In her novel, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen prominently presents interference in many guises. In fact, meddling is the dominant action that propels the plot. Incidents of meddling starkly portray many of the social and economic realities in Austen's world, realities quite different from our own. Yet, in portraying motivations from the selfish to the altruistic, Austen also uses interference as a litmus test of the intelligence and integrity of her characters - qualities valued equally in her time and our own.
Mrs. Bennet's role as an interfering mother is established from the opening scene. She declares that she is thinking of their new neighbor, Mr. Bingley, as a prospective husband for one of her five daughters.In her view, Mr. Bennet must pay his respects and establish an acquaintance with the wealthy and promising young man. We find it hilarious when she insists that her daughter Jane visit Mr. Bingley and his sisters on horseback, in the hope that the threatening weather will force her to spend the night at their Netherfield home.When Jane gets soaked and falls ill, we are amazed to find that Mrs. Bennet is thrilled. She maneuvers to make Jane stay on as long as possible, even refusing to send a carriage to fetch her home. Mrs. Bennet is a determined meddler. We are told, "The business of her life was to get her daughters married" (5).
Austen reinforces this point in Mrs. Bennet's subsequent dealings with daughters Elizabeth and Lydia. It would be preferable to sacrifice Elizabeth to the ridiculous Mr. Collins and Lydia to the ignoble Mr. Wickham rather than see them unmarried. She interferes out of pride. But she also does so out ...
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...ovel's final sentence acknowledges that the well-meaning interference of the Gardiners is responsible for "uniting" Elizabeth and Darcy (388). Austen's message is clear: interference is permissible, desirable and successful - when it is "kindly meant."
Auerbach, Nina. "Waiting Together: Pride and Prejudice." Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 336-348.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. R. W. Chapman. 3rd ed. Oxford: OUP, 1933-1969.
Harding, D. W. "Regulated Hatred: An Aspect in the Work of Jane Austen." Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 291-295.
Johnson, Claudia L. "Pride and Prejudice and the Pursuit of Happiness." Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 367-376.
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