Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice would have rather been a penniless spinster relying on the charity of her relatives than to marry a man she didn’t love. How much more bad-ass can you get? Fully aware that she would be bored out of her mind embroidering cushions for the rest of her life, she preferred that to having to spend tedious evening after tedious evening with someone she couldn’t respect. A feminist in the documentary Forbidden love describes how so many people kept defining her behaviour as being deviant because of her sexual orientation. One day she just decided to go with it and thought “fine, I’m bad. But I’m a good bad because I’m smart.” I think I would put Lizzy Bennett in this same category because she understands that not many men would consider her intelligence to be an asset in being a “good wife.” Her financial circumstances also place her at a disadvantage. But she frankly does not care. She believes that she is a full-human being and interacts with her world boldly. She not only played the game but owned it. You know she’s boss when she married not just a wealthy man, but a “filthy rich” one as her mother would so tactfully put it. He was also beautiful. This is equivalent to her becoming a CEO in her time period when the only employment option for women of a certain standing was marriage. So, lets take a moment to give pause to this literary figure and the woman who brought her into existence.
We should all be so lucky to have more Elizabeth Bennetts in the world. I believe that the novel is still so well-loved because we hope that it could happen now. That you could transcend, class, racial and other lines that prevent so many partnerships from beginning. I once asked my late grandmother what she thought of my relationship. I did this because she used to tease me that she had some wealthy, educated and kind Burmese men who were “export quality.” She was joking but I did wonder if she had reservations about me getting involved with someone outside of my race. She replied that 40-50 years ago it just would not have happened. Even if we had feelings they would not be enough to endure the social and emotional hardships. People often forget that in the 50s inter-racial couples could not get married. It was against the law. Commonalities make everything easier and social interactions go more smoothly. Rationally, you can understand why relationships with those of a similar background would be alluring. But when many of us read this novel it’s not just romantic but it gives us hope for better days. Many of us want to see a future where we return to the humanity that joins us, for us to see through the socially constructed barriers.
In that historical context, Elizabeth Bennett’s wit will serve her well within Darcy’s circle but lets keep it real, she gets her credentials from what he thinks of her. His world is one that she never would have been able to attain on her own. But because he thinks so highly of her and is willing to overlook the huge divide in class, she is automatically placed at his level. Every reader will praise Elizabeth but Darcy is pretty bad-ass too.