The society convened for the fourth time this semester to debate romance, true love and literature, undertaking central themes in Jane Austen’s Price and Prejudice.
Keynoting in agreement with Resolved: Elizabeth was right to wait for Mr. Darcy was Mr. Jacob Arber of Illinois. The keynote speaker for the negation was Ms. Emily Coccia of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Arber began by defining “wait” as Elizabeth’s not accepting other offers out of hope that true love might come her way, and outlining two questions essential to answering the resolution: Was Elizabeth right to reject Mr. Collins? And is it worth waiting for the potentially unattainable? As for the former, Mr. Arber’s answer was a definitive “no.” Collins is unintelligent, boring, and would offer Elizabeth nothing but financial security. “Elizabeth should and does demand more in a husband.” Love, Mr. Arber insisted, is that which makes you better embodied in another person. “Elizabeth can change Darcy’s manners, and he can change her mind.” In her own personal development throughout the novel, Elizabeth finally realized that Mr. Darcy, despite his original callousness and arrogance, met her ideal as a caring and compassionate life partner.
Ms. Coccia centered her case against the resolution around a central theme: “Elizabeth was wrong to wait, to turn down other offers, to not pursue other chances, and wait for an idealization.” Ms. Bennett’s decision was primarily imprudent given her status as a 19th century middle-class woman, doomed to be a dependent of and property of some future husband. Ms. Coccia argued that financial security does take precedence over romantic character. “You cannot love if you cannot live… Waiting for an uncertain soul mate in the face of a certain risk of starvation is preposterous.” Further, belief such as Elizabeth’s in ideal mate blinds one to other, imperfect yet options that may present themselves along the way. “The joy of unexpected love surpasses the disappointment of unrealistic expectations.”
Ms. Heather Regen compared Pride and Prejudice to a dystopian novel in which both Darcy and Elizabeth bear the straitjackets their respective societal roles, and in loving one another they rightfully and admirably “stick it to the man,” as it were. Vice President Patrick Spagnuolo, asserting that the nightly quota for dystopian novel references had been filled, argued that Elizabeth’s needs in a marriage – money, intellectual stimulation, intelligence – could have been filled by many men besides Darcy, and waiting for perfection never leaves anyone happy. Ms. Amanda Wynter argued that the unexpected, slow growth to love advocated by Ms. Coccia as superior was precisely the love shared by Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Elijah Jatovsky appealed to the society’s economic side, arguing that the opportunity cost incurred in rejecting Darcy’s initial proposal was so great that Elizabeth, pragmatically, ought to have accepted. Ms. Emilie Siegelersuggested that Elizabeth is a trailblazer in that she does have standards for herself and her love, and thus would have lived an equally happy unmarried life had she never found her true love.
During the non-member speaking portion of the evening, Ms. Bella Blakeway-Phillips (SFS ’16) argued that Elizabeth did not wait for Darcy, but quite the contrary: she made Darcy wait for her, and rightfully so. Women, Ms. Blakeway-Phillips insisted, should always make men wait for and earn their love. Mr. Will Hallisey (COL ’16) posited that, much like capitalism, life is about working hard to attain the unattainable: “Practicality is communism.” Ms. Charlotte Pennington (MSB ’16) reminded the Society of the very slim chance that a 19th century woman would be able to make a way for herself without a husband to support her, and argued that Elizabeth would have done better to marry a mediocre man but find happiness in other outlets besides her marriage. Mr. Matthew Harden (SFS ’17) dismissed the negation’s argument that Elizabeth needed to restrict herself to the traditional 19th century role of a woman, asking the Society where we would be today had brave women not rejected the norms of their time. “We can all go out there and find our Mr. Darcy.”
Chancellor Andrew Rugg (COL ’09) insisted that while the affirmation offered happiness and love, the negation offered the deeply fundamental human good of pursuing liberty. Chancellor Randy Drew (SFS ’10) compared Elizabeth’s decision to pass over potential mates in the hope of finding someone better to Dartmouth’s decision, in the midst of an ongoing mascot-hunt, that no mascot was better a Keggy the Keg mascot. Chancellor John Deutsch (COL ’07) pointed out that Elizabeth didn’t actively wait for anything: rather “things just kinda’ happen to her, and they luckily work out in her favor.”
Ms. Abigail Grace compared Elizabeth’s independent spirit to that of her creator, Jane Austen. Mr. Warren Wilson refuted the supposed existence of soul mates. “Love is not perfection you can fall into… Love is coming to grips with the reality you live in.” Ms. Julia Christensen argued that Elizabeth was not being absurdly idealistic in having standards for a husband: in fact, standards were a practical thing for a woman to have when considering the man who would soon own all of her posessions, her money, and even herself. Chancellor Andrew Marsh (COL ’13) argued that in 1813, “to fight for true love was ridiculous,” and urged practicality. Mr. Chris DiMisa suggested that the affirmative side offers both agency and the good of liberty that Chancellor Rugg had claimed was only found in the negation. Elizabeth, Mr. DiMisa argued, proved that risking it all in the pursuit of happiness is worth it. Ms. Anais Carmona countered that Mr. Darcy, not Elizabeth, was the one with the agency in Austen’s novel, in that he, and not Elizabeth, had the luxury of choice. Mr. Michael Mouch argued that Elizabeth is proof that a supposedly ineffable good can actually be within reach.
In returning to the keynote speakers, Ms. Coccia urged the Society to leave their modern-day conception of risk-taking at the door when discussing 19th century literature. Modern day women’s ability to risk financial stability to pursue their passion is a luxury Elizabeth could not afford to take. She understood the magnitude of the risk she was taking yet foolishly pursued a fantastical ideal. Ms. Coccia reminded the Society that marrying for stability did not preclude one from eventual joy: “Happiness can always surprise you.” Mr. Arber immediately dispelled the idea that Elizabeth was waiting for an impossibly perfect man. Rather, Mr. Arber argued, she was merely waiting for entirely possible perfect love. Further, in waiting for Mr. Darcy to propose a second time, Elizabeth asserted her agency and expressed hope that the two would wind up together. Ideal love is the ability to improve one another, and Mr. Darcy and the soon-to-be Mrs. Darcy do just that. The risk inherent in striving for true love is necessary to achieve the bond between Elizabeth and her husband. “Love is always worth the chance of destitution.”
The Society voted 22 – 2 – 18 to affirm.
Madeleine M. Ringwald