Jane in January – Flawed Motivations in Pride & Prejudice – Monica Fairview — 37 Comments

    • Patty — so you see things from Darcy’s point of view? It’s true that Mr. Bennet’s statement shows an disturbing lack of concern for his daughters’ reputations. “Such squeamish youths as cannot bear to be connected with a little absurdity are not worth a regret.” This is Regency England and his daughters don’t have large dowries. Thank you for this insight.

  1. First, my sincerest thanks for the magnet I won during week one. It arrived this morning and now has a place of honor on my refrigerator. Gracias Maria Grace. It is beautiful.

    Who of us could be surprised at Lydia’s fall? You could see it coming like a train wreck. Monica, you are right that these four Bennet’s had guilt – some more than others. Yet, it allowed our couple to come to terms with all that had come before and grow together. Thank you, Jane Austen for such insight into this dysfunctional/typical family. And, thank you, Monica, for your insight as well.

    • Joy — I’m happy to hear the magnet is comfortably settled on your refrigerator.

      Yes, Jane Austen is brilliant at showing family dynamics. I always wonder how much Jane Austen’s novels reflect her own family. I wish we knew more about them than we do from the few letters that have survived.

  2. That’s interesting, Monica! I think I have focused to hard on the inevitable fate that I didn’t pause to think about individual culpability. Well not beyond the obvious of Lydia and Mrs. B’s screeches and Mr. B wanting his peace and quiet. I’ve always thought that Lydia and Lizzy were a lot alike in their liveliness, but one got the benefit of dad’s attention and the other mom’s and then there is Mrs. B seeing herself in Lydia. With Mr. B, I’m not sure if he felt love for his children or not, but he sure comes across as indifferent.

    There was no real concern for Lydia being near Wickham like there should have been even if no one saw her as a target for marriage. I think that is where the err in judgment was made with Lizzy. She only knew of him going after young girls with fortunes or herself to share gossip. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that he would just use and discard her sister. She only saw that Lydia would be the menace the way she was chasing officers and not as the victim.

    Interesting discussion, thanks Monica!

    • A pleasure, Sophia Rose. I love your perspective on Lydia and Lizzy. How very intriguing to think that they are similar but the parenting is what makes the difference. I have to give that one careful consideration.

  3. I enjoy blogs such as this because they open my eyes to new perspectives with every new post! I can never read P&P without learning something new, thanks to you lovely ladies!

  4. How interesting to think of all the ways in which everyone is responsible for what happens to Lydia. Indeed, what would they have done without Darcy? I have long thought that Lydia and her parents were at fault, but did not think about Lizzy’s role at all! Yet, she is the one with the most information and the most sense – surely, she could have done something had she really tried…

  5. A very educational post, Monica. I always felt 3 of the 4 were culpable in the near disastrous ruin that almost befell the Bennet family. Thank goodness for Mr. Darcy. I never truly considered that Lizzy was really culpable as well. I realized she never let loose information about Wickham, She could’ve said something to her father, but, if she was vague and didn’t use names, would her father have taken her seriously or made a joke out of her being ‘jealous’? Thank you for sharing the information with us.

  6. I too never thought of Lizzy as having responsibility for Lydia’s ruin. Thinking on it, Lizzy never gave too much thought to Lydia until she did something outrageous or until her actions directly affected herself. Today we would say Lydia was looking for the attention she did not get from her sisters by being drawing attention to herself.
    Your details make me want to go back to the original and find all those insights. Haven’t read P&P in awhile but I think it is time to do so. Thanks Monica, you have sent me back to the books.

    • Delighted to hear it, Maggie. I love re-reading P&P, and I always discover something new. It’s the kind of book which you can never really “master” — something continues to elude you. Hope you enjoy the re-read!

  7. This is interesting – definitely food for thought! I never really thought about Lizzy’s motivations behind the situation. Jane must’ve gotten her optimism from Mr Bennet, since he didn’t really believe that Lydia would get herself into trouble, or that a man like Wickham might be interested in something other than marriage.

  8. Nice one, Monica P. I never thought of comparing Mr. Bennet with Jane, because to me he usually comes across as cynical, but it *is* possible to see him as a careless, happy-go-lucky person. The film versions don’t present him that way, but you could make a case for it, I think.

    • I don’t know that I’d see him as happy go lucky but I always thought he must be overly trusting or naive to think that Lydia’s small dowry would keep some men from messing with her. Maybe because Lydia was so intent on marriage, he didn’t think she’d go about it in such a secret way? I don’t know. Always something new to think about with P&P!

    • After thinking about this, I appreciate Darcy even more than I did before, BeckyC. The Bennets were in big trouble, and the audience of the day would be more aware of it than we are. Darcy’s big gesture was amazingly generous, both financially and emotionally.

  9. I think you made me realize something I like to look for in the fan fiction, and that’s whether the Bennet parents really ever truly appreciated how their Darcy son-in-law really saved them all, and if they were ever truly grateful (and learned to be a little more responsible towards their families in their lives afterwards). From what little is said in P&P, it doesn’t sound like the parents really change, but Kitty does change because of the influence of her excellent sisters. Thanks for the post!

    • I agree, Kathy. I don’t know if Mrs. Bennet was ever told, but certainly Mr. Bennet knew about Darcy’s grand gesture. His response was typical:

      “And so, Darcy did everything — made up the match, gave the money, paid the fellow’s debts, and got him his commission! So much the better. It will save me a world of trouble and economy. Had it been your uncle’s doing, I must and would have paid him; but these violent young lovers carry everything their own way. I shall offer to pay him to-morrow: he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there will be an end of the matter.”

      So much for appreciation!

  10. Very interesting post, with the four characters’ perspectives. IMHO, I always thought Lizzy talked to her father about how Lydia’s trip would affect Lizzy, because Lizzy didn’t believe her father would exert himself for Lydia’s sake. So she was trying to appeal to her father’s love for her and Jane, for the whole family. But I may be over-thinking things.

    • I like your explanation, June. I don’t think you’re overthinking things. It’s possible she was trying to be strategic. Sadly, Lizzy once again doesn’t seem to understand that, even if he is attached to her more than any of the others, Mr. Bennet still won’t step out of his comfort zone for any of them and it backfires. Don’t you think his response is quite condescending? “What, has she frightened away some of your lovers? Poor little Lizzy!”

  11. That’s why I love Jane, she doesn’t even let Lizzy off the hook. She had her own motivations for speaking against Lydia’s trip to Brighton. I wonder how Darcy and Lizzy would’ve gotten together if Lydia didn’t run off with Wickham…

    • Well, it seemed they were on the verge of getting together when Lydia did run off. Perhaps Darcy needed something dramatic to show him he should DO something, and then he couldn’t deny that he’d done it out of love for Lizzy… He does say later that, upon hearing that Lady Catherine had not been able to elicit from Elizabeth a promise that she would never become engaged to Darcy, he had learned to hope that perhaps she had changed her mind, but we don’t need Lydia’s scandal for that. Lady Catherine would have traveled to stop Lizzy’s engagement even without the shame that Lydia brought upon the family. But, perhaps, Elizabeth would not have been so adamant about refusing to agree with Lady Catherine, if not for the idea that she must defend her family’s actions. Don’t you love how I argue both sides of the argument? I’ve never needed anyone else to help me get in an argument! 😀

      • I’m glad you pointed out that Lydia didn’t bring Lizzy and Darcy apart, Julie — she in fact separated them when they were on the verge of finding some common ground.

        I can see why you’re expressing two opposite ways of looking at P&P. JA is too complex for any one simple explanation. It’s easy to get tangled up in the intricacies 🙂

  12. Your thoughtful analysis of their motivations is really interesting! It reminds me of how game theory techniques can be found in Jane Austen’s novels. Now if only we can be sure to learn from their mistakes…

  13. This was a very interesting post from you and from those who commented. I never thought about it that clearly but it is very evident that all four did, indeed, have fault for Lydia’s trip to Brighton and thus her downfall. I have always been annoyed at Mr. Bennet’s attitude and lack of action in JA’s story. He seems to have intelligence but doesn’t use it to manage his estate nor his wife nor his daughters. He could have been a leader in the community but is so lazy. Even in his responses to Elizabeth he doesn’t show real love or concern for the daughter who is suppose to be his favorite.

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