Saturday, March 28, 2015

The era is the characters

So as much as I try to read and enjoy modern P&P fanfiction, I just can't wholly get into it. For me, the era in which they lived, the technological and societal limitations, are very much what make these characters who they are. To illustrate this contrast between the Regency world and the modern world, my brain has lately been playing with what-ifs that set various scenes from my stories in the modern era, where technology and communication are no longer limitations. Following are three examples, comprised wholly of text messages that would have been sent between the characters. Granted, some of these topics might better have merited a phone call, but then I could hardly write them so easily...

In "A Constant Love," Darcy learns of the Corn Bill riots:

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Bbc1 says there is rioting in the West End. You ok?

Elizabeth Darcy: Yes, Captains Stanton and Ramsey have some sailors here for our defense. We are keeping a close watch but so far everything is OK.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Ok, am going to take the 7 36 from Derby to St Pancras. See you soon.

Elizabeth Darcy: Be careful about crossing town with the riot on!!! Have no idea what things are like on the Underground but please be careful if you take a cab. I would send the car, but don't want to put John at risk driving in this.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Understood. Was going to Uber, anyway. Will have driver swing way around if needed or maybe take the tube if that seems better. Love you. See you soon.

Elizabeth Darcy: Love you too. Be careful.

In "A Constant Love," the Fitzwilliams send word of Edward's fate:

Andrew Brandon: We have come across your sister, Lydia. She has not had any success at finding her husband, but we are going to keep her with us in our search, now.

Elizabeth Darcy: Oh, thank God. I hope you are successful in both of your attempts. 

Andrew Brandon: Edward is alive!!! Has lost left arm but is otherwise well. Your aunt is a little upset, but bearing up fairly well, considering. No word on Wickham. Since he is yet to text or call Lydia I fear the worst, but it may be a month at least before they finish DNA testing on the remains of the battle, and she knows anything definitively.

Elizabeth Darcy: Oh, I am so glad to hear about Edward!!! Will tell Fitzwilliam and Georgiana now! Send him my love! Hoping for the best for Wickham, but fear the worst as you do. Am glad Lydia is at least with you.

Andrew Brandon: Had a smooth flight. Will stay a night or two in London and then on to Pemberley for Georgiana's ball. Very much looking forward to seeing you all and spending some time amongst society after all we have seen. Your sister still with us.

Elizabeth Darcy: We shall be so glad to see you all! Will let Georgiana know that BOTH her guardians will be here to give her away at her wedding. She shall be so pleased. :-) Give aunt Ellen and Lydia my love.

In "A Change of Legacies," Matthew responds to news of Georgiana's fall:

Matthew Stanton: Got your vm, tried to call back but reception here is horrible. Any update on her condition?

Fitzwilliam Darcy:  Wish I had some better news to give you, but she is still unconscious, and doctor confirms baby has most certainly been lost. She is due to get ct scan in half hour or so. Will update you as soon as I know anything.

Matthew Stanton: Pls do. Still 1 day out of copenhagen but have booked easyjet flight to manchester for tomorrow afternoon. Due to get in at 3 10, will grab cab to hospital.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Ct confirms moderate concussion, no skull fracture, so at least she shall wake in due time. Dont worry about cab, will have car waiting for you.

Matthew Stanton: Thank God. Pls keep me updated if any changes. Thx for car, appreciate not having to waste a moment before seeing her.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: None so far. Elizabeth in labour. Fortunately things moving slowly, so should be time for her doula to drive here from Derby.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Elizabeth has had her baby, James, and is well. No change in Georgiana's condition, she is still stable.

Matthew Stanton: Congratulations. Due to pick up harbour pilot soon. Wish I could be there now.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Elizabeth still has not passed placenta. They are looking at options - may have to do procedure. But seems might be second child that did not show up on ultrasound. G still stable.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Georgiana is awake!!! Fully cognizant, although quite aggrieved over the baby. She will be very glad to have you here. Second baby confirmed for Elizabeth, she is resting. If takes too long they might induce.

Matthew Stanton: Oh, thank God, tell her I will be there as soon as I can, and I love her.

So...

I know people were getting antsy in ACL2 over Captain Stanton's having been gone so long. I'll admit, I was a little antsy, too. but the truth is, that was reality. Think about the logistics of his sending a letter home from the Baltic. He was sent there specifically with despatches -- he was assigned to handle communication, in other words. In order for Matthew to get word back to Georgiana before his ship touches English soil, he must meet up either with another navy ship or a merchant ship which is bound for England, and given he is there during winter, there would not be a lot of ships risking that journey. To me, it's pretty miraculous that any mail managed to pass to and from naval ships at all.

So while I missed Captain Stanton as much as anyone, the fact that he was gone for so long, without word, was part of the story. Georgiana and Matthew's separation is painful, but realistic, and what a large number of naval wives must have gone through, for while some lived on board ship with their husbands, a far larger number would have remained at home.

So to me, the way that these characters communicated, the manners and the propriety of their day, and even their lack of understanding of modern medicine, are a large part of what makes them who they are. I know there are a large number of people who enjoy writing and reading modern stories, and I respect that, but personally it's just not my cup of tea.

Mr. Collins, Mr. Darcy, mansplaining, and empathy

I'm a guest at Austenesque Reviews today, talking about these very things !