For mother’s day: a rumination on Mrs. Bennet. Austen pokes fun at a lot of characters in P&P, but I find myself being most sympathetic to Mrs. B. While Wickham, Collins, and Lady Catherine act wholly out of self-interest, I do believe Mrs. B. is acting out of concern for her daughters and not just mercenary considerations.
Why do I think this? Oddly, it’s because she dislikes Mr. Darcy. If Mrs. B. were solely interested in money and the security that a good marriage could bring her and her family, she would be pushing one of her daughters to pursue Mr. D. even though he’s an unpleasant, proud person– in her opinion. But she decides she doesn’t like him, and that’s the end of him and his ten thousand pounds as far as she’s concerned.
She likes Collins and Wickham (yes, she does have bad judgment) and so thinks they would make good husbands for her daughters (at least once Wickham gets past his little elopement and gambling problem). But she doesn’t push anyone toward Mr. D. because she doesn’t think he is a nice person despite the fact that he’s the best catch in the neighborhood.
I may be influenced by my own motherly instincts; every mom is worried about her child’s future happiness. I know I was less sympathetic to her and more inclined to think of her as meddling and annoying before I had kids. But, the thing is, she’s not wrong that the stakes are high and, honestly, I don’t blame her for being worried. You just have to look to the beginning of Sense and Sensibility to see what Mrs. B. is afraid will happen. She might go about the solution in the wrong way, but she’s not wrong about the problem. And that’s why I find it easier to forgive her misguided ways than the other characters in P&P.
I have never thought about Mrs. Bennet’s reaction to Mr. Darcy like this. You have a very interesting point of view on this. What you are saying definitely has merit, and I will consider it next time I watch P&P. I think people also overlook (or don’t realize) that Mrs. Bennett “quit her sphere” in marrying Mr. Bennet, someone of a higher social rank. I think there are many aspects to her behavior that can be attributed to repercussions of that.
I just realized that, now that I have a word press account, my word press userid is what is shown on my comments. I’ve commented on your posts before, but always as Jennie Coleen Newbrand (my FB name). So I just thought I’d let you know that we’re the same person. 🙂
Hi Jennie, Thanks for your comment! Yes, I think that Mrs. B. quitting her sphere does have a big impact on her behavior. One of the things I love about Austen is how rich her characters are–you can understand them in so many different ways. Not all characters can sustain that kind of analysis.