Pride and Prejudice: Fight Club

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Fight club?  Isn’t that a reference to a brutal, physical, bloody pugilistic mess of masculinity and violence?

Why, yes.

There is something about watching a well-choreographed fight scene that draws many people, not only men, in order to find out how equal opponents will fare in the most brutal of sports.

The fight becomes more suspenseful when the opponents are unequal.  We expect one to win, and then, surprise, the underdog comes through.

Guess what?

Jane included a fight-club like scene right smack-dab in the middle of P&P.  You guessed it.  The chapter where Darcy comes and proposes to Elizabeth.  She’s the underdog.

I’m in the middle of writing my version of this chapter, and my admiration for Jane has gone up yet another notch.  She’s already pretty high up as it is, but this chapter is brilliant.  Here’s a breakdown of the fight, in five parts.

  1. Darcy comes in swinging.  He states his position, catching her with an unexpected left hook, and he’s confident of victory.  Liz bounces off the ropes, a bit dazed, but still in the fight.  Her “No thank you” is a light punch to the gut.  He’s not fazed.
  2. Darcy comes back with his demands, and Liz lets him have it with some of the best quick punches in history: you say you love me while insulting me!  He’s certainly a bit unsteady with this one.  NO ONE tells Darcy he’s not logical!
  3. He doesn’t fight back, but hits the ropes while Liz delivers some more blows, telling him that he separated Jane and Bingley.  He doesn’t argue, he’s proud of it!  That’s quite a defense there, holding up his hands to his face the entire time.
  4. Liz isn’t done.  Now she brings up the whole Wickham thing.  These are known as “feints” in boxing, because the blows don’t really land.  All they do is distract your opponent, and mix him up it does, as Darcy goes ballistic thinking about Wickham and the past.  But Liz has set him up for a series of punches known as the TKO.
  5. While Darcy is still hot, claiming he was too honest with her, and could have won if he’d been all nice and romantic, hiding his true feelings.  This is called dancing and weaving in the boxing ring.  Liz isn’t having any of it.  She’s focused on the kill:
    1. First Punch, a hard right.  If you had behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.  Wow.  This one draws blood, but he’s still standing.  We find out much later this has been hurting him for the entire rest of the story.
    2. Second Punch, a good left throwing him off balance.  Liz lets him know she wouldn’t have accepted him no matter what he said.  Ha!  At this point he thinks he’s still in the fight, but this is how you tell the great fighter (Lizzy) from the wannabe (Darcy).
    3. Third Punch, the technical knockout.  I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on Earth.  This is the first time ANYONE ever said those words.  And it’s letting him know that he’s dead last in her eyes, Mister “Everyone Adores Me” totally getting cut down at the knees.  Fight’s over.


The whole thing is absolutely brilliant.  Darcy has barely enough energy to stand at the end and see her crowned the winner.  He says “You have said quite enough”, which in boxing language is “Uncle!”  He leaves, nursing serious wounds.

So the next time anyone says a romantic comedy doesn’t have enough action, point them to this story, this chapter, and let them read away.  It’s one of the bloodiest fight scenes in literature.  And the best part is that the suspense doesn’t end there, it only gets better.

Thank you Jane.


Ultimate Fighting, Round 1

Imagine entering a huge arena.  A spot of intense light reveals a boxing ring in the distance, spotlights lining the edges of the arena, all seats filled.  The audience?  Every life form that exists, and ever has existed.  Elephants sitting next to amoebas, an octopus next to the hummingbird, and even the lowly virus has shown up to see the event sitting in special quarantine box seats.

The referee grabs the microphone.  “In this corner, we have the young upstart – Heeu-man-itee!”  A small cheer goes up, mostly from the primates.

“In the opposing corning, we have the reigning cham-peen, vanquisher of all things, the bringer of life, and incarnation of death itself, Muth-Er Nay-chur!”  A huge roar as almost every living thing vibrates the air in some way.

“All right you two.  I want a clean fight, no cheating!”  DING!

The fight is on in the form of today’s rancorous political debates about climate change, and an undercurrent of bravado exists in all camps.  The deniers claim that the scientists have their signals wrong, or that everything they are seeing is simply a “new normal.”  The doomsayers are equally intent in their own convictions, as well as confident as to their suggestions for addressing the problem.

The details of either side aren’t important for now.  What we’re going to focus on is the single confrontation between humans and Mother Nature.  Let’s call her Mom for short.

People feel powerful.  We have conquered fire, we build houses that touch the sky.  We build large lakes where none existed in order to generate power and feed a billion people.  We fly through the air even though we haven’t any wings.  We swim deep under the water, even though we have no gills.  We have seen the atom, and the edge of the observable universe.  No wonder we feel powerful.

On the other hand, what has Mom done lately?  She’s pretty tame, for the most part.  In fact, 999 times out of a thousand, Mom is nothing but peace and quiet.  Waves gently lapping at the shore, gentle breezes rustling the leaves, puffy clouds.

Don’t be fooled.  Mom can jostle a tectonic plate and bring down entire cities.  She can burp a volcano and cancel summer.  She can twist a hurricane out of thin air and wash away a coastline.  And she can parch an entire continent for decades without even trying.

Here’s where bravado meets reality.  Mom is all powerful.  She represents forces many times greater than we can even dream of harnessing.  What little we have accomplished was done with her passive acquiescence.  Should she ever object, there is nothing we can do that can stop her.

This is an important reality check for all true students, whether of behavior or civil engineering or anything else.  We succeed only as much as Mom allows.  We must show her respect, and pray for mercy.

Now, back to our boxing ring.  I hope we didn’t miss anything.

DING!   “And the weenner is …!”