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Sunday, January 4

Jane Austen Character Throwdown

We deemed the Musgroves worthy of a visit on New Year's Eve, although many of you were not put off by Sir John Middleton's and Mrs. Jennings vulgarities. We often have more fun at a raucous gathering and relish our guilty pleasures.

This week we turn our thoughts back to Jane Austen's characters. I have often debated over which wife is sillier: Mrs. Bennet or Mrs. Palmer. Oh, I know Mrs. Bennet has become the standard bearer for silly wives everywhere, but I suspect this is because Pride and Prejudice is so popular. Mrs. Palmer's perpetual smiles and cheer coupled with a lack of common sense must grate on all who know her. So think long and hard before you vote for
Silliest Wife

Mrs. Palmer, Sense and Sensibility

Mrs. Jenning's younger daughter Charlotte is as silly and good-natured a woman as was ever devised by an author. Perpetually in a good mood, she has only kind words to say about all and sundry. The problem is, she cannot distinguish good from bad or silly from sensible. Married to a churlish man, she chooses to ignore the fact that Mr. Palmer has no interest whatsoever in her constant chatter or vapid observations, pretending that she consults him on all matters and that he finds her plans equally as important and fascinating as she. Of course, we all know better, as evinced by this masterful dialogue in Chapter 20, Volume 1 of S&S.


Mrs. Bennet, Pride and Prejudice

With five unmarried daughters, one can forgive Mrs. Bennet's hysteria in seeing that they are well-settled and married. Her husband's estate is entailed to Mr. Collins, who was spurned by Lizzy. Unless Mrs. Bennet can arrange to have at least one of her daughters comfortably established, she faces the specter of living in relative poverty after Mr. Bennet's death, turned out of her home, and dependent on only the income that 5,000 pounds can provide. (About 200 pounds per year.) In addition, Mr. Bennet ignores her and makes fun of her at her expense. As I grow longer in the tooth I see that Mrs. Bennet is as much to be pitied as not, and I feel for her predicament. Be that as it may, Mrs. Bennet overreacts to everything, suffers from spasms and the vapors at the slightest provocation, has vulgar tendencies, and possesses a spiteful bent to her nature (witness her reaction to the Lucas family after Charlotte agrees to marry Mr. Collins).

pollcode.com free polls
Jane Austen Character Throwdown: Silliest Wife
Mrs. Palmer Mrs. Bennet

6 comments:

sandyquill said...

I voted for Mrs. Palmer. Mrs. Bennet, for all her silliness and nerves, has a goal in life. I perceived none at all in Mrs. Palmer.

Christine said...

I voted for Mrs. Palmer mainly because of her husband's reaction to her ridiculous comments. He makes her seem all the sillier, while Mr. Bennet actually engages in conversation with his wife and at least pretends that her views are important.

Love this blog! Just discovered it. Thanks for the heads-up on Tess.

nigel said...

I have to agree with Sandy and Christine. Mrs Palmer is silly, Or is this just a sub plot by Austen to provide comic relief?

JaneGS said...

Mrs Bennet - while I can sympathize with her over her concern about getting her daughters married, she doesn't see how her actions nearly cost J&E the loves of their lives.

I see Mrs. P's silliness as a way of coping. My mother used to say that sometimes laughing is closer to crying than it appears. Mrs. P. laughes and is silly instead of cries.

Jean said...

I know Mrs. Bennet is silly, superficial and gossipy but I think she genuinely loves her daughters and just wants the very best for them. I think your poll is neat and your blog excellent.

Lynn said...

Mrs. Palmer, of course... rich, spoiled and yet silly as silly can be...no one can touch her !

Her own mother even makes sport at her expense and her character is meant, I think. as comic relief and as a commentary on the idle rich !

Love your blog...!