Posted by Sandy on November 19, 1997 at 20:35:11:
In response to The enigmatic Mr. Bennet, written by Mark on November 19, 1997 at 13:19:47
] I was reading the second chapter and was struck once again by the cruelty Mr. Bennet displays at times. Witness the following exchange:
The girls stared at their father. Mrs. Bennet said only, ``Nonsense, nonsense!''
] ``What can be the meaning of that emphatic exclamation?'' cried he. ``Do you consider the forms of introduction, and the stress that is laid on them, as nonsense? I cannot quite agree with you there. What say you, Mary? for you are a young lady of deep reflection I know, and read great books, and make extracts.''
] Mary wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how.
] ``While Mary is adjusting her ideas,'' he continued, ``let us return to Mr. Bingley.''
] Here we see him putting Mary on the spot, asking her to say something sensible about a subject that makes no sense. Notice that not even Jane or Elizabeth can make sense of it. When Mary is left speachless, he snidely moves on. That is not being witty. That's just being plain cruel.
] This side of Mr. Bennet was brought out much better in P&P1 than P&P2, IMO. P&P2 barely showed it, which is too bad.
I'm not sure what you mean by P&P1 and P&P2, being new to Pemberley. However, from the version I saw on Masterpiece Theatre -- would that be P&P2?-- I got the impression that he loved his daughters but was detached from all but Elizabeth. He never struck me as cruel but as a humorous character. That's evident in his discussion of Mrs. Bennet's nerves. He was detached because of spending 20 years with a very silly woman. He seemed to me to be making a joke. I see your point, though. If a father today would talk to his daughter like that it would be thought of as cruel. If Jane Austen had shown us that Mary was hurt, I probably would have thought him cruel. Jane Austen was, I think, very accomplished at producing empathy in her readers, but I think Jane Austen did not think Mr. Bennet cruel.
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