Category Archives: Mr Bennet

Laissez Faire

Mr. Bennet is a fascinating character, in that he is almost an exact foil to Mr. Darcy.

Darcy is dedicated and loyal, Mr. Bennet is laissez faire and enjoys laughing at others. Darcy is fiscally responsible and Mr. Bennet is lax about the financial vulnerability of his family. Darcy is taciturn and reserved, Mr. Bennet enjoys embarrassing people and exposing their stupidity for all the world to see.

Given that Lizzy is Mr. Bennet’s favorite, it is surprising that she develops an affection for Mr. Darcy. It is said that many women love men who are like their fathers. Instead, Lizzy grows to love a man who is almost the exact opposite.

Lizzy starts off int he book very similar to Mr. Bennet. Witty, charming and fun. But also a little proudly condescending and hasty in her judgements. As her character grows and matures, she learns to balance out her pride and prejudices and finds a way to love Mr. Darcy, a man whose personality is so different than her fathers.

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Money changes everything

Cyndi Lauper surmised that money changes everything. In Regency England, I’d say that money IS everything in the dating world. Almost 200 years later, I’d say that is probably still the case.  At least Regency England was straightfoward about their obsession with a persons’ financial status.

Almost all the relationships in Pride and Prejudice have a financial element. It is common knowledge how much yearly income Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy earn, and the size of Georgiana Darcy’s inheritance. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have the entail of Longbourn to worry about. Caroline Bingley is a social climber who ridicules anyone she considers of lower wealth and prestige. Lady Catherine has a compulsive need to show everyone how wealthy she is. Charlotte marries Mr. Collins for financial stability. Mr. Wickham pursues Miss King for her inheritance, and only marries Lydia when Mr. Darcy offers him a financial settlement. Financial situations are common knowledge and in the open.

And yet, money plays a much smaller role in the relationships that Jane Austen holds up as most admirable. Mr. Darcy’s wealth is, of course, well known, but neither of them speak directly of money as reasons for their marriage. Indeed, Elizabeth turns down his first proposal despite the material comfort it would provide for her and her entire family. Even Jane is relatively low key about Mr. Bingley’s wealth.

Jane Austen’s most admirable characters don’t discount the importance of wealth and financial security. But, at the same time, they don’t hold it to be the sole and most important component of life and love.

 

Bad reputation

You know, I think that Mrs. Bennet gets a bad rap. OK, so she’s a little hard to take. She is silly, uninformed, gossipy, petty and usually just plain wrong. I picture her as the precursor to stage moms with the lipsticked and hairsprayed six year-olds in beauty pageants.

But you’ve got to give her a little credit– she got three of her daughters married, with little-to-no help from Mr. Bennet.

Mr. Bennet didn’t plan at all for the entail on his estate–despite the fact that his youngest daughter is sixteen. He had some time to figure out that a boy ain’t gonna be coming. But instead, he hides out in his library and hopes a solution for the well-being of his family will somehow appear.

But our Mrs. Bennet is a different story. She zeros in on Mr. Bingley like a heat-seeking missile. She parades the girls — all five of them — around the county looking for eligible men. And she talks about it. Constantly. Ad nauseam. She is a woman on a mission.

Lo and behold — she could be seen as a resounding success! Almost despite herself. Lizzy and Jane become very well situated, and Mrs. Bennet convinces herself that Lydia is well-situated too. She has fulfilled her sole mission in life, despite her poor nerves.