Pride and Prejudice Pride and Prejudice discussion


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Where were the servants?

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The Book Cartel Was anyone else wondering where the servants were? While reading this I didn't realize they had a maid and a cook until I was well into the book. Since Austen goes into such depths to describe human interaction it came as a surprise that the servants were just seen as completely unnotable. Especially considering that they live with the servants and would have daily interactions with them. I understand that this probably comes from the context of the time period, but it's still shocking to see how easy it is to write an entire class of people out of a story.


message 2: by Annamariah (last edited Feb 10, 2017 09:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Annamariah You might like Jo Baker's novel Longbourn, which is told from the servants' point of view. All the times when the servants are mentioned in Pride and Prejudice are included. I agree that it is rather shocking to realise how rare those mentions are. While I don't think Longbourn is a great novel, it is a very interesting one.

I do love Pride and Prejudice, though. Austen describes her characters sparingly, focusing on the most important ones that are needed to tell the story. It's not only the servants that are hardly ever mentioned. How much do you remember hearing about Mr. Hurst, for example?


Jeanie Cuttlefish wrote: "Was anyone else wondering where the servants were? While reading this I didn't realize they had a maid and a cook until I was well into the book. Since Austen goes into such depths to describe huma..."

I do believe you have to look at the question both from a social-economic-historical perspective as well as from a writer's perspective. First, in that era, servants had limited roles in their masters' lives. Without diminishing the value of humans, even in Austen's time, servants were like microwaves--tools to complete certain tasks. Second, the Bennet family was not wealthy, and therefore had limited servants (just the essential ones). But also, the story has nothing to do with the servants, regardless of Elizabeth's kindness and inclination to regard all people as important. Austen could have written more about the servants, but what would that have added? In the Bennet's and Austen's world, of course there were servants, and any reader then would have known this but as a very peripheral detail. Had Austen expanded on the servants, I think it would have been mere clutter to satisfy our modern expectations for describing setting and exploring social class that was a given back then. Simply, Jane Austen didn't write the story for us; she wrote if for her contemporaries.


NorikoY I am not sure what you mean.
Servants are mentioned here and there throughout the story, not hugely, but, by reading P&P, I can feel enough presence of their servants.
Perhaps, they were not so relevant to the story. And indeed, servants did not mix with the family, that was what it was, “know your place, speak when you are spoken to” was policy.
To me, it was enough servants mentioned. In the early chapter, a good cook was mentioned, then, followed by house keeper Mrs Hill, a butler, footman, gardener etc…


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