Pride and Prejudice has been recognized time and time again as one of the greatest romance novels of all time. Society’s expectations are challenged, alliances are made and lost, familial ties are stretched to the very limit, confessions that make female readers swoon with jealousy…and that’s just the first chapter. As a fan myself, I’d like to share my thoughts on P&P‘s iconic centerpiece: the Bennet family.
Obviously, I didn’t live during this time period and only have novels to go by, but I honestly believe that, if they were real, the Bennet family would be complete outcasts of society. They wouldn’t be invited to balls or dinner parties, and the daughters definitely wouldn’t have so many suitors. In modern terms, they’d be that weird family that lives at the end of the street whose kids you wouldn’t be surprised to learn ran away with a drug dealer boyfriend (Lydia, cough…)
I never caught what exactly Mr. Bennet did for a living, but he apparently made enough money to support six women. I’m curious, though…did his business partners think he was strange? Or was he self-employed?
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet
It was hinted that Mr. Bennet was once a romantic man and his bride a beautiful young woman from a family of good standing. But it seems the honeymoon period ended almost immediately when Mr. Bennet realized the horror he’d brought upon himself by marrying her. During a time when divorce was unheard of, Mr. Bennet had to endure his wife’s tantrums and hysterics and, as he said, her ‘nerves’ were his constant companions.
I’m glad that the tradition of marrying early has come to an end. Using Mr. Bennet as an example, he must have found his future wife very attractive, therefore ignoring her personality until it was too late. Marriage shouldn’t be taken lightly or rushed.
It’s also noted several times that Mr. Bennet is laid-back and carefree, which means Mrs. Bennet raised their daughters. As they aged, Mr. Bennet found he didn’t really like them…
I don’t have much sympathy for him, though. Ultimately, it’s his fault that his daughters turned out the way they did. He knew his wife’s personality, but he ignored them all and locked himself away in his study.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet do have something in common: they’re both self-centered. When his cousin, Mr. Collins, arrives with the power to take away everything he’s ever achieved in life, his only concern is whether or not the man entertains him. And, of course, Mrs. Bennet only cares about the notoriety and bragging rights she’ll receive if her daughters marry wealthy men.
Mr. Bennet’s expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment.
Jane and Elizabeth “Lizzy” Bennet
These two are so adorable when they’re together. If I had a sister, I wish we could be as close as Lizzy and Jane. They share everything with each other, from concerns to everyday thoughts. Lizzy even walked miles through the mud to see Jane after she’d caught a cold while visiting the Bingleys and refused to leave until she felt better.
They’re both intelligent, beautiful, and well-mannered. Any man would be lucky to have them, so it’s a shame they almost missed out on marrying the loves of their lives because of their parents’ greed. In this way, I think they strengthen each other. Jane is shy and uncertain, while Lizzy is lively and confident. They keep each other in check, from Jane being too softhearted and Lizzy too pessimistic.
So far, they’re my favorite Jane Austen characters and I’m so glad they both had an happy ending 🙂
Lydia and Kitty Bennet
To put it simply, Lydia is a spoiled brat who enjoys manipulating and belittling the people around her, and Kitty is a typical teenage girl. They’re both obsessed with boys (as all girls their age are), but their mother encourages them to the point that they’re dangerously persistent. Without a rock to keep them stable, Lydia and Kitty are quickly spiraling down a dark road.
Just like her father, Lydia makes a terrible choice: she marries an attractive man who later turns out to be a liar and thief. I honestly didn’t like Lydia at all, she annoyed me at the best of times, but to be fair she is only fifteen. If her mother wasn’t so immature and blind to the faults of redcoats, Lydia may not have fallen for Wickham’s schemes.
And then there’s poor Kitty…
Kitty is being dragged along by her younger sister and encouraged by her mother to follow in Lydia’s footsteps. Fortunately, after Jane and Lizzy marry, they keep a close eye on her and Kitty seems to mature. Mr. Bennet also steps up and refuses to allow her to visit Lydia and Wickham. If she continues, I think she’ll one day be as wonderful as her older sisters.
Poor Mary is alone and neglected, so she strives to impress them in any way she can. Unfortunately, she’s not very talented and ends up embarrassing the family instead. She’s also constantly compared to her sisters (in a negative way), which must destroy any self-confidence she may have.
Hopefully, she’ll receive more attention once her ‘competition’ moves out. With only two daughters left, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet may remember she actually exists.
I actually liked Mary, at least what I saw of her when she finally made an appearance. She may not be talented, but she has spirit and drive. I can’t blame her at all for that.
What do you think?