A Tale as Old as Time

eligibleI recently read Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel Eligible (which we have at the McAllen Public Library), and I loved it.  Sittenfeld has a remarkable talent- ever since her first novel, Prep, which I also loved- for making the reader identify with her protagonist and relate to the story in a personal way, and yet also appeal to our need for escapism.  Her wry humor gives an appealing edge to the traditional themes of love, family, and coming-of-age.

Eligible is a modern adaptation of the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice, set in current day Cincinnati.  Sittenfeld’s tone echoes Austen’s own sharp wit and critique of society.  Austen’s novels were the precursor to our own Romantic Comedy genre and began the Social Realism style, in which characters, society, and plots are all described realistically (this was new at the time).  Unlike other modern adaptations which are loosely based on the original (Bridget Jones’s Diary being the best example), Eligible follows the Pride and Prejudice plot almost exactly- and that is not a bad thing.

The modern setting allows us to see that certain truths should indeed be universally acknowledged1 – that certain themes will persevere throughout human history.  The younger generation, as they get older, will always worry about how to care for the older generation.  Parents will always want their children to be happy.  People will always want, eventually, to find someone with whom to share the rest of their life.  And there will always be obstacles.  We all know a Mr. Wickham, and I am sure that women throughout the ages have always known that type.  Pride and miscommunication  could be relationship deal-breakers back then, and they can be relationship deal-breakers now.  But forgiveness and understanding could be earned back then, just like they can be earned now.

The following are just a few modern books and movies that are based on much older classics, and are just as relevant now as they were originally.

Jane Austen Adaptations:

Eligible -> Pride and Prejudice

Bridget Jones’s Diary -> Pride and Prejudice

Bride and Prejudice -> Pride and Prejudice

From Prada to Nada -> Sense and Sensibility

Clueless -> Emma

Fairy Tale Adaptations:

Pretty Woman -> Cinderella

Pan’s Labrinth -> The Little Match Girl

Terminator 2 -> Rumpelstiltskin

Black Swan -> The Red Shoes

Shakespeare Adaptations:

Ten Things I Hate About You -> The Taming of the Shrew

The Lion King -> Hamlet

She’s the Man -> Twelfth Night

West Side Story -> Romeo and Juliet

Greek Mythology:

Black Orpheus -> Orpheus and Eurydice myth

My Fair Lady -> Pygmalion

As you can see, the stories that have remained classics to this day are those that have continuing relevance to our society.  Literature will always be a way of exploring the depths of human nature.  Come do some exploring of your own at the McAllen Public Library!


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