Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Response: A First Look at Chapter 1

I think you make a very nice point, Mr. M, about Mrs. Bennett's foremost concerns being the welfare of her daughters. I don't believe that she has in her mind her own social advancement when arranging matches for her daughters. We see her repeatedly emphasize to the girls that it is no pleasure for a woman her age to go into society, and that all she wants is to see them well-matched. While one could take this as Mrs. Bennett putting on a show for the world and secretly scheming to improve her own status, I do not believe that she possesses the depths required to put on much of a show about anything (an unkind assessment, perhaps, but not an unfounded one). Mrs. Bennett certainly wants to do her best as a mother, and believes that in order to do so one must marry one's daughters well.

But, then, we again come up against the question of what it means to marry your daughters well. Mrs. Bennett remarks at least once that there was a well-off soldier that she could have taken up with instead of the wry Mr. Bennett -- as you mentioned, she appears to believe that marrying well means marrying money. The frivolity with which Mrs. Bennett conducts herself in this first chapter and the objections which Mr. Bennett raises seem to be aimed towards discouraging us, the readers, from agreeing with Mrs. Bennett (although society certainly seems to have her back in this matter). The teasing which Mr. Bennett inflicts on Mrs. Bennett may serve as another warning to the reader: marrying for beauty (without considerations to intellect) is also ill-advised. Mr. Bennett isn't being cruel in playing dumb; instead, he is both exercising a means of coping with the inequalities between himself and his wife, and expressing his own thoughts and concerns about what makes a good marriage.

Here's another thought: in parrying Mrs. Bennett's requests, Mr. Bennett may also be attempting to assert his own will and beliefs in what I believe is a world ruled primarily by women: the world of visiting and news, a world in which matches are considered and made. I haven't really fleshed this out, and it might not have much relevance to the current line of discussion, but I think it could be good to keep in mind as we examine who decides what in the process of matchmaking and courtship.


I have packed up my copy of PNP for the move, but rest assured that I'll squirrel around for it the moment I get that box transferred. In the mean time, I'll give your questions another look and will eagerly anticipate your next post.

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