It so happens that while I was on vacation I discovered that my mobile phone had two books uploaded to it, one being Pride And Prejudice, so having nothing to do in the evenings, I decided to re-read it.
Of course, not only have I read the novel multiple times before, but also watched the famous TV series with Colin Firth I don't know how often. It was an interesting experience, though, to read it again at a more mature age than 20+.
Pride and Prejudice is perhaps the most famous work of Miss Austen, probably partly due to its inherent liberalism, which deserves a blog post of its own, so that there is hardly any need to tell or even to remind my readers what the story is all about. By now everyone knows, or at least have heard, about the romance between Elisabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy and the obstacles they have to overcome on their way to living happily ever after.
Even minor characters hardly need any introduction, and the general opinion concerning them is more or less fixed, so if one asks who is the villain of the story pretty much everybody will point to Mr Wickham, a reckless cad who refuses to pay his debts of honour and spends his time seducing young girls of fifteen. There is little to say in defence of his behaviour, so I'm not even going to try. Instead, I want to direct your attention to another character, who is hardly less responsible for the disaster which awaits the Bennet family in the end.
Let's look at the situation in the story from a pragmatic instead of a romantic point of view. What do we see? There are five Bennet girls who, though daughters of a gentleman, have virtually no dowry and after the death of their father will lose the roof over their heads as well, since their estate is entailed to Mr Collins. Their mother who is shown as vulgar and silly and constantly made fun of, realises the seriousness of the situation and does everything humanly possible to marry them off, while their father seems not to care at all.
By now you all must understand what I'm trying to say. Mr Bennet marries a rather poor and stupid girl who is also socially beneath him. When he finally realises she is stupid, instead of trying at least to raise the children well, he retreats into his library and lets his idiotic wife indulge and spoil the younger children as much as she wishes, without even trying to influence them in a more positive way or to teach them (especially Lydia) some rudimentary morals.
It's enough that his two eldest daughters are not total idiots, it seems. He doesn't even bother to hire a governess though he could perfectly well afford it, allowing the children to do pretty much what they wish. Elisabeth, a gentleman's daughter, can't ride a horse, for instance.
Mr Bennet has a considerable income, and since there is but 7 years difference between his youngest and his eldest daughter, he learns soon enough he will never have a son, yet does he try to save money to provide for his children after his death? Not a penny. Moreover, he actively undermines the efforts of the girls' mother to find suitable marriage partners for them, by refusing to curb the behaviour of his three younger daughters which brings the ridicule upon the whole family wherever they go.
Not to forget, that it's possibly his influence which persuades Elisabeth to get married only "out of great love" since in the end of the story, he actively tries to persuade her not to marry Darcy. The question of what would be his daughter's future otherwise seems to never enter his head.
And here I come to my next point. In the times when the novel was written, by law and custom, the father had all the authority in his family over his children and his wife, and yet he chose not exercise it, hoping that the things will turn out well in the end. They do, but only because the author's fantasy allows it. Pride And Prejudice has one of the most unrealistic endings in literature and films and next time I''ll write why.