Jane Austen vs. David Simon

I recently finished reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I had read it back when I was in high school, but it’s been so long that I consider this to be the first time that I read it. (Kinda like being a first time home buyer on my house.)

While I was reading it, I bought Homicide by David Simon. I’ve also read this book before, and I have more recollection of what I previously read. However, since my last reading of this book, I’ve read Simon’s other book, The Corner, and watched The Wire, the TV series that he created. Last time, I read Homicide because I had watched the TV show based on it. This time, I was reading it to gather further insight into police, crime, and police work. Or something like that. Dunno. It’s a different thing this time around.

So, I found myself reading both books at the same time. I’d read the one for a bit, then I’d pick up the other one. Back and forth for a while. And, honestly, there were times when I’d choose to read the one because the other was too depressing. Indeed, it languished for several weeks, because I found it too depressing to persevere through the story.

Yeah, it’s a weird moment when the gritty details of murder police is a welcome escape from 19th-century society.

Not what you were expecting? Then consider this.

David Simon does a fine job of speaking honestly about the homicide detectives that he shadowed. And, really, they are out there on the streets, dealing with death and depravity on a daily basis. But, really, that’s not a world that touches close to mine emotionally. I don’t know anyone who was murdered. (Crystal does, but that’s a different story.) So, while murder is a terrible and tragic thing, it’s still somewhat at an emotional distance.

Everyone has a family, though. And only some of them are happy.

In Pride and Prejudice, Austen spins a complex story involving the romantic relationships of several couples. And, with few exceptions, they are unhappy matches. Mr. Bennett snipes at his wife, who is too stupid to realize that he is mocking her. In turn, she is still a silly girl at heart, encouraging her daughters to emulate her folly. Lydia Bennett ends up running off with a wastrel and is only married because of the intervention of Mr. Darcy. Even Mr. Bingley and Jane’s match is tainted a bit for me, because Mr. Bingley appears incapable of making decisions for himself; rather, he only marries Jane after Mr. Darcy tells him to do so.

But the saddest of all, it seems to me, is the match between the pompous Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas. Upon discovering that he is seeking a wife, she carefully pursues him and secures a marriage with him. Does she love him? No. She admits as much. Rather, she desires the security of marriage, and she is getting old (at age twenty-seven) and is rather plain. So, she figures, this is the best that she can hope for.

And so we see them later. Mr. Collins is still pompous and does not realize that his wife despises him. She has organized the house so that she does not need to be near him, and she encourages him to garden so that he is out of the house frequently.

And this will be her life. Until she dies. Trapped in a loveless marriage that she pursued.

Proverbs 30:21-23 says:

Under three things the earth trembles;
under four it cannot bear up:
a slave when he becomes king,
and a fool when he is filled with food;
an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress.

I’ve been around long enough to see relationships like this, or, worse, relationships that blow up or fall apart. At least the Collins were without children. But how long could that last? And would you want to grow up in a cold, lifeless household like that?

Or maybe you did.

Murder…murder is a reality that is far from most of us. But these damaged relationships cut close to home. Very close to home.

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