Regina Jeffers: A Lover of Irony
(I am happy to have Regina Jeffers back to visit with us at Darcyholic Diversions. Her Christmas at Pemberley is a delightful holiday offering, but her post including some information about a future project!)
I admit it. I love IRONY.
a Noun ~ the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
When I read Shakespeare, I delight in the Bard’s mastery of the ironic device. Take for example Mark Anthony’s speech from Julius Caesar. “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honorable man.” As readers, we know Anthony thinks Brutus is everything but honorable. In “The Gift of the Magi,” the couple’s convoluted gift exchange is a prime example of Situational Irony. In The Scarlet Letter, irony rules when Hester Prynne seeks the support of Reverend Dimmesdale to fight the charges of adultery; after all, the reader knows what the characters do not: Hester and Dimmesdale have shared an illicit relationship. Hester’s story is what is known as Dramatic Irony.
I am that woman in the movie theatre who laughs at the irony the average patron misses. For example, I cackled in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Eraser, when Arnold hides Robert Pastorelli’s character in a gay bar and in the background the song is “It’s Raining Men.” And even when I am alone, I laugh in Notting Hill when Max’s character says, “James Bond never has to put up with this sort of …” I think it is wonderfully ironic that Brad Pitt hurt his Achilles’ tendon while portraying Achilles, and that Betty Noyes reportedly dubbed the singing voice of Debbie Reynolds on two of the movie’s songs from Singing in the Rain. After all, Reynolds’ character was supposed to be dubbing songs for another actress as part of the plot line.
I suppose my obsession with irony is what has led me to love everything Austen, especially the character of Elizabeth Bennet. Let us look at how often Austen used irony in Pride and Prejudice.
When Miss Bingley says that Darcy is beyond being laughed at, Elizabeth says, “Certainly, there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them when I can. But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without.”
Mr. Bennet says, “From all that I can collect by your manner of talking, you must be two of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now convinced.”
And when Charlotte accepts Mr. Collins, Mr. Bennet is described as follows: “…it gratified him, he said, to discover that Charlotte Lucas, whom he had been used to think tolerably sensible, was as foolish as his wife, and more foolish than his daughter!”
Darcy says of Bingley, “Bingley is most unaffectedly modest. His diffidence had prevented his depending on his own judgment in so anxious a case, but his reliance on mine, made every thing easy.”
Elizabeth’s assessment of Bingley includes, “Elizabeth longed to observe that Mr. Bingley had been a most delightful friend; so easily guided that his worth was invaluable.”
Of Lady Catherine, we are told, “Her air was not conciliating, nor was her manner of receiving them, such as to make her visitors forget their inferior rank.”
Of Jane, Elizabeth says, “You are a great deal too apt to like people in general. You never see a fault in any body. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life.” Elizabeth continues, “I would wish not to be hasty in censuring any one; but I always speak what I think.”
Mrs. Bennet says of Bingley’s desertion of Jane, “ Well, my comfort is, I am sure Jane will die of a broken heart, and then he will be sorry for what he has done.”
When Mrs. Reynolds praises Darcy and Georgiana with “…Miss Darcy is always down for the summer months,” Elizabeth thinks, “Except when she goes to Ramsgate.”
Of Mrs. Bennet we learn “She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.”
And, of course, there is that line that many interpret as Elizabeth’s materialism. Jane asks, “Will you tell me how long you have loved him?” To which Elizabeth replies, “It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe it must date from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.”
In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen permits Elizabeth Bennet to share in an ironic view of the world. Elizabeth divides those who enter her sphere. She says, “It does not necessarily follow that a deep, intricate character is more or less estimable than such a one as yours.” Later, she says, “Yes, but intricate characters are the most amusing. They have at least that advantage.”
Elizabeth prides herself on categorizing those with whom she interacts as intricate or simple. In Elizabeth Bennet, we observe Austen’s comic irony and are permitted a look into Austen’s stylistic stroke. The simple characters are predictable, and Elizabeth displays a perceiving mind. Through Elizabeth, we, the readers, are introduced to false and true moral values.
Recall that Austen said of Elizabeth Bennet, “I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know.”
Upcoming Releases for Regina Jeffers
For Valentine’s Day, I will release His, an anthology holding two novellas: “His American Heartsong” and “His Irish Eve.” The first novella brings the reader the story of Lawrence Lowery, the older brother of Sir Carter Lowery from my Realm series. Lowery makes two brief appearances in the series; first in A Touch of Velvet and most recently in A Touch of Grace. In “Grace” we learn that Lawrence Lowery has proposed to Arabella Tilney at a public ball. “His American Heartsong” explains how their love affair came about.
“His Irish Eve” is the story of Adam Lawrence, Viscount Stafford. If one has read any of my books, he finds Stafford is a regular. He is my “walk through” character, the one who ties the stories in my Realm series together. In A Touch of Velvet, Stafford meets Brantley Fowler and Velvet Aldridge at Vauxhall. In A Touch of Grace, he takes up with Lady Anthony when Gabriel Crowden releases her as his mistress. Stafford even makes an appearance in “His American Heartsong,” but more importantly, Adam Lawrence was one of the main characters in my Austenesque novel, The Phantom of Pemberley. During a blizzard, he and Cathleen Donnel take refuge at Pemberley. At the end of Phantom, many readers wanted to know more of the viscount. “His Irish Eve” is set some six years after Phantom ends when Adam, quite literally, meets his Eve, Aoife Kennice. (For those who do not know, “Aoife” is commonly thought to translate to “Eve.”)
BTW, in February 2014, I plan to release two more novellas in one volume entitled Hers. It will be the end of the Realm series. For those of you who love these books, I have started writing the next installment in the Realm series, A Touch of Mercy, which will be followed by A Touch of Love. Both will be released in 2013
My next Austen-related title is The Mysterious Death of Mr. Darcy, which I anticipate will be released in late February. I certainly wish I could elaborate on the title, but I have been sworn to secrecy. The most I can say is that the bodies accumulate quite quickly in this one. It is another cozy mystery, similar to Phantom and The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy.
Regina Jeffers claims she has spent a lifetime in the classroom, as a student earning multiple advanced degrees, and as a teacher of forty years. She says, “I do not remember ever having Jane Austen as part of the curriculum… lots of Shakespeare, but little of Jane Austen in my schooling. But, I read Pride and Prejudice when I was twelve, and the world opened. Like many of you, I was Elizabeth Bennet–a girl with an above average IQ and a relatively pleasing face, but I had no other spectacular talents, at least, none I could recognize at that tender age. However, reading Austen, I became convinced that there would be someone who would not be intimidated by my intelligence, my quick wit, my sometimes-caustic tongue, and my love of twisting the King’s English. There would be a Mr. Darcy in my future. Naïveté: That is the only word for it. Yet, I still believe there is a Mr. Darcy. Maybe he is not Colin or Matthew or Elliot, but Mr. Darcy exists for each of us if we open our eyes and our hearts to the possibilities.”
In the late spring of 2007, one of my Advanced Placement students challenged me to “Just Do It.” So, I wrote Darcy’s Passions, self-publishing the book as a gift to my AP class and to me. Ulysses Press followed the sales on Amazon, and the rest is history.