Tuesday, 20 October 2009

November is National Novel Writing Month

Well, it  looks like things haven't changed that much in two hundred years. You've named most of the characters in Pride and Prejudice as people you could come across today! No one mentioned Mr Collins, I noticed.

The end of November is coming closer, as is the time for the draw. I really can't believe how quickly this month has passed! As a reminder, for copyright reasons, the contest is open only to those in the US and Canada. I'm looking forward especially to seeing who the lucky person is who is going to win that Grand Prize!

At the moment I'm gearing up for National Novel Writing month, a misnomer of course because it's pretty international. NaNoWriteMo, if you haven't heard of it, is a frantic month of writing in which your goal is to produce a 50,000 word novel by the end of November, and is a wonderful goal setting exercise. This will be my third year doing it. I haven't done anything with the "novels" I wrote during this month, but I've used the time to experiment, and to play about with genres that are different from my own, and it's been very useful that way. It's also a wonderful excercise in letting go of my critical self and just letting my creative part take over. It's also a great time to communicate with other writers who are doing the same thing, and to share goals, frustrations, and surprises.

My usual style of writing is very organized. I plan a great deal beforehand, and I write very clear outlines that get updated continuously along the way. In NaNoWrite I do no planning. I just scribble frantically, and let the ideas flow. This year I have a clearer idea about what I want to write, but I haven't outlined because that would spoil the whole thing. I can't wait to start!

But I digress. I'm sure you're much more interested in what's coming up, so here's the question for today:

Pride and Prejudice Question 20:


What role does Mrs Bennet play in the novel? Do you think she deserves any credit for bringing the couples together? Is she actually successful at the central interest of her life, marrying off her daughters?

7 comments:

  1. My initial reaction to the question is to instantly think Mrs. Bennet is horrible at setting her daughters up! She is overly persistent, and the way she gossips and brags about herself and her daughters publicly is an embarrassment. It is because of Mrs Bennet's behavior that Darcy convinces Bingley to forget about Jane! (of course the younger daughters and even at times, Mr Bennet, are improper but I'd say Mrs B is the worst)

    ... Then again, if Mrs Bennet hadn't been her own hysterical self, none of the outcomes of the novel would have happened! She wouldn't have urged Jane to go after Bingley. Elizabeth would not have gotten to know Darcy, they wouldn't have argued or then fallen in love. Darcy wouldn't have saved Lydia because he probably wouldn't have been very close to the family, and so on....whew

    Basically, Mrs Bennet is at the root of all the happenings in the novel! And eventually, she IS successful in marrying off her daughters.

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  2. Well said Lindsey! Mrs. Bennett was indeed the catalyst, but I believe that everyone got married in spite of her meddling! Jane and Bingley were ultimately driven apart by her obnoxious manner, and Lydia ran off with Wickham due to Mrs. Bennett's failure in bringing Lydia up properly. It was Elizabeth's striving to be so unlike her mother that saved the day! If Darcy hadn't seen beyond Mrs. Bennett's crude ways and come to cherish Elizabeth, I don't believe any of the Bennett girls would have married. Lydia's rash behaviour would have ruined them all!

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  3. I agree with Lyndsey and Jeannette that Mrs. Bennet is due some credit for her daughters prosperous marriages, but certainly not all.

    No, I don't think she is very good at marrying her daughters off or matchmaking. She has good intentions, but she doesn't seem to care about her daughters having a happy marriage, especially when she advocates that Lizzy marry Mr. Collins. I think she got very lucky with Jane and Elizabeth marrying so well, if it was up to her, Lizzy would have married Mr. Collins.

    In the novel though, I feel Mrs. Bennet is a comic relief. I know P&P isn't a serious novel, but Mrs. Bennet as a character and in her dialogues adds humor, absurdity, and lightness to the novel.

    On a side note, Jane Austen's mother experienced a lot of health maladies and supposedly suffered from hypochondria. Perhaps Mrs. Bennet resembles Austen's own mother a little with her "poor nerves."

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  4. Great responses so far!

    I agree that I like to believe that Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy would have married, regardless of Mrs. Bennet's actions. She is certainly central to the importance of marriage but it seems her inactions had more to do with it than her direct actions. Such as Lydia's elopement with Wickham - - due primarily to Mrs. Bennet (and Mr. Bennet) allowing Lydia to run free without proper supervision. And had Mr. Collins shown up before Bingley did, I do not doubt that she would have encouraged Jane to marry him to "save" the family.

    I also think that in Mrs. Bennet's eyes it was important for her daughters to marry (and hopefully marry well) because there were no Bennet sons to take over Longbourne and essentially care for Mrs. Bennet, should something happen to Mrs. Bennet. If none of the Bennet girls had married and Mr. Bennet was not there, I imagine that Mrs. Bennet and her daughters would have to rely on the kindness of the Gardiners.

    So Mrs. Bennet's interests, to a degree, are self-serving. And I also think she wanted her daughters to marry well so that she could have bragging rights. Look at how quickly she informed the other ladies in Meryton how attached Bingley was to Jane and how much Bingley got a year. Love and even friendship was very much secondary to whatever station Jane was marrying into.

    I wonder if Elizabeth's refusal of Mr. Collins was not only that she wanted to enter the married state due solely to love but also to spite her mother. She did seem to find her mother somewhat of a ridiculous creature and she really seemed nothing like her mother. I wonder what Elizabeth would have done had Mr. Bennet encouraged her to marry Mr. Collins?

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  5. Everyone has great answers so far! My answer is bascially the same as what has been stated previously.

    I think that Mrs. Bennet provides comic relief to the novel, but she also has some serious points. She is the undercover heroine. Mr. Bennet doesn't seem to care about what happens to his family after his demise, while it is Mrs. Bennet's sole focus. It is not only herself that would be on the street, but her five daughters if something happened to Mr. Bennet. There were very limited options for a woman with no income and no husband, father, or brother at that time.

    While Mrs. Bennet had herioc intentions to marry her daughters off, she was only partially successful. She did put Jane and Elizabeth in the path of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy and kept the focus on them (such as sending Jane to Netherfield on the horse), but her personality was also a liability that luckily the gentlemen were able to overcome.

    I love Mrs. Bennet, she is annoying, but so funny!

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  6. As everyone has mentioned, what would the novel be without Mrs. Bennet? She really took her job very seriously because in that day having a daughter marry "well" was the most important job of all mothers. Even Lady Catherine tried her best in marrying Anne off. Almost all period novels have this central theme.

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  7. Mrs Bennet definitely brings a lot of humour to the novel. I think that she is successful in her goal to get her daughters to fine marriages even though I think that she did not really do that much work to it. She just made things more complicated, especially with Jane and Mr Bingley.

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