While I wait for Mr. Darcy’s Rival launch, which is next Thursday, June 4 (the Kindle is now on pre-order, and other formats may go live sooner!), I thought I would take a look at the coincidences we see in Pride and Prejudice. According to the dictionary, the word coincidence means: ‘a striking occurrence of two or more similar events that happen apparently by chance but seem to have some connection.’
Abigail Reynolds did an interesting post about coincidences in Pride and Prejudice as they relate to George Wickham. You can read it here.
We have all experienced coincidences in real life. Life is full of them. They may be minor little ones that simply make you raise your eyebrows in surprise for a moment or two. Or they may be major ones that produce a loud, “Wow!” and stay with you for quite a long time. These are the ones that you tell people over and over again because they, too, are astonished by them.
I’ll just share one ‘wow’ coincidence that happened to us several years ago. We lived in Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympics, and the organization we worked for decided to hold a director’s conference during it so people from all over the country could come and attend some of the sporting events.
The tickets were sold in a lottery type of system. We had as many people as possible (who could afford it) submit a request for a ‘season’ ticket for the event (attending every event in a particular sport), and hoped that several would receive tickets so as many people could go as possible. You were only allowed 4 tickets per event.
Three people’s requests for tickets were drawn, and we received ‘season’ tickets for Diving (4 tickets) and 2 for Track and Field (8 tickets per event). Everyone signed up for the events they wished to attend.
As the 8 of us were going to the first Track and Field event, we realized that the 2 separate groups of seats, sold to 2 different people, were next to each other! We could not have planned that if we tried!
If you put that in a story, having Elizabeth and Darcy ending up seated next to one another at such a large venue, would it be believable?
Jane Austen incorporates a lot of coincidences in her stories. In Pride and Prejudice there are several, other than the ones Abigail mentions in her post. Mr. Collins is cousin to the Bennets as well as being the clergyman and neighbor of Mr. Darcy’s aunt; Darcy pays a visit to his aunt at the same time Elizabeth is visiting Mr. and Mrs. Collins; Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeth’s aunt, happened to grow up in Lambton, which is ‘not five miles from Pemberley;’ and then, of course, there is the amazing scene when Darcy returns a day earlier than anticipated and encounters Elizabeth walking the grounds at Pemberley.
Has anyone ever thought, as they read a book, that there were far too many coincidences to be realistic? Has anyone ever posted a review on one of your books claiming there were too many coincidences?
As I considered the coincidences in Pride and Prejudice (and Jane Austen has plenty in her other books, as well – consider Admiral and Mrs. Croft letting Kellynch Hall in Persuasion!), I realized that first of all, her world was much smaller! And her world was basically England, which is much smaller in size and population than the world we know today.
Tell me what other coincidences you see in Jane Austen’s novels, and whether you think they are realistic or are they contrived just to advance the plot? I will give you my thought on just one coincidence (if it even can be called that). In Sense and Sensibility, I thought it was too difficult to believe that Lucy Steele would marry the ‘other’ Ferrars brother – quite conveniently, quickly, and out of the blue! We are all disappointed along with Elinor when we hear about her marriage to Mr. Ferrars, until we realize it wasn’t Edward, but his brother! That one might not technically be a coincidence, but I still see it more of a convenient way for Austen to have ended the story for Elinor the way we hoped.
What are your thoughts on Austen’s coincidences? Or feel free to share any ‘Wow’ coincidences you have had in real life!