ETA 4/21/16: I messed up when I marked two reviews in a row as #46, so this review actually isn’t my Cannonball. That honor belongs to my dubious review of Captive Prince. Shame on many fronts. The mistake has now been noted on both reviews.
This is the third in my series of reviews wherein I get weird and write them in the form of letters to the characters. I’m re-reading all of Jane Austen’s books in 2016, and it shall be glorious. One every two months means March was Pride and Prejudice month, and Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of Austen’s books, predictably. I was really looking forward to reading it again for the first time since 2010, and especially listening to the audiobook that Audible just released, narrated by Rosamund Pike. It was a truly wonderful listening experience, and I highly recommend it. Links to previous reviews in this series down below, after the review. (Spoilers for a two hundred year old book to follow. Seriously, all the spoilers. Don’t read this if you haven’t read P&P yet. Which you absolutely should, it’s scrumptious.)
(This book also happens to be the reason my Cannonball was delayed. I actually Cannonballed three weeks ago. Dammit, review!)
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Dear Mr. Bennet,
In writing to you this fine evening, I’m reminded of a line once spoken by one of my other most favorite fictional characters, John Crichton: “I love hangin’ with you, man.”
I know that I should find your shallow choice in wives disturbing, and the way you wind up both your wife and daughters, torturing them by dangling what they want in front of them, and only giving it to them once they believe they’ll never have it is sort of patronizing, but I just like you so much. I like the way you choose to find humor in your silly and ignorant relations instead of becoming angry and depressed. I love the way you love Elizabeth. It cracks me the hell up how you keep insisting that Wickham is your favorite son-in-law, just exactly because he is so useless.
You’re a glass half full kind of guy, and I like ya.
Honey baby child, the piano . . . it ain’t your calling. Perhaps you can take up painting instead? Embroidery? Uh, haberdashery? Horseback riding?
You know, if you were alive today instead of Regency England, you’d probably be a knitter with cats, or maybe a gamer shut-in. Maybe you could have found yourself another gamer shut-in to marry, or maybe you’d be a self-identified ace. Who knows!
But as is, it’s a good thing you had not one but two older sisters who married wealthy so that you could continue to do whatever the hell it is you do for as long as you choose to do it. Other weirdo young ladies in similar situations I’m sure were not as lucky.
You’re a sweet guy and all but, like, grow a spine. You know what I’m not even mad, because this is you:
Dear Mr. Collins,
Dude, I feel like it might be too late for you because you are thoroughly ridiculous, and it seems to be baked in. I think I’m just going to pull a Mr. Bennet and allow myself to be quietly amused by your pomposity and utter inability to correctly judge the world around you. (You like Lady Catherine? Really?? I think this is probably more a case of you judging people based entirely on their status and outside markers rather than who they actually are, which is the same reason you couldn’t even realize that Elizabeth was actually responding with a real ‘No’ to your marriage proposal, not once, not twice, but THREE FRICKIN’ TIMES.)
Actually, you’re a key part of the narrative, so at least pat yourself on the back for that. You perfectly represent, in exaggerated form of course, exactly the type of attitude Austen was so clearly interested in satirizing. The book wouldn’t be the same without you.
Unsung heroine of this novel, you are. You are bright and kind and considerate of your friends. You were plain in a time when a woman’s value was entirely entwined with her potential to be a wife, and her potential to be a wife dependent on her beauty and wealth. If the hapless Mr. Collins hadn’t come along, you might have continued on into spinsterhood, secure only in the knowledge that you would be more and more of a burden to your parents, and after they were gone, whatever family you had left who might take you in. And if you had none of them? Who even knows.
And despite all of that, you remained positive and pragmatic, and thus were able to note and seize the opportunity for matrimony when it became available to you. I have no doubt you were the architect behind Mr. Collins transferring his affections from Lizzie to yourself, as opposed to one of her three remaining sisters.
Also, even though your best friend seriously judged you for marrying Mr. Collins, you kept your head and forgave her, because though she too is a woman in this world and subject to its whims, she also happens to be beautiful and the richest man in the story is completely in love with her. If only you, too, were that lucky.
And yet, I really don’t think you are jealous, which is in the end why I like you so much. You take your weird little husband and make do, and you find the bright side, which is that you who never thought you would be married, have your own home to run, and a safety and security you never imagined you would possess.
Dear Lady Catherine,
Elizabeth herself said it best. I can do no better:
“And I certainly never shall give [a promise not to marry Mr. Darcy]. I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your ladyship wants Mr. Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you the wished-for promise make their marriage at all more probable? Supposing him to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept his hand make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous as the application was ill-judged. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs, I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.”
“You can now have nothing farther to say . . . You have insulted me in every possible method. I must beg to return to the house.”
“Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude . . . have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment’s concern — and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn.”
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner,
Just writing to ask if you guys want to hang one weekend or something. I don’t know, go up to lake country, get a tour of a winery, ride horses. What do you guys do all day anyway? Whatevs. You seem like cool people, and you play a huge part in getting Darcy and Elizabeth to accept one another, so I feel like I owe you one.
Do you like mini-golf? Let’s play mini-golf.
I feel like you and Elizabeth are best friends now. You’re best friends now, right? Please tell me you’re best friends.
Don’t tell me if you’re not best friends.
Dear Louisa Hurst,
Nobody remembers you exist. I forgot while I was typing this.
Dear Mrs. Bennet,
You are proof that there is balance in the universe. You produced such two excellent daughters in the beginning there, two daughters you literally did not even have to educate or try at all for them to turn out amazing, and then after Mary was sort of a wash (like, just a completely neutral human being right there), when it came time for the last two daughters to pop out, all the atoms in existence felt it was only fair, and so you know: Kitty and Lydia happened.
I find this comforting.
In the book, you are entirely a representation of silly and thoughtless frivolity, and your actions almost cause real harm to your family. Most of the film representations are faithful to that idea of your character. Jena Malone does a particularly good job of it in the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadyen. But my favorite version of your character is actually the Lydia Bennet in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which manages to keep the core of that silliness and frivolity all the while turning you into a fully realized, human character. It sort of betrays the idea of your character as a condemnation of the celebration of ignorance. But it still works, because much like the way she judges Mr. Darcy, LBD has Lizzie realize she’s been judging her little sister as well, even though it still allows room for you to be flawed. But I like that it actually lets you grow as a character, which your role in the book doesn’t really allow for.
(Satirical representations aren’t allowed to be real people.)
(Sorry if this is the first time you’re hearing about you being a fictional character and all, but a little identity crisis might actually be good for you.)
You are such an example of optimism and selfless thought and action, I’m not sure why it’s only now as I’m typing you this letter that I realize you’re pretty much Lydia’s foil. And even if that’s the case, I like that your creator doesn’t let you get away with being portrayed as some kind of perfect angel. It’s not as simple as Lydia-Bad, Jane-Good. In fact, it’s your trusting and open nature–treating all the same and loving equally, even if not deserved–that allows for Bingley to believe Mr. Darcy (and indeed, for Mr. Darcy to believe in the first place) when he says that you hold no real regard for him.
Your reticence and tendency to keep your feelings to yourself are certainly flaws, but they’re not exactly flaws one can condemn, which I think makes you an even more interesting character. Unthinking trust can be as hurtful as unthinking selfishness in the right circumstances. Your personality also contrasts nicely with Elizabeth’s, in that her tendency to pass judgment is only made to seem more extreme when in comparison to your inability to do so. It also makes her feel protective of you, and I do love good sisterly love in my fiction.
I do think Mr. Bennet is right, though. Your servants are going to rob you and Bingley blind. I hope there’s someone there to protect you two dingleberries from yourselves.
Get it, girl.
Dear Mr. Darcy,
You magnificent bastard. I have such complicated and intense feelings for you. Basically, you’re the reason this is my favorite of Miss Austen’s novels, and not for the reason that most people probably expect.
Most people probably expect me to say that I love you so deeply because you are so romantic and beautiful and how dreamy. And yes, that is a part of it. Your strong feelings for Elizabeth, even at the height of your foolish behavior, are extremely attractive to me. And afterwards, when you’ve had time to think things over and start treating other people like human beings, your behavior is out of control sexy. The way you restrain yourself even though your feelings haven’t changed, in fact they have only grown stronger, because you don’t believe that hers have. The way that you go out of your way to make people feel good about themselves. Actually smiling. Doing good deeds so huge they’re almost inappropriate, solely because of love, and without hope that anyone will ever know about it. Showing that you are capable of thoughtful reflection, and that you are able to change and admit when you are wrong.
Yes, all of those things are beautiful and I would marry you in a heartbeat, thank you for asking.
But what really draws me to you is not a romantic ideal, but that I see a lot of myself in you. I don’t idealize you, I identify with you.
I can’t even tell you how many people have told me that when they first met me, they thought I hated them. So many people. Many of them my close friends now, who are only my close friends now because of extended periods of time spent together out of both of our control. I cannot talk to most new people. I mean, I can. But when it happens, the conversation is empty, and I am so uncomfortable I know it must show on my face. I just have nothing to say to most people I don’t know, unless they happen to share one of my nerdy obsessions, and then we have an in. But most people are not nerds, unfortunately, so this doesn’t happen often in my everyday life. And my complete awkwardness and inability to connect is then interpreted variously. I’m assuming quite a lot of people have used the word “bitch” to describe me . . . which, if you know me at all, that is like the most hilarious thing you could ever call me. My awkward, stony-faced silences don’t give most people any clue as to what’s going on up in there.
So when I read about you and all the horrible, awkward, things you say to people (when you bother to say anything at all), I just can’t help but see your side of it. (Why do people like dancing? Why?) A part of me inside reaches out to you, like, I get you, dude. Even though I know that you’re also a jerk there at the beginning, assuming you’re better than everyone, because you were never taught to be kind instead of proud. But a lot of what everyone perceives as snobbery is just you feeling hella uncomfortable, you beautiful awkward man. But once people are in with you, they are in.
Actually, no matter how strongly I feel about you, it’s probably good that you have Elizabeth. She’ll call you on your shit, make you a better person. We would just end up reinforcing each other’s terrible behavior.
Oh my god, though, wouldn’t it be a glorious trainwreck.