Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The BYU "Assembly Ball"

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's beloved novel about the five gentleman's daughters who are faced with the chore of finding husbands in class-conscious Regency-era England. It is being celebrated in Great Britain and countless other global venues, both historical and high tech, and even here on my obscure Ex-Mormon blog.

I first read Pride and Prejudice during the summer before my freshman year at BYU. It was a timely accomplishment that prepared me for the society I was about to enter into. Because at BYU, both then and now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that every single man is in want of a wife--well before he has time to possess any fortune.

Wandering about the Provo campus, a young coed is bound to encounter a few principled but haughty Mr. Darcys, more than a few disreputable Mr. Wickhams (who would meddle with the girls before leaving on their missions), perhaps hundreds of obedient and obsequious Bingleys, an entire stadium-full of self-righteous boobs like Collins, and a healthy number of Mr. Hursts (who think only of their stomachs).

Unfortunately, the female population is less diverse, being embodied entirely in the character of Charlotte Lucas who believes that happiness in marriage is merely a matter of chance. Consequently, every year myriad BYU girls collectively hold their breath, roll their eyes, and spin the roulette wheel. I was one of the lucky ones, winning a husband who is a complex combination of Darcy and Hurst.

This dynamic is best observed at a BYU stake dance, an event that could easily be mistaken for the ball at Netherfield, only without empire waist frocks, English Country Dancing, genteel manners, realism, irony, self-awareness, and sexual tension. Perhaps the latter point is the most defining.

BYU is Pride and Prejudice without the sex.

Of course, there are few people, women in particular, who don't delight in and identify with Jane Austen's works--hence the global celebration. Every modern writer of romantic comedy, from Neil Simon to Nora Ephron to Candace Bushnell, remains in her debt. 

But I am grateful to Jane Austen for preparing me for BYU. Even more importantly, I cherish the time I spent sharing her gentle sentences and sharp observations with my daughter, Emily, who went on to attend some Assembly Balls of her own--although, thankfully, not at BYU.

Emily in London

"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” 

12 comments:

  1. Emily's beautiful!

    And I confess rather embarrassingly, I've never read the book. =( On my "to do before I die" list now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! (I think she is too.) And P&P is a truly good read.

      Delete
  2. I never read the book but I did see the movie Bride and Prejudice the super awesome bollywood movie. Awesome...

    K

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bollywood is super awesome--like you Kriss!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think that Pride and Prejudice and Zoobies should be the next big thing. You should write it, Donna!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh right, zoobies! At first I read P&P and zombies, which has already been done. Okay, if I write the BYU version of P&P, will you embroider the cover design? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Done. I will stitch the Zoobies as Zombies since same thing, am I right? ;)

      Delete
    2. Awesome. Make sure they have smiles on their faces, though.

      Delete
  6. No wonder I never married while there my book was David Copperfield and I was no Dora. I found a sweet never Mo at age 40 and have been deliously happy with few exceptions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congrats Anonymous! You did it right...

      Delete
  7. You know that there's a Mormon version of Pride and Prejudice that is quite terrible right?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_%26_Prejudice:_A_Latter-Day_Comedy

    It has some interesting bits, and almost, almost stays true to the characters...and then turns into a safe Mormon movie and completely misses the point of Jane Austen, the book, and its message. COMPLETELY.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG, Kerry, I own a copy of that. It is SO bad--can't believe there's a version of P&P that makes Mr. Collins into a good guy!

      Delete