A Message for George, Whose Essay on Pride and Prejudice I Found in the Grass

This is a message for George P–, of Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire.

I found your English essay on the grass near the corner of St. Nicholas Street and Stalls Farm Road, crumpled, not in a ball, but more as if you had rolled it and twisted it. It had opened itself out again, a bit, and had been spattered by tar during recent road works. The paper is sticky.


It’s not so much an essay in the modern sense as it is in the old, because you’ve merely answered two questions, question 3 and question 4. Well, you’ve tried. An essay is an attempt. It’s from the French, George. It’s also an assault.

There’s a good deal of red pen from Teacher, and I won’t duplicate her efforts. (I’m deriving her gender from her handwriting. Speaking of which, your handwriting is beautiful, your esses practically the eff-shaped characters of antiquity. Lovely. She doesn’t mention your penmanship on this paper. Has she elsewhere? I hope so.)

What I’m here to do is to fill in the huge gaps she left. What’s a boy to do with gaps that big? I mean, really. If a sentence is crystal clear to you, how is her simply writing “vague” [un-capitalized, I note] supposed to improve your future assaults?

Let’s have a look at question 3. I gather from what you’ve written you were asked to write about how Jane Austen goes about portraying Elizabeth Bennet’s embarrassment. Or perhaps you were asked to choose a feeling yourself? If so, bravo! Excellent choice. And not surprising, given how embarrassing it must be to be asked to read that book at your age. Or ever. Don’t be bamboozled, George. Not everyone loves it.

You begin your answer to question 3 this way: “The writer starts with very broken up sentences to portray her feelings of embarrassment. This clearly shows her feelings because the pauses show shes waiting and carefully choosing her words.” Teacher says you need to “be more technical than this,” but I can see what you did there. All technical terms fail us when we’re embarrassed, don’t they? You’re writing in an embarrassed way to underline your point. Genius.

Moving on. Second para: “As well as this the writer shows her embarrassment through how she talks to Mr. Darcy. She said ‘thank you again and again.’ This shows she was nervous or embarrassed because this isn’t how someone talks to someone they’re comfortable talking with.” It is here that Teacher writes “vague” and “What do you mean?” What could be clearer than what you’ve laid out, though? I’ll tell you what, George. I think you just need to change up the vocab. Change ‘talking’ to ‘communicating’ sometimes, ‘someone’ to ‘a person’. See what happens.

“In addition to this,” you continue, “her embarrassment is further shown through how Elizabeth starts talking to ‘Mr. Darcy’, [Okay, I have to interrupt you here because Teacher didn’t. First, the writer does not show her embarrassment, she shows Elizabeth’s. Also, ‘Mr. Darcy’? Why the inverted commas? Were you distracted by some texting? Focus, George. Little things like that are huge in the real world.] saying ‘I am a very selfish [Your eff and your ess, George! It reads as ‘felfifh’. V funny.] creature.’ This shows her embarrassment because shes [Needs apostrophe. Not the first time. Not funny.] almost dehumanizing herself because of how embarrassed she is to talk.”

There’s a red arrow from Teacher pointing from ‘dehumanizing’ and asking “how? Which bit?” What exactly about dehumanizing herself by calling herself a creature doesn’t Teacher get? Hold tight, George. Be strong. That bit’s as obvious as it needs to be. I have to agree with red arrow #2, though, indicating the end of the sentence is “not analytical”. What we’re dealing with here is a tautology. (From the Greek, meaning needless repetition, in the same words.) It’s starting to feel as if you’re saying we know she’s embarrassed because she’s embarrassed. I know you’re not. But you sound like you are. Maybe you’ve taken your own embarrassment a mite far? Have a think about that.

Question 4 is where things get beyond me. You write: “The writer successfully shows its difficult to express your feelings through the way Elizabeth starts talking trying to tell Mr. Darcy something. This is effective because she dehumanizes herself calling herself a creature.” For this you get a check and a note at the bottom of the page: “Good start – just needed more.”

It’s not a good start, George, and you mustn’t believe it is. If the answer to question four is supposed to be a summary of question 3, then start again. Your answer shows neither the clarity nor the cunning of question 3. It is neither precise, nor poetic. So what am I missing? Why has Teacher let you write this garbage now, when she criticized you for something much tidier just a few lines before?

I had to think about this for a long time. And then I wasn’t thinking anymore, and I had it: Teacher wasn’t thinking either. She’d given you a check and called those two sentences good because they are so poignant. It is difficult to express your feelings. Poignant is from the French, George, originally meaning pricking, stinging. You prick us with this sentence. You, young George, adolescent essay-twister, can say it with complete authority. You prick us, and we are stung.