Friday, January 24, 2020

The Lovable Mrs. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice Essay -- Pride and Preju

The Lovable Mrs. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice      Ã‚  Ã‚   The general impression of Austen's novels, which critic D. W. Harding says relieved him of any desire to read them, is that they offer readers a humorous refuge from an uncertain world.   In his article "'Regulated Hatred': An Aspect in the Work of Jane Austen," Harding claims that this impression is misleading and that Jane Austen is actually very critical of her society, covertly expressing downright hatred for certain members of it by means of caricature.   Mrs. Bennet, from Austen's Pride and Prejudice, is one of these "comic monster[s]".   Harding claims that in order to view Mrs. Bennet as anything other than utterly detested by Austen one must ignore this Austen's summary of her at the end of Chapter One: "She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and an uncertain temper."1   Actually, Austen's Mrs. Bennet is much more complex than Harding acknowledges.   Austen's initial summary notwithstanding, Pride and Prejudice even loo ks at Mrs. Bennet forgivingly.   Her behavior is often provoked by her environment: both her society and her family.   Because she helps, or tries to help, her family, Mrs. Bennet's ludicrous actions can even be seen as lovable.        Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Mrs. Bennet's society and family condemn her to a series of conventional roles.   Mrs. Bennet snags a husband by playing the role of the good-humored, pretty young woman.   Mr. Bennet also believes that good looks will make a good wife, and he marries her.   However, once she and Mr. Bennet take off their courting masks and Mr. Bennet discovers her "weak understanding and illiberal mind, [which] had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her" (155),... ...Mrs. Bennet in a critical and funny, but understanding way, Austen becomes the satirist that Harding claims she is not.   As a satirist, Austen helps us to deal with the Mrs. Bennets in our world.   While exposing their weaknesses, we can forgive them and even try to help them.   We can also, by understanding how a Mrs. Bennet comes to act like Mrs. Bennet, keep our sisters and ourselves from becoming like her.                   Notes    1. D. W. Harding, "'Regulating Hatred': An Aspect in the Work of Jane Austen," in Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, ed. Donald Gray (New York and London: Norton, 2001), 297-298.    2. All references to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are from the Norton Critical 3rd edition, ed. Donald Gray (New York and London: Norton, 2001).    3. Harding, 297.    4. Harding, 297.      

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