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Thread: Is Elizabeth Bennet a perfect heroine?

  1. #1

    Is Elizabeth Bennet a perfect heroine?

    People seem to dislike Emma almost as much as they like dearest Lizzie. Neither is perfect but that’s why I like them. A certain level of spitefulness is always endearing.

    “Pictures of perfection [in heroines] make me sick and wicked.” Jane Austen

    Her comment suggests that her heroines will not be ‘perfect’, in the sense that such perfect heroines are idealised images of female virtue. Austen’s heroines will each have her own measure of human failings, such as vanity or prejudice. In fact, the comment implies, perfect heroines are irritating to Austen (they make her ‘sick’). They even unleash a kind of spitefulness in her (they make her ‘wicked’), as if she wishes to expose the unreal and idealised examples of female characters in some contemporary fiction.

    None of us likes to admit that a person’s wealth is a hugely attractive. “I’d never marry for money,” my students proudly tell me. I would. It’s a better reason than most.

    On viewing the magnificence of the estate of Pemberley, Elizabeth reacts in what seems a very human way – she thinks of all that the material wealth she has turned down in refusing Darcy. Then she remembers that had she accepted his proposal, she would not be allowed to invite her Aunt and Uncle (because Darcy, she assumes, would be too proud to invite people who had made their wealth from business). Then Austen adds, “That was a lucky recollection – it saved her from something like regret.” So this display of wealth almost causes her momentarily to regret having turned down Darcy.

    A few paragraphs later, Elizabeth hears the housekeeper say, ‘“Miss Darcy is always down for the summer months.”’ Then Austen adds, ‘“Except,” thought Elizabeth, “when she goes to Ramsgate.” (This is a reference to the intended elopement with Wickham.) This is very spiteful of Elizabeth, which, for me, makes her all the more convincing and endearing as a character.

    Does anyone else like Lizzie because she can be a cow?

  2. #2
    Just another nerd RobinHood3000's Avatar
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    Oh, absolutely. One of the best things about Austen's approach to Elizabeth is that she sets her heroine up beautifully for a fall (her mistaken perception of Darcy) and makes her all the more human with subsequent recompense.
    Por una cabeza
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    Para qué vivir

  3. #3
    Nomad earthchild's Avatar
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    Elizabeth is in no way perfect, but that makes her the perfect character in my eyes. Even when she was not at her best behavior, she was wonderful. She made her share of mistakes and was "a cow", as Unnamable said, many times, but it all worked out for the best in the end, didn't it? You can most definitely relate to her character and that makes her all the more lovable!
    I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious!

  4. #4
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Is Elizabeth Bennet a perfect heroine?
    Of course, before we could answer this question we should take a moment or ten to discuss and decide what 'perfect' actually means (according to whom, when, why and how) and how a 'herione' is defined!
    Does anyone else like Lizzie because she can be a cow?
    And, dear members, please, please, please do pay attention to the way Elizabeth's 'humanly' qualities are labeled as 'cowishness'! Please notice how the language is used to control our thoughts and shape our impression of Elizabeth! And what happens if you say you like her because of her 'cowishness', how will that reflect on you?

    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
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  5. #5
    Super papayahed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Unnamable

    Does anyone else like Lizzie because she can be a cow?
    I've never heard that expression before, what do you mean by "cow"?
    Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda


  6. #6
    A cow is a graminivorous quadruped.

    I was being demotic. To call Elizabeth a ‘cow’ is to suggest that she is a rather spiteful female. The word was being used in an affectionate sense rather than to indicate that she is either malicious or despicable. I like the element of spitefulness in her.

  7. #7
    Super papayahed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Unnamable
    A cow is a graminivorous quadruped.
    That doesn't make sense to call Elizabeth a graminivorous quadruped. While she may have eaten grass, grains, and seeds I'm pretty sure she didn't walk on all fours. Your Silly!!

    I was being demotic. To call Elizabeth a ‘cow’ is to suggest that she is a rather spiteful female. The word was being used in an affectionate sense rather than to indicate that she is either malicious or despicable. I like the element of spitefulness in her
    Thanks for the clarification I have never heard "cow" being applied in that manner or in any manner really except when it pertained to weight of course.
    Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda


  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by papayahed
    That doesn't make sense to call Elizabeth a graminivorous quadruped. While she may have eaten grass, grains, and seeds I'm pretty sure she didn't walk on all fours. Your Silly!!
    You obviously haven't read between the lines in the passages about Darcy. He's certainly not a boring missionary position man.

    Quote Originally Posted by papayahed
    Thanks for the clarification I have never heard "cow" being applied in that manner or in any manner really except when it pertained to weight of course.
    Yes, 'fat cow' is almost as common as 'silly cow'.

  9. #9
    Registered User jackyyyy's Avatar
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    I like her, and its human normal.

    She appears an 'upright cow' because 1. she turned him down in favour of her assumed moral ideal (and there was another slot machine about to pay out), and 2. she then self-righteously heckles Miss Darcy.

    Interestingly, back then people did not like wealth from business (despite it was business several generations earlier), and today we dislike inherited wealth. Either way, dirty and clean money depending on perspective, who has it at the time and who can proclaim it at the time. I'd never marry for money, but gold bullion, hmmm..
    Art is art.

  10. #10
    Super papayahed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Unnamable
    You obviously haven't read between the lines in the passages about Darcy. He's certainly not a boring missionary position man.
    You're right about that, I haven't really taken the time to read the book from that point of view, but it seems you have given it great consideration.
    Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda


  11. #11
    papayahed,
    Your response makes me wonder if you realised I was being a bit naughty (Elizabeth being on all fours to accommodate Darcy’s ‘preferences’). If you haven’t read the novel with an interest in such things, you are missing out on so much.

    To be serious for a moment, have you noticed that nowhere in Jane Austen do we get a passage of writing that consists exclusively of two men discussing their views of women (or anything else for that matter)? She wouldn’t have experienced such a conversation (unless she was an eavesdropper), so she felt unqualified to comment. Actually, I might be wrong about this but I can’t think of an example. I don't count that conversation between Wickham and Mr. Collins about the kind of breasts they most enjoy fondling because there is some doubt amongst Austen specialists as to its authenticity. Many think it was added later by a jealous Charlotte Bronte who was, if Branwell’s diary is to be believed, a right scrubber.

  12. #12
    Super papayahed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Unnamable
    To be serious for a moment, have you noticed that nowhere in Jane Austen do we get a passage of writing that consists exclusively of two men discussing their views of women (or anything else for that matter)? She wouldn’t have experienced such a conversation (unless she was an eavesdropper), so she felt unqualified to comment. Actually, I might be wrong about this but I can’t think of an example. I don't count that conversation between Wickham and Mr. Collins about the kind of breasts they most enjoy fondling because there is some doubt amongst Austen specialists as to its authenticity. Many think it was added later by a jealous Charlotte Bronte who was, if Branwell’s diary is to be believed, a right scrubber.

    Was that the edition published by harlequin?

    papayahed,
    Your response makes me wonder if you realised I was being a bit naughty (Elizabeth being on all fours to accommodate Darcy’s ‘preferences’). If you haven’t read the novel with an interest in such things, you are missing out on so much.
    No, I got it.
    Do, or do not. There is no try. - Yoda


  13. #13

    Elizabeth

    The narrative Voice is largley focalised through Elizabeth and thus Austen invites us to share the feelings of her heroine Elizabeth. Elizabeth is young, passionate and has a healthy disregard for Social convention. She believes Social constraints should be regarded with some contempt, especially in marriage - this is seen in her contrast with the rather obseqiouss character of Mr.Collins.

    Elizabeth also employs lots of irony both as a weapon to attack the stupidy and self importance of those like Collins and Lady Catherine but also as s toy to humour herself. However, it is also ironic that although she appears such a good character judge but fails to recognise her own Pride and Prejudice towards Darcy.

    She is a great character and has many fine attributes, but also goes through a huge learning curve and that process of learning is what, bgy the end, makes her the ultimate heroine.

  14. #14
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    Elizabeth Bennet is definitely the perfect heroine. She is such a courageous and unique young person for living in the 1800s, when everything was and had to be proper. She has amazing wit and knows how to get her point across. She seems to be powerful in a way. Whenever I felt discouraged or upset, I'd think of what Elizabeth would say and I would instantly feel like a superhero, like I could do anything. She makes me feel so confident and strong. In her time, when women were dainty and shy, Elizabeth was independent. She truly is my hero and the perfect heroine.

    Oh and what makes Lizzie a great heroine is that she isn't perfect she makes mistakes just like everybody else. That way you really feel like you relate to her.

  15. #15
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    No, Elizabeth is not perfect. All the perfect characters in Austen's novels (Miss Fairfax, Miss Bennet) are named Jane. How vain of her!

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