Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – September 6, 2004
A Gentle Reminder
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – September 6, 2004 – It’s Labour Day Monday – a perfect day to see a movie with a friend. Nancee and I saw the early previews for Vanity Fair and knew it would be a keeper. It’s a period film set in England and abroad in the early years of the 1800’s.
The class system is firmly entrenched and the main character – Rebecca Sharp – played beautifully by Reese Witherspoon, is the impoverished daughter of a French opera singer and a starving artist. Her parents die when she is very young and she grows up in servitude in a girl’s school.
She does receive an education, becomes fluent in French and is smart, sassy, brazen, beautiful and witty. Men are enchanted and women are wary. She marries an army officer, has a child and then relentlessly pursues her one true passion, which is to be accepted in British upper class society.
The film is magnificent – we both loved it. We chatted about the flawed characters over dinner. The longing that many people have to enjoy an elevated social status – and to be wealthy – consumes their lives. Our main character sacrifices her marriage and her son in pursuit of her obsession. She redeems herself somewhat at the end of the film with her steadfast loyalty to her childhood friend, and we know she will survive and triumph.
Her effervescent personality makes her enchanting in spite of her many transgressions. She remains practical and self-serving, a true survivor in every sense of the word. This led Nancee and me into an interesting discussion of people and their behaviour.
No matter how much we like to think otherwise, most of us behave in our own best interests. I’m not speaking about the obvious fact that we need to look after ourselves, earn an income, pay our bills and provide hearth and home for our families. I’m not sure if I’ve ever known a truly selfless person – someone who cared as much about others as he or she did about themselves. I certainly am not that person. I don’t know if I’m capable of that level of caring. I’d like to think I am but these are lessons in living that are still eluding me.
I react instinctively to what happens to me, as evidenced by my recent business disappointments and the computer chaos that wrecked havoc with my business and personal life. My thoughts were of my own welfare – not querying what may or may not have made the other people involved act as they did.
They were behaving in their own best interests, just as I might have done if the roles had been reversed. I was finger pointing and assigning blame instantly. I was concerned with my interests only, angry at being let down and somewhat childish in my reactions. Then I hung onto the disappointment for an inordinate length of time. I have a lot to learn.
It’s doubtful that I will ever be desirous of joining the upper echelons of Canada’s elite – I’m not a snob and not so inclined. I don’t believe that money makes one person superior to another. Wouldn’t it be nice if I wasn’t so intolerant and so quick to pass judgement on the behaviour of others.
In a film like Vanity Fair, we all see ourselves – human, flawed, afraid, craving acceptance, seeking love, security and creature comforts. There isn’t anything wrong with these pursuits – just as long as our quest for the finer things in life doesn’t hurt other people, and ultimately cause us to make decisions that compromise our personal integrity. These choices we will probably regret over time. A life lesson to remember – prompted by a delightful afternoon at the movies!