A Love Letter to Elizabeth Bennet:
(Images taken from grande_caps)
(Images taken from grande_caps)
This is my post for the awesome Literary Ladies We Love: A Celebration of Women in Literature. I was lucky enough to pick the lovely Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite characters in literature, and this is me talking about how she's basically the coolest lady ever.
(I ask you to excuse my coloring skills; I have only recently acquired Photoshop, and I haven't have that much practice.)
(I chose to use Jennifer Ehle’s portrayal from the 1995 mini-series, since she’s not only my favorite Lizzy, but it’s also my favorite Pride and Prejudice (and I also have a suspicion that her smile could cure cancer). That is not of course to say I haven’t loved the others portrayals of her, because I have. I thought Keira Knightley’s performance was stellar and brought something very new to the character. Aishwarya Rai’s Lizzy, from the Bollywood film Bride and Prejudice was actually my first introduction to the character, and remains a favorite in my mind. And I think that Ashley Clements, from the web-series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, has been doing a great job doing a Lizzy who is both modern and true to the character.)
A part of me finds it really hard to talk about Lizzy, just because she’s a favorite of so many and has been overanalyzed for years. People love her, usually more than any other heroine, and it’s not surprising. Lizzy has this quality about her that makes her almost pop whenever you read or watch her. She is witty and smart, but also greatly faulted, in a way that I think is very original and not something you find in fiction all that often.
While I love all of Austen’s heroines, there’s something about Lizzy that is incredibly… unique? Not better or worse, just very different from anything else in literature. (Well, it might not seem that way today, since she’s had such an influence on fiction, but I do think Lizzy’s personality as a concept is pretty unique). Outside of Austen, I do think it’s very rare to have a female protagonist who is likable within the story but not preachy. For example, Katniss from The Hunger Games is a likeable character because she is complex and not black-and-white. She cares about her family, but she also has kind of terrible social skills and doesn’t always understand when others are being nice to her. When we read the books, we don’t always sympathize with her, because she sometimes does things that we don’t agree with, and that makes her interesting. But while she is a fascinating character who I like, it doesn’t mean I’d want to be friends with her. (This is the same idea behind liking a villain; just because you like them as a character doesn’t mean you’d want to hang out.) In contrast, Cinderella (let’s say from the Disney movie) is a conventionally nice person, who cares about others and puts up with shit, but she isn’t necessarily real. No one is that nice, or if they are they aren’t that nice all the time (ex. Queen Leslie Knope, Jane Bennet). If you were to meet Cinderella in real life, you might like her for being a good person, but as a character she leaves a lot to be desired.
I feel like Lizzy falls somewhere in between. You read the story and you like her, not just as a character but as a person. She is loving and cares and feels angry when good people get pushed around, but is also incredibly frustrating. From the beginning of the novel till little more than half-way through, she lets her original prejudices about Darcy dictate how she perceives him. She refuses to believe he’s just awkward and decides that he must be out to embarrass her. When Wickham tells her his story, she is quick to believe and make excuses for him. Of course, Darcy is kind of a dick at some points, first when he snubs Lizzy at the ball, but specifically when he manipulates Bingley into leaving Jane (and his entire proposal, which is fill with assholery), but his reasoning is not without merit, even if it doesn’t excuse him. His pride is a major fault, but her prejudice doesn’t help. That’s actually one of my favorite things about the novel; they are both the reason things start off so bad. It’s not as though one of them is perfect and the other fucks up; they both have big problems and faults, and it is not until they can admit it that things start to move in the right direction.
When we read or watch or experience Pride and Prejudice, we want Lizzy and Darcy to end up together, despite their faults. And even though we know Lizzy is wrong in hating Darcy, we still love her. She is smart and witty and savvy, all not only good attributes but also things that were not encouraged in young ladies at the time. She is nice but not preachy, classy but not pretentious, loving but capable of seeing the faults of those she cares for. And what really makes her so special is that she does have faults, and big ones. She not just some perfect, causal cool person; she feels like a real person, and that’s what makes her so awesome.
Basically, Lizzy’s the girl we all wish we could be, or were friends with. I’m sure someone will read this and go all Joe Biden, i.e. that’s malarkey, but we all know it is true in our hearts. Lizzy is the coolest girl at the party. She makes quips about all the right people and respects those who deserve it (well, excusing all those times she totally trash the guy she’s end up marrying, but I think we all know at the time he deserved it a little bit). Her witty personality doesn’t stop her from caring very deeply about her family (specifically Jane and her dad). And the fact that she is not perfect and has very large faults only makes the audience enjoy her more.
And so ends my giant love letter to Elizabeth Bennet. She is one awesome lady, and it’s not surprising that everyone loves her so much. I know I do.
Everyone remember to check out Literary Ladies We Love: A Celebration of Women in Literature this Sunday when a masterlist of everyone's posts will be made.
Current Mood: anxious