Mapping Pride and Prejudice

Sharon requested I present a map view of “Pride and Prejudice”, as I did for “The Great Gatsby”. As you can see by clicking on the interactive Java applet, P&P is a far more capacious place than Gatsby.

I’ve added a few things to the interaction. Now, in addition to using the arrow keys, you can get around the novel by dragging your mouse, and I suggest you expand your browser to full-screen when viewing it. Clearly I’m thinking here not just of reading eBooks, but of providing ways for people to interactively collaborate over the complete landscape of a narrative.

In addition to delineating its 61 chapters, I’ve also added three other examples of meta-data: The various mentions throughout the novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, and Pemberley. The latter is Mr. Darcy’s magnificent estate, as well as a key plot element of the novel.

If you click on the three buttons toward the top, you enable a view of every mention of each of these three items. Even a cursory examination of their respective distributions is very revealing. Elizabeth permeates the novel — she is just about everywhere. In contrast, mentions of Mr. Darcy ebb and flow, in a continual teasing pattern.

To my surprise, Pemberley is rarely mentioned over the course the book, except for a small cluster of mentions near the beginning and then a much denser set of clusters about two thirds of the way through.

To me the biggest surprise comes in chapter 35. Except near its very beginning, this chapter mentions neither Elizabeth nor Mr. Darcy at all. It turns out that the bulk of the chapter consists of Mr. Darcy’s infamous letter to Elizabeth. The letter seems at first glance to contain one mention of Mr. Darcy himself, but a quick visit to the spot reveals that in fact Mr. Darcy is referring to his father.

I am becoming convinced that this ability to take in an entire narrative at a glance, and then to see visual answers to questions about that narrative, may just be the beginning of a new way of thinking about books.

7 thoughts on “Mapping Pride and Prejudice”

  1. I’m not 100 percent sure it’s a new way of thinking about books, and I’m not 100 percent sure it’s *not* a new way of thinking about books either. Even just as it stands it would be a huge experience over the “scotch tape a single page on the wall” experience of today’s eReaders.

    FYI, I was at the technology conference at NYU yesterday and saw you demo this there. Great talk.

  2. Wonder what you could with a Shakespeare play?

    I always found all the footnotes and endnotes clumsy in the school books, but in the end essentially. If departed from the page entirely, maybe there’s a better way to handle all of the tangential details. Hyperlinks and hovering are OK. But while we’re revolutionizing the whole thing anyway…

  3. I would love to see this applied to Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises or one of Shelley’s or Blake’s long poems or, for that matter, the Collected Poems of “name your favorite poet”!

    Do you plan to make it possible for the reader to select a character or place or phrase and create his or her own button like those for Darcy, Elizabeth and Pemberley?

    Long before the Post-Modernists and Deconstructionists, the critic/scholar focused on the work and its workings. So that way of reading may not be new, but you have provided a powerful tool to help it. And I think that it can change the everyday reader’s experience of reading an ebook. Now I can “grasp” the whole book. With my eye, I can “put my thumb” in at a spot to which I need to return; with my eye, I can “feel the length” of what remains (progress bars are feeble compared to this); with my eye, I can feel the respective weights of individual chapters (consider how that matters in Moby Dick).

    If applied to Russian novels, this might let me complete one more quickly by being able to see where the un-memorable names occurred before!

    Thanks for this work. Good luck in getting Apple, Amazon, B&N, Kobo et al. and the publishers to “get with the program.”

  4. Bob, thanks for the thoughtful comments! It will be great to give readers the ability to see the book they are reading in a holistic way.

    Actually I’ve added exactly that “user selection” feature in a later post. If you go to my NYU homepage and click on the first demo in the section “SOME TOYS FROM THE BLOG”, you can try out that version.

  5. Nice advance. Would love to try this out on my iPad — to have the experience of re-reading P&P straight through on a tablet. Oddly — although I have read numerous ebooks on handhelds, tablets and pads — not once have I read a book from start to finish on a laptop or desktop.

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