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|Over the Top Games
Written by Robbin
(4/19/2010 5:13 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, The Games Mr. Bennet Plays, penned by BarbaraB
I agree that so far Mr. Bennet’s skills in parenting are unimpressive. He obviously favors Lizzy above the others and is terribly insensitive to his youngest daughters particularly. I can’t approve his commenting on Mary’s inability to put together an answer to a simple question (2) or his informing Kitty & Lydia “you must be two of the silliest girls in the country. I have suspected it some time, but I am now convinced” (7). Lydia is unfazed but “Catherine was disconcerted” (7). It is rather heart-breaking to me in the picture of two young girls who apparently want their father’s approval. I also agree with your feelings about Mr. Bennet’s likeability. Mr. Bennet’s wit is amusing but is often at either his wife’s or a daughter’s expense and like Mrs. Weston sometimes I feel he “divert[s] me against my conscience” (E, 26). I feel there is almost always an element of likeability associated with humor and the ability to amuse others.
At this point (week two of the group read) it is clear Mr. Bennet manipulates news and events for the purpose of deriving amusement from his wife’s and daughter’s (his girls) reactions. He enjoys the bustle it creates, perhaps even the attention and it is perfectly in keeping with his character as “so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice…” (1). I think some of Mr. Bennet’s games are more over the top than others. I can think of three different instances of his keeping his own council against the curiosity of his girls in addition to refusing to give a good description of Bingley in Ch. 2. His “eluding” all their efforts in that instance suggests it is a game:
Not all that Mrs. Bennet, however, with the assistance of her five daughters, could ask on the subject was sufficient to draw from her husband any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley. They attacked him in various ways -- with barefaced questions, ingenious suppositions, and distant surmises; buthe eluded the skill of them all… (3)
In Ch. 7 Mr. Bennet refuses to answer for some minutes whether the horses are needed on the farm or can be used to pull the coach and Jane to Netherfield until dear Lizzy forces him to give an answer:
"I had much rather go in the coach."
Mr. Bennet is angling for entertainment again when he announces that he has “reason to expect an addition to our family party” (13) meaning Mr. Collins which of course none of his girls would ever suspect of so much impertinence:
"It is not Mr. Bingley," said her husband; "it is a person whom I never saw in the whole course of my life."
This roused a general astonishment; and he had the pleasure of being eagerly questioned by his wife and five daughters at once. -- After amusing himself some time with their curiosity, he thus explained -- (13)
In all three instances Mr. Bennet teases his girls’ curiosity for a bit of fun and these examples, in my opinion, are fairly harmless but I think his charade of refusing to visit Bingley (1 &2) and withholding the news when he did and then teasing Mrs. Bennet about the treasure she believes just out of her reach was not so harmless. This is more calculated, a plan from the start rather than taking advantage of the moment and it seems aimed specifically to discombobulate his wife. I think she arrives at her wits end and feels frustratingly powerless in a matter she believes so very important to the future of her daughters that she scolds Kitty as a way to relieve her feelings. Considering her temper something like this has probably happened before. Unfortunately for Mr. Bennet’s character he sees this quite clearly:
Mrs. Bennet deigned not to make any reply, but, unable to contain herself, began scolding one of her daughters.
However his purpose in the entire charade is met when he finally reveals his visit:
The astonishment of the ladies was just what he wished; that of Mrs. Bennet perhaps surpassing the rest; though, when the first tumult of joy was over, she began to declare that it was what she had expected all the while.
And he recognizes Kitty was scolded for no reason at all but that her mother was beside herself due of his machinations:
"…Now, Kitty, you may cough as much as you chuse," said Mr. Bennet; and, as he spoke, he left the room, fatigued with the raptures of his wife. (2)
Mr. Bennet walks away when the amusement looses its charm but I don’t think the fallout was worth it in this instant. (:D)
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