Mrs. and Mr. Bennet : Parenting in Pride and Prejudice

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A thorough second reading of Pride and Prejudice compels the reader to view the novel with a different perspective. Besides being a novel of courtship and romance, it focuses on decorum of conduct. Pride and Prejudice is about consequences. Jane Austen introduces her characters to the reader through simple conversations, refraining from authorial comments and physical descriptions to bring out their personalities. This shows her general disposition of not letting appearances affect her moral choice. Through her varied characters, she not only entertains her reader but also makes a point, without preaching. The novel begins with a conversation between Mrs. And Mr. Bennet. At once we are introduced to a couple whose banters are distressingly amusing, half parts witty and half parts inane. Mrs. Bennet fails to catch her husband’s sarcasm and the ill-treatment he metes out to her ‘poor nerves’. Mr. Bennet is aware of her feelings but he is not interested in her constant raptures and worries. Their weak understanding is the consequence of a marriage based on superficial factors like appearance and sexual chemistry. As a result, their parenting lacks wisdom and Jane Austen brings to light the upshots of such a marriage through various social means. When dealing with five children, it is only natural to have favorites among them. But good parenting is one where you keep it to yourself rather than avowing your views in front of the less favored siblings. In case of the Bennets, their bias is critical. And their open criticism of their less favored daughters does them no good. Mr. Bennet’s calling his two youngest daughters ‘uncommonly foolish’ and ‘the silliest girls in the country’ evokes only a sense of incredulity in Mrs. Bennet whereas Lydia is least affected by her father’s contempt. Her mother takes her side rather than seeing the point her husband is trying to make. As a result, Mr. Bennet’s contempt for Lydia has no effect on her as she continues to express her...
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