Tag Archives: Lizzie

Pride and Prejudice Characters: Lizzie and Darcy

LIZZIE AND DARCY

Is there anything more delightful than a well written story of personal growth and discovery? Pride and Prejudice, Austen‘s “own darling child,” is a story of first mis-impressions that eventually resolve into true understanding, appreciation and love. The journey to that self discovery is the juiciest part of the novel. And that means that both Darcy and Lizzie must be willing to change the way they look at the world and at each other.

Jennifer Ehle is beautiful as Elizabeth  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Jennifer Ehle is beautiful as Elizabeth in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Elizabeth Bennet is a pretty, charming, intelligent, self-assured 20-year-old. She is the second eldest daughter of the Bennet family. She takes second place to sister Jane in beauty as well, but she bares it well. She has a lively, playful disposition and a good-natured impertinence that is the delight of her father and the bane of her mother.

Cropped screenshot of Greer Garson from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of Greer Garson from the trailer for the film Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lizzie prides herself on being a good judge of character. But when it comes to Darcy and Wickham that is hardly the case.

Keira Knightly as Lizzie in the 2005 Movie

Keira Knightly as Lizzie in the 2005 Movie

Lizzie’s first road block of prejudice is the snub she receives from Darcy at the Assembly Room Ball. At first everyone thinks Darcy is a major catch because he’s tall, handsome and rich. But then

… his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

It was decided that he was “He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world.” The icing on the cake is when he refuses to dance Lizzie, saying“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

Matthew MacFadyen in the 2005 movie.

Matthew MacFadyen in the 2005 movie.

Although outwardly she takes the comment in stride, and even jokes about it with her friends, from that moment on she is prejudiced against him.

Darcy was …haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting…Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared; Darcy was continually giving offence.

(It is a prejudice that Wickham easily manipulates.)

Had Darcy’s opinion of Lizzie not changed it would have been a very different book indeed. But shortly after the snub he begins to appreciate her  “fine eyes,” “light and pleasing figure,” and “easy playfulness.” He tries to shake it, but he falls completely in love with her.

Daniel Vincent Gordh and Ashley Clements tackle the proposal scene in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Daniel Vincent Gordh and Ashley Clements tackle the proposal scene in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

He swallows his pride and familial duty and offers Lizzie the second of her two horrible proposals.  Basically he tells her that he likes her against his will, against his reason, and even against his character.

She refuses him, of course — He’s separated Jane and Bingley and ruined Wickham — how could he think for a moment that she’d accept him.. She calls him on his un-gentleman-like manner then tears into him…

“You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it…From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, … and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”

It is a life changing moment for Darcy. He writes her a letter explaining his position on the Jane / Bingley situation and on his dealings in the Wickham narrative and then he leaves Kent. But he’s also forced to face the fact that he is a snob.

Upon reading the letter Lizzie recognizes that prejudice has colored her emotions to Mr. Darcy. She begins to question her assumption of Wickham’s innocence and his guilt.

Colin Firth, the ultimate Darcy, starred  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Colin Firth, the ultimate Darcy, starred in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

At Pemberly she’s presented by a completely different Darcy. Not only does the housekeeper, Reynolds, praise her master, but Darcy actually seems to have transformed. He is kind and welcoming even to her relatives the Gardiners, who he previously thought himself above.

He completely saves the day with the Lydia / Wickham elopement, and he does it all for Lizzie.

By the time Bingley and Jane reunite both Lizzie and Darcy have come 360 in their feelings toward one another. What was once intolerable is now precious. And all was happily ended.

Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoulin in the 1980 BBC series [This one's for Joyce]

Elizabeth Garvey and David Rintoulin in the 1980 BBC series [This one’s for Joyce]


Pride and Prejudice characters: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet

It is unlikely that either Mr. or Mrs. Bennet would win any parenting awards. Nor are they they a role model of a happy marriage.

Mr. Bennet is the easier to take of the two. Perhaps because Austen herself liked a witty conversationalist, she gives Mr. Bennet plenty of ironic banter. Sure, he’s got a quip for every idiotic thing that comes out of Mrs. Bennet’s mouth, and he puts down his daughters with unsettling regularity, but he’s on our girl Lizzie side of things. And when he does come out with a  snarky remark it isn’t said in a shrill scream. He’s calm — to the point of being detached. And if things get too hectic he just shuts the door to his man cave, er, I mean LIBRARY and lets the others put out the fire.

Benjamin Whitrow played Mr. Bennet in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Benjamin Whitrow played Mr. Bennet in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Mrs. Bennet on the other hand is constantly in emergency mode. She’s over excited about everything… from the arrival of the militia in Meryton to Jane’s budding romance. Her mood swings are so intense that she’s either quite shallow or bipolar. If Mr. Bennet is disengaged from his daughter’s lives (specifically the part of his daughter’s lives that involves them getting a husband) she is hyper involved. And while Mr. Bennet hides in his library, Mrs. Bennet prefers to take center stage. In case of emergency she succumbs to her palpitations and flutterings and retires to her lounge to be waited on hand and foot.

Both of them play favorites while neglecting to educate their daughters and have chosen an economic course that requires the girls to marry well or face lives of genteel poverty which their upbringings have made them entirely unprepared for.” [ Story and History; A guide to Everything Jane Austen ]

Mr. Bennet favor’s Lizzie with her sharp tongue and sense of irony. He has a soft spot for Jane who is so sweet he has a hard time finding anything negative about her. But by the time we get to Mary his patience wears thin. He makes fun of her zealous nature and doesn’t support her earnest attempts to exhibit. He has all but given up on Kitty and Lydia  and calls them the two silliest girls in the country.

Alison Steadman is Mrs. Bennet  in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Alison Steadman is Mrs. Bennet in the 1995 series [Image courtesy BBC Home.]

Mrs. Bennet admires Jane’s beauty and good nature, but she really dotes on Lydia (her twin in temperament and love of all things in a Red Coat.) Her second daughter is a source of anxiety for her– especially when she refuse a perfectly good offer of marriage from Mr. Collins.

Austen describes the couple at the end of the first chapter…

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develope. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.

They married young. Mr. Bennet…

captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had, very early in their marriage, put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown. … To his wife he was very little otherwise indebted, than as her ignorance and folly had contributed to his amusement.

The novel is almost as much about economics as it is about love. Longbourn, the Bennet’s family estate is entailed away to the nearest male heir upon the untimely demise of Mr. Bennet.

When first Mr. Bennet had married, economy was held to be perfectly useless; for, of course, they were to have a son. This son was to join in cutting off the entail, as soon as he should be of age, and the widow and younger children would by that means be provided for.

But they didn’t have a son, so Mr. Collins is set to inherit the estate.

Donald Southerland in the 2005 Movie

Donald Southerland in the 2005 Movie

Even if they HAD had a son there’s no guarantee that  Junior would have agreed to end the entail. He could have wound up like John Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility and turned his back on his family financially. Given the hands off attitude the Bennets employed with their children’s education Junior could have been as feckless and week minded as Lydia. I doubt that the estate could have survived long in that case.  A son would not have necessarily solved the problem. Better if the Bennets had economized through the years.

English: C. E. Brock illustration for the 1895...

English: C. E. Brock illustration for the 1895 edition of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice (Chapter 13 ): “Why, Jane — you never dropt a word of this; you sly thing! ” Français : C. E. Brock illustration pour l’édition C. E. Brock illustration pour l’édition 1895 du roman de Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice (Chapitre 13) Mrs Bennet est sûre que Bingley vient diner (alors qu’il s’agit de Mr Collins) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Better yet if the girls were better educated. If the girls  were really to be “marriage market” ready they should have had a governess or some one who insisted they learn to drawl (one of Caroline/Darcy’s requirements for a refined lady) read the classics, learn foreign languages, dance and play an instrument.  Only two of them can play an instrument, and they don’t play all that well.

Brenda Blethyn in the 2005 movie

Brenda Blethyn in the 2005 movie

Given the economic uncertainty for the girls Mrs. Bennet should have at least prepared them with a more domestic education. At dinner when Mr. Collins wants to compliment which ever of his fair cousins has prepared the meal, Mrs. Bennet informs him that they keep a cook, “and that her daughters had nothing to do in the kitchen.” But maybe the girls should learn a little about cooking. Not to go into service but to be able to run their own kitchen as Lydia certainly will have to. Lady Catherine brags at finding a  governess position for some young ladies she knows. That’s another profession the girls could be readying for.
But neither parent seems at all interested in pushing them toward preparing for the future beyond winning the husband lottery.

Still, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet add a lot of humor to the novel (even if it is self/co inflicted.) And, given that I’ve been known to be sarcastic and I’m a lot closer to their age then Lizzie or Jane’s age I’ve got a soft spot for them. Perhaps they wont win Parent of the Year, 1813, but the novel just wouldn’t be the same with out them.


Pride and Prejudice Characters: Lydia and Wickham

Today is the third installment in a week’s worth of Pride and Prejudice character studies leading up to next Monday’s 200th anniversary of the Austen novel.
 
Lydia and Wickham

Was there ever a sillier, more insipid, selfish little sister than Lydia Bennet? One would need a thesaurus to accurately describe how crass she is… if Austen hadn’t painted such a wonderful picture for us.

On the kind side of the Lydia spectrum I could say she had an exuberant spirit. From there the rainbow of Lydia character trait runs from “Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled!” to selfish, reckless, and just a little bit mean. (Though she’s got nothing on Caroline Bingley in the Mean Girl department.)

Jena Malon took on the Lydia role for the 2005 movie

Jena Malon took on the Lydia role for the 2005 movie

Although Jane and Lizzie attempt to “check the imprudence” of Kitty and Lydia their efforts have little effect. The girls are indulged by their mother but are …

“always affronted by their advice… Lydia, self-willed and careless, would scarcely give them a hearing….”

Lydia has no filter. She says what ever thought floats across her vapid mind, no matter how rude or inappropriate it might be.

Julia Sawalha in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice [Image courtesy BBC Home]

Julia Sawalha in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice [Image courtesy BBC Home]

“Lord” she tells Jane, “how ashamed I should be of not being married before three and twenty!” Likewise she does what ever she wants without regard for decorum or consequence.

Mary Kate Wiles embodies the 2012/13 party girl Lydia in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries VLOG [Image courtesy @TheLydiaBennett Twitter page]

Mary Kate Wiles embodies the 2012/13 party girl Lydia in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries VLOG [Image courtesy @TheLydiaBennett Twitter page]

She is…

“the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous. A flirt, too, in the worst and meanest degree of flirtation; without any attraction beyond youth and a tolerable person; and from the ignorance and emptiness of her mind, wholly unable to ward off any portion of that universal contempt which her rage for admiration will excite.”

Lizzie warns their father not to allow Lydia to go to Brighton, but Mr. Bennet, knows that there will be no peace at home if he doesn’t concede. He justifies the decision by saying…

“Colonel Forester is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real mischief; and she is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to any body. At Brighton she will be of less importance, even as a common flirt, than she has been here. The officers will find women better worth their notice. Let us hope, therefore, that her being there may teach her her own insignificance. At any rate, she cannot grow many degrees worse without authorizing us to lock her up for the rest of her life.”

Lydia, of course, does not disappoint. She manages to do the least appropriate thing possible… she runs off, unmarried with a man. That man is George Wickham and it takes some doing to get the couple to the altar.

A triumphant Lydia returns home with her husband in the 1940 movie. With Ann Rutherford (Lydia), Edward Ashley (Wickham), Maureen O'Sullivan (Jane), and Greer Garson (Lizzie).

A triumphant Lydia returns home with her husband in the 1940 movie. With Ann Rutherford (Lydia), Edward Ashley (Wickham), Maureen O’Sullivan (Jane), and Greer Garson (Lizzie).

When they return to Longbourn …

“Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations…”

She even insists that Jane take walk behind her as she is a married woman now, and therefore holds a higher rank.

Peeya Rai Chowdhury and Daniel Gilles as Lakhi Bakshi (Lydia) and George in Bride and Prejudice

Peeya Rai Chowdhury and Daniel Gilles as Lakhi Bakshi (Lydia) and George in Bride and Prejudice

“I find Lydia to be tiresome” says Austen fan Mary Baldauf Wiedel, “and Wickham is a true cad.” She adds that the two are ”fairly unlikable characters, although no one deserves to be with Wickham.”

Sometimes when I’m rereading the novel* or am watching one of the adaptations I try to remember back to my original impressions of Wickham. Was I suspicious? Did I like his easy manner and winning smile as much as the ladies of Longbourn? Or did I know right away that he was trouble?

Adrian Lukis as Wickham in the 1995 series.

Adrian Lukis as Wickham in the 1995 series.

Not even Lizzie gets an accurate bead on Wickham’s character at first. She spends about a third of the book enjoying his company and listening to his poisonous tales about Darcy.

George Wickham is handsome. He has “a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.” An officer in the militia, Wickham makes quite a dashing figure in his regimentals. But Lizzie observes that he has something more in his “person, countenance, air, and walk” than this companions. And he could make the “commonest, dullest, most threadbare topic” interesting.

Rupert Friend in the 2005 Movie [Image courtesy: AustenAuthors.net]

Rupert Friend in the 2005 Movie [Image courtesy: AustenAuthors.net]

He may not be rich, but, as he explains, that is not his fault. Its Darcy’s. Darcy has cruelly denied Wickham the church living promised to him. So now he must make his way as an “honest” soldier.

In reality he’s a gambler, a womanizer, a slacker and a liar. He uses his good looks and his social ease to manipulate people. He even manipulates Lizzie, who is usually a keen judge of character, into taking his side against Darcy. He leaves a trail of debt and broken hearts where ever he goes.

Wes Aderhold updates Wickham in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Wes Aderhold updates Wickham in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries

So why does Wickham elope with Lydia? For her part it is probably a romantic lark, an adventure. She seldom looks past the moment and he is fulfilling her immediate needs. But what does she have to offer him? Not money. Not status. Not love. My guess is that he initially does it as a lark too. Lydia is pretty and is certainly willing to run away with him. He can always leave her when he gets tired of the situation and travel to another country to find a rich wife. But, then he realizes that he can make a little money off this deal. When Darcy finds them he realizes he’s hit pay dirt. If Darcy cares enough to come looking for Lydia he’ll care enough to pay Wickham’s gambling debts and pay his overdue tavern bills and more.. All he has to do is marry one of the silliest girls in the country.

Ahhh marital bliss. [Image courtesy BBC]

Ahhh marital bliss. [Image courtesy BBC]

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* for the record… I am not in a CONSTANT state of rereading one or the other of Ms. Austen’s novels. I just thought you should know.

The LY-Di-A Bennet  on Lizzie Bennet Diaries has her own VLOG. Here’s a taste:


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