Goodnight Mr. Darcy | Two Classics

     It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man
     in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

So begins one of the most famous novels in the world, written in the early 1800s by an observant and satirical woman living a relatively quiet life in the English countryside.

In recent years the book has been helped along by Colin Firth's chest and Kiera Knightley's cheekbones in movie re-creations of the arrogant Mr. Darcy and—let's face it—equally stubborn and prideful Elizabeth Bennet. The two are a match whose mutual humbling leads to a pretty darn happy ending. . .

And also to a very nice parody of Goodnight Moon!

Pride and Prejudice and Goodnight Moon? What could they possibly have in common?

You'd be surprised.

To start with, both are bestsellers and classics. Pride and Prejudice has sold an estimated 20 million-plus copies since its publication in 1813, while Goodnight Moon has sold more than 11 million copies since its publication in 1947.

Both books are beloved by readers as well as critically acclaimed.

And then there are a few other things I've uncovered in a careful comparison employing all of the literary analysis skills I developed as an English major. (Okay, it was a while back, but still!)

Of course there's symbolism. There's always symbolism. For example, the kittens obviously represent the clash between the liberals and conservatives in the United States. But that's an entire essay, so let's take a quick look at the red balloon instead. It represents hope in two forms, and the strong color suggests conflict. This is because, ironically, the grandmother bunny hopes the little bunny will go to sleep, while the little bunny hopes to stay awake. In this classic instance of Man vs. Man—or Bunny vs. Bunny—who will win?

We could spend all day on symbolism, but let's move on to more tangible and important points of comparison with the following chart:

What to ComparePride and PrejudiceGoodnight Moon
MiceProbably a lot, but we don't have a head count.Only one brave enough to venture out into the great green room.
DancingA great deal, especially at local assemblies.The cow jumps over the moon, but this may be considered sports or raw ambition rather than a dance move.
GrandmothersLady Catherine de Bourgh would love to be a grandmother to Mr. Darcy's children. But it's not going to happen.A grandmother puts her little bunny grandchild to bed.
Family-oriented goalsThe goal is for young ladies to marry well.Putting a child to bed. When Elizabeth has children, she will like this goal very much.
FashionLadies are careful to wear their nicest dresses, especially to balls.The grandmother bunny wears a gown that would have been just fine in Pride and Prejudice. Maybe in the kitchen, though.
Bears in chairsBears seem to be in short supply, but people sit in chairs often in Pride and Prejudice.Three bears sit in their chairs in a storybook painting in Goodnight Moon.
MoonImplied. It has to be shining over the Netherfield Ball!Definitely! It's even in the title.
KittyOne of Elizabeth's playful younger sisters.Two playful kittens.
People going to bedElizabeth and Jane have cozy chats at bedtime.A little bunny is getting ready to sleep, but he doesn't have a sister to keep him company.
FishingMr. Darcy invites Lizzy's uncle to fish at Pemberley.In a painting alluding to another Margaret Wise Brown book, a mother bunny fishes for her child.
Grand houseNetherfield seems like a grand house until Elizabeth goes to Pemberley.A grand dollhouse is prominently featured. It appears to be lit up, as if for a ball.
NobodyIt becomes clear that nobody is suitable for Mr. Darcy but Elizabeth, and nobody is suitable for Elizabeth but Mr. Darcy.There is a goodnight said to "nobody" in Goodnight Moon.

Why does this book lend itself to parody?

To start with, there's the name, which of course explains the parody Goodnight Keith Moon, written by Bruce Worden and Clare Cross about the drummer from the rock band the Who.

There's also the bedtime story's fame, its striking red, green, and blue palette, and its clean, spare poetry.

Here are a few more parodies of Goodnight Moon:
  • Goodnight iPad: A Parody for the Next Generation by Ann Droyd
  • Goodnight Nanny-Cam: A Parody for Modern Parents by Jen Nessel and Lizzy Ratner
  • Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex
  • Goodnight Husband, Goodnight Wife by Eric Stangel and Justin Stangel
Credit for our new pairing of classic bedtime story with classic literature goes to Gibbs Smith associate publisher Suzanne Taylor. Inspired by the company's BabyLit board book series, she asked me to come up with a version of Goodnight Moon called Goodnight Mr. Darcy.

All I needed was that title and the poetic possibilities came to life, including the great green room transformed into a great ballroom and the use of the bowl of mush to describe Mr. Bingley's feelings for Jane.

Then what but a goodnight to Mr. Darcy's pride, naturally leading to Elizabeth as a bride on the very last page?

You will find that I tried to stick to the structure of the original poem—or picture book text—as faithfully as I could.

And I had a very good time doing it!

Nursery rhyme reality and here-and-now reality seamlessly merge, as in a small child's own thoughts. Odd fellows are joined and familiar pairs are bound together with unexpected poignancy. The nameless imponderable "nobody" is bid goodnight, along with the homeliest of everyday things, mush. The sense of an ending descends gradually, like sleep.

—Leonard S. Marcus, Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon

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