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Pride and Prejudice
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Pride and Prejudice > Mr. Bennet vs. Mrs. Bennet

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Sita | 10 comments Mod
My thoughts on the couple : Mrs. Bennet is Peak Embarrassing Mom and Mr. Bennet has embraced the grimness of whatever the historical version of "suburban ennui" is called and his only solace is in negging his family. Overall, I find that Jane Austen is a lot more sympathetic to Mr. Bennet than she is to his wife. Personally, I think it maybe because Austen's wit and perspective aligns her more along Mr. Bennet's personality.

When I read P&P the first time, I really liked Mr. Bennet - I liked that he was cynical, and I liked that he didn't give in to the silliness surrounding him. I (not surprisingly) cringed at Mrs. Bennet - at her vulgar behaviour and her hilarious defensiveness when it came to her daughters. Whenever there is an obstacle, real or imagined, standing between her daughters and matrimony, Mrs. Bennet is there on the front lines, fighting the good fight with hyperbolic exclamations, dramatic monologues and unrepentful bitchiness.

(One of my favourite parts of the book is when Lizzy tries to cheer Mrs. Bennet up with the reminder that Mrs. Long has promised to introduce Mr. Bingley to them, and she, without the slightest hesitation, says, "I do not believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing. She has two nieces of her own. She is a selfish, hypocritical woman, and I have no opinion of her."



Please remember that Mrs. Long is probably Mrs. Bennet's closest friend.)

Anyway. When I read P&P now, I can't help but side with Mrs. Bennet. This woman hustled her ass off to guarantee a secure life for her daughters. Mr. Bennet, let's be real, has terrible financial judgement, generally hated his family and constantly demeaned them and, let's be real, was probably addicted to port or opium or whatever.

In Austen's defense, she does have Lizzy criticise Mr. Bennet for disrespecting their mother in front of their children, which means that Austen was well aware of Mr. Bennet's shittiness. Listen, if I had a dad who constantly praised my sister whilst calling me "the silliest girl in India" and other such choice insults, I too would have turned out like Lydia. (Instead I am a combination of Mary Bennet and Catherine de Bourgh's sickly daughter, with a dash of Mr. Collins' spinelessness. Thanks dad!)

Anyway, what are your thoughts on Mr. & Mrs. Bennet? How do you think their personalities and temperaments affected their daughters? Does Mrs, Bennet remind you of the gossipy aunties you meet at wedding functions? (Mrs. Bennet is all my aunties.) To any members who come from conservative countries or societies - how much does your world differ from Austen's?

(Sadly, it seems to me that Austen's heroines had a much easier time navigating their world than the women do in my world.)


message 2: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Brookfield | 2 comments I think that what Jane Austen cannot hide in her presentation of the dynamic between Mr and Mrs Bennet is her passion and respect for an acute intellect. Mrs Bennet is not clever. Indeed she is stupid, her efforts to marry off her daughters notwithstanding. Mr Bennet is clever. This at times makes him cruel, just as Elizabeth at times is too sharp for her own good. Jane Austen can see all this, and portrays it honestly and wisely; but you just know that, deep down, she will always side with a quick wit over a slow one.


Sita | 10 comments Mod
Amanda wrote: "I think that what Jane Austen cannot hide in her presentation of the dynamic between Mr and Mrs Bennet is her passion and respect for an acute intellect. Mrs Bennet is not clever. Indeed she is stu..."

Yes to all of this. I also wonder if the dynamic of the Bennets' relationship is what made Elizabeth averse to a marriage of convenience - Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet do share similarities while Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth are quite similar. Maybe Elizabeth - although in those times it was ill-advised and foolish to turn down a secure future - knew that her marriage with Mr. Collins would follow the same patterns that governed her parents relationships and wisely rejected it.


message 4: by Elizabeth (last edited Oct 07, 2016 11:59PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth | 1 comments I agree with you regarding Mr. Bennet. On first reading I sympathized with him but on reading the book a second or third time I realized that Mr. Bennet is not so perfect after all. I attributed Elizabeth Bennett's intellect to him. But now I am not so sure. He possibly inspired her to read and improve herself intellectually. But she thinks for herself and what's more she is proactive, which her Father is not. He would rather allow Lizzy to go with Mrs. Forester. Whereas, Elizabeth Bennett tries to stop it seeing what it could lead to.
To constantly demean his daughters - in front of others - as silly is not the work of a good father. Instead he could have done more, so that they did not turn out silly and self-centered - in his opinion.
I understand this is the 19th century and Father's have no role in parenting. But if he feels so strongly about it he should have hired a Governess or taken other steps to give them better training ( I am not sure I may use the word 'education' here)


Michelle Joubert Sita wrote: "My thoughts on the couple : Mrs. Bennet is Peak Embarrassing Mom and Mr. Bennet has embraced the grimness of whatever the historical version of "suburban ennui" is called and his only solace is in ..."

I agree that on second examination Mr Bennet is not quite what he seemed the first time round. I do feel sorry for Mrs Bennet who is in a bad situation: trying to fend for her daughters while being trapped in a society that withholds most of her freedom to do the job well. Despite this I still don't like her methods, inability to be rational and the way she tries to "manoeuvre" people to get her own way.


message 6: by Tony (new)

Tony Sullivan | 4 comments Sita, you’re right that Austen is “a lot more sympathetic to Mr. Bennet than she is to his wife”, but as we know she is also vehement for women’s rights. Austen is angry that middle and upper class women are financially and vocationally constrained and vulnerable. But she’s also saying these limitations explain why such women are often shallow, silly, spiteful, competitive and mentally lazy. In Austen's personal life such women must have driven her spare, while giving her plenty of material. (Her descriptions of Mrs Bennet are among the best passages in the whole text.) Lizzie is her heroine partly because, morally, she rises above her confining circumstances. Just my two cents.

Mr Bennet is cooped up in his own way, stale and bored, disillusioned but resigned; all of which makes him cruel at times. But he sees his own faults, especially during the Wickham crisis, when his wife does not see hers.

Mrs Bennet is one of the novel’s two main comics, along with Mr Collins; their role is party just to amuse the reader.


message 7: by Tony (new)

Tony Sullivan | 4 comments PS... There are obviously lots of strengths in female characters like Jane, Charlotte, Mrs Gardiner, and Georgiana, and no shortage of faults in the males! I just wanted to suggest that Austen is offering social explanations for the moral faults of women like Mrs Bennet.


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