I never thought I would write a post called 8 Things I Hate About Pride and Prejudice! In fact, to be totally honest, I love Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; it’s probably one of my favourite books. But that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect book. So, when I noticed a more than a few negatives on a recent re-read, I decided to share them.
Blatant parental favouritism
Let’s start with how bad Mr and Mrs. Bennet are at hiding their favouritism. Like when Mr. Bennet casually mentions at the dinner table that Lizzie is his favourite daughter. I don’t know about you, but I feel like that’s a pretty rubbish topic of conversation. It’s a recurring theme throughout the book too. Lizzie (and occasionally Jane) are compared favourably to their sisters due to their good sense and decorum. As a plot device I can understand it. But I couldn’t help but notice that the daughters Mr Bennet prefers are Lizzie and Jane. Whereas Mrs. Bennet’s favourite daughters, Lydia and Kitty are seen as silly and stupid. But that feels like a topic for another day!
Worth based on looks
Have you ever noticed how many references to physical attractiveness there are in Pride and Prejudice? I know that Jane Austen never specifically describes what each character looks like, but there’s definitely a hierarchy of looks amongst most of the female characters. Jane is prettiest, followed by Lizzie, Lydia, Kitty and Mary. Characters like Charlotte Lucas languish at the bottom of the pile for the double crime of being old and plain. It seems no coincidence that Jane and Lizzie are also everyone’s favourites. Now, this being Jane Austen, I am prepared to put forward the counter argument that it’s a deliberate statement. However, it’s something I never noticed before and has definitely turned into something I hate about Pride and Prejudice if that’s not the case.
Lizzie is a standard ‘popular girl’
If you think about it, Lizzie is pretty much every girl you kind of hated at school. Pretty, popular and a hit with the guys (those fine eyes). She glides through the book effortlessly. Nearly everyone she meets loves her and even those people who don’t begrudgingly admit she’s witty. If she was around today, she’d be the head cheerleader, who also gets perfect grades, and volunteers at an animal shelter on weekends! In later novels I think that Jane Austen’s heroines are noticeably more balanced, and have a little bit more character progression. Don’t get me wrong though, I think we’d all love to be a ‘Lizzie’ in real life!
Ok, so…I understand that Pride and Prejudice, set in Regency England, focuses on the lives of a set of middle class/upper class families. I get it. But sometimes the snobbery of the characters surprises me. And I’m not talking about the Bingley sisters, although they display a spectacular ability to look down on people. However, at least they are open about their disdain. Basically every other character in this book looks down on someone though. Maybe this is a wry display of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, with Jane Austen helping us to laugh at these families and their trifling pretensions. Who knows?
Why is everyone horrible to Mary?
This ties into the worth based on looks point above. Mary is basically the forgotten Bennet sister. Why? Because she can’t compete with her sisters in the looks or vivacity department. Despite her predilections for tedious sayings and undying love of grim piano recitals, I always feel a little sorry for Mary. Stuck between Lizzie and Jane on the one hand and Kitty and Lydia on the other, she’s left out a lot. Every time she does anything in Pride and Prejudice she gets dealt with harshly, even by the narrator!
She’s a figure of ridicule to her sisters, society and even readers. I know she’s probably the last person you’d want to sit next to at a Pride and Prejudice dinner party, but I do wonder if that’s just because everyone is kind of horrible to her? Besides, she’s just trying to find a way to excel in comparison to her louder, vivacious sisters…shout out for the introverts, am I right?
Mr. Bingley is the worst kind of love interest
I know that Mr. Darcy is the main love interest in Pride and Prejudice but let’s not forget about Mr. Bingley. I think he gets away with a lot in Pride and Prejudice because we become distracted by Mr. Darcy. But when you think about it, he treats Jane Bennet pretty badly. He basically ghosts her! I can forgive him for apparently not being aware Jane is in love with him, to some degree. But I still think he shows a lack of backbone by allowing himself to be persuaded to leave Netherfield (and Jane) behind, simply because his friend tells him to. This is something I never noticed about him before as he’s always presented as the universal ‘good guy’. Now I have seen it, however, his behaviour is definitely one of the things I hate about Pride and Prejudice!
Mr. Bennet is a terrible parent
Other than his blatant favouritism, Mr. Bennet is just an all round bad parent. There’s really no excusing him. Throughout the novel, Jane Austen reminds us of the particularly grim fate his wife and unmarried daughters will face, should he die (homelessness, poverty etc.) And yet, he can’t seem to rouse himself enough to do more than laugh at Mr. Collin’s letters, mock his wife’s fears, and hide himself away in his library when life gets serious.
In a society that severely restricted a woman’s ability to earn her own wage, his lack of provision is really terrible. Additionally, the novel (and perhaps film adaption more so) paints Mrs. Bennet as ridiculous for her obsession finding respectable husbands for her daughters. But when you consider that their alternative is to slip into poverty and obscurity, I think she gets a harsh deal in comparison to Mr. Bennet.
Lizzie is a little harsh to Charlotte Lucas
Considering Lizzie and Charlotte are basically in the same boat when it comes to needing a good husband, you’d think Lizzie would be a little more understanding of Charlotte’s motives. Instead, she decides she can no longer respect, or be friends with, Charlotte when she marries Mr. Collins. This is probably on of the biggest things I hate about Pride and Prejudice. I admire Jane Austen for promoting marriages based on love, but I get annoyed that she has Lizzie be so judgemental of Charlotte.
I get it, in every Jane Austen novel there is a ‘designing female’ character. In Sense and Sensibility it is Lucy Steele, in Northanger Abbey it is Isabella Thorpe etc. And in Pride and Prejudice, it is Charlotte Lucas. This character makes decisions that contrast the ones the heroine would make. Usually, this is an avaricious or loveless marriage. Charlotte Lucas is the foil to Elizabeth Bennet in this sense; she marries Mr. Collins, who Lizzie spectacularly rejects. Her reasons are sensible enough, for the time, he’s got a good job and will inherit substantial property. Plus, she has to marry someone and marrying him allows her to avoid poverty. Also, he’s kind of her only option; unlike Lizzie, she’s pushing thirty and she’s not that pretty (see worth based on looks above!)
So, there you have it. 8 things I hate about Pride and Prejudice! I feel like I need a little disclaimer that says ‘I really do love this book!’. But even the best books have light and shade, right? I like to think Jane Austen knew what she was doing when she sat down to write. And, in many ways, most of the things I hate about Pride and Prejudice can be forgiven when you consider how they make you aware of larger situations and contexts. That’s the best thing about reading, and re-reading books, in the end isn’t it? The way they always morph and shift, teaching us new things every time and helping enlarge or perspective on life.