary version of the setup in writing. Writing to depict has an example in the above recast where Mr. Bingley meets Mr. Bennet at his net cafe (a contemporary shift from a library to a modern theme of knowledge accessibility). The description of the view and Mr. Bingley’s black horse that was noticed by the Bennet sisters from the upper window of the library in the original work is a conjugate of the contemporary description of them noticing his black heavy bike from the left on webcam. Reading the recast with respect to the original work assuming the only change that is there is the availability of social media with almost no change in norms and expectations that are reciprocated with the social media and internet’s influence on communication and relationships further narrows down the actual effect such a naturalization would have on the 1813 world. To be specific, this means that the 1813 world has not been brought to the 21st century in the recast, rather an aspect of 21st century has been taken back to 1813. The difference is that a reader will not expect the rest of the natural occurrences including buildings, people, climate, environment, riches and so on to change, rather only expect the characters of the original novel to have been equipped with the current technology. This means, no more attempts to put in artificial accents and tones to the story and no more need to refurbish to please a modern day audience expecting a rewrite, rather an audience that reads the original work. Thus, someone who has read the original novel will quickly understand the correlating conjugates being introduced right from the start of the recast and someone who hasn’t read the original novel will be hinted of it and is likely to read the original work later.
Pride and Prejudice, being a romance comedy keeps the reader amused by the witty comments of Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth which often, if not always, target Mrs. Bennet and those who try to banter them. The recast seems very clear on the fact that if Jane Austen wrote it in the 21st century or if she had the social media and its uncanny culture introduced to her, her novel would have not been just a romantic comedy for a 21st century reader, rather a full fledge theme of laughter itself integrated with romance. The recast above is narrated to elicit the feeling of familiarity to the 21st century reader without losing the essence of the actual time period the story is taking place in. The devious introduction of the contemporary conjugate of Mr. Bennet seasoned in ‘internet trolling’ might be interpreted as a stunt to humour the reader with the new world’s score of colloquialism but in actual mildly adds to what heights the novel could depict the witty characters in the age of social media.
The recast spans mostly on the first ten chapters of the novel so as to introduce all the characters and places updated to the social media presence in the story with the same plot instead of picking up on the single aspect of the story. This allows the recast to simultaneously pick on all the character definitions, environmental details, relationships and the social media blended 1813 culture at the same time. Covering up most of the introduction of the story, the recast adds on apace to move towards the ending of the story leaving the details about the struggle of protagonists out of focus like the previous example along with the witty conjugates moving on to the actual plot integrated with the social media presence on a more serious note, this time only as a generalization so that the reader could wonder how amusing the story could be if fully written in this format.
Austen, Jane (1813). Pride and Prejudice. T. Egerton, Whitehall. Print.
Neckles, Christina (January 1, 2012). Spatial Anxiety: Adapting the Social Space of Pride and Prejudice. Literature/Film Quarterly.
(February 16, 2006). Pride & Prejudice. Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India). Print.
Tookey, Christopher (August 30, 2007). Pride and Prejudice without the passion. Daily Mail (London). Print.
June L (7 May 2009). Pride and Prejudice – Blu-ray Review. (Corporate News). Web: Retrieved 9 March 2013.
Arnold, Gary (November 11, 2005). 'Pride & Prejudice' a classic done right. The Washington Times (Washington, DC). Print.
Phyllis, Ferguson Bottomer (November 1, 2007). So odd a mixture; along the autistic spectrum in Pride and prejudice (book review). Reference & Research Book News. Web.

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