Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Characters Who Are Caricatures: Mrs Bennet

Jane Austen was an amazingly perceptive writer, with many true-to-life characters.  Sometimes, though, she increased the personality of her characters to become caricatures.  I know some people don't think that some of Austen's characters are caricatures, but you're free to tell me why you disagree if you do.
I've decided to make a series of the most ridiculous caricatures in Austen's novel's.

So, we come first to - Mrs Bennet! 

She is one of the most ridiculous characters in literature. 
"Well, well, and so Mr. Bingley is coming down, sister," (for Mrs Philips first brought her the news.) "Well, so much the better.  Not that I care about it, though.  He is nothing to us, you know and I am sure I never want to see him again.  But, however, he is very welcome to come to Netherfield, if he likes it.  And who knows what may happen? But that is nothing to us.  You know, sister, we agreed long ago never to mention a word about it.  And so, is it quite certain he is coming?"
                           Pride and Prejudice, chapter 53
And the next time we hear of Mrs Bennet, she is trying to get her husband to visit Mr Bingley and announcing her intention of inviting him for dinner.

She is very comic, but just imagine all the trouble she caused. 
If Mr Bennet's wife was a richer woman, without relatives in trade, who was affectionate and sensible, then:
1: The Bennets would be richer
2: They would not be related to people in an 'ungentlemanly' profession.
3: The Bennets would have been able to save money for after Mr Bennet died
4: The girls' mother would either have instructed them herself or given them a governess.
5: Mr Bennet would not be ignoring his family.
6: Mary's conceit would have been lessened and her abilities improved.
7: Kitty would have been less shallow and silly.
8: Lydia would not have run away.

Back onto topic: I think that in Jane Austen's novels excessive contradiction is a sign of especial silliness.  Just consider the characters that are not really villains, but just really silly and stupid. 
Still, Mrs Bennet is not always in hysterics contradicting herself.
Not always, but most of the time.

Miss Georgiana


Alexandra said...

Oh, I totally agree. Mrs. Bennet is very much a caricature. :-) I've always thought so.

Miss Laurie said...

You may perhaps add to your list that Elizabeth herself might not have been so incredulous and satirical if she had a mother who her father didn't tease so mercilessly (at times). But then there wouldn't have been and Elizabeth Bennet without a Mrs. Bennet.
Your thoughts are interesting and I mostly agree with them. Jane Austen probably didn't base Mrs. Bennet off of one person she knew but instead combined the worst bits from several different of her acquaintances. I've never known anyone who was quite so self absorbed and so insensible to reason as Mrs. Bennet but I've met some that were close!
Very interesting post! :)

~Miss Laurie
Old-Fashioned Charm