Okay, so once upon a time, I fell in love with a movie character played by Keira Knightley. Well, it was probably actually Keira herself, but that is beyond the point. The point is that I have always wanted to read a classic romance novel, but never seemed to have time for it.
That’s right! This week, we are talking about Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
It is a classic novel that has been on my list for years! Yet, I could never find the time or the patience or the will to read it. So when I finished school and saw that this classic was on a table at Chapters as part of a ‘Buy 3 for $10,’ I swooped it up. Considering the narrative of the book, I almost wish there was some drama to the purchase, like it was the last one there, but nope. Just a simple book purchase by a woman who has been looking forward to reading this one for years.
And let me tell you; it did not disappoint.
Okay, so the first volume was a bit boring with the ‘everything is going so well, except for that jerk, Darcy’ bit. It did start to pick up when Mr. Collins arrived, mostly because he is so hilariously unaware of the strength of women surrounding him. He shows up and assumes that any one of the Bennet girls will be so happy to have a chance to marry him that he barely had to try and Mr. Bennet will gladly marry them off.
Of course, Jane is as good as taken, so she is out of the running. Then, in what can only be seen as either a ploy to get rid of Elizabeth or a complete misappropriation of faith in her, Mrs. Bennet turns his eye on her second eldest. Terrible decision really, but it makes for such enjoyment to read. This is when I started to consume the story in earnest.
I will say that I am generally impressed with how similar to the source material the 2005 film is.
Yes, I know this is a review of the book, but come on! Keira Knightley definitely played a part in my queer sexual awakening, so I’m talking about her if I get the chance.
There was moments that, as I was reading, I could practically picture the movie in my mind. Which makes the scene with Darcy’s love confession so much fun. In the movie, it takes place outside, in the rain, when Darcy finds Elizabeth on a walk. That’s what I was waiting for any time that Elizabeth went on a walk. Then suddenly, they are in the Collins’ sitting room and he is confessing everything. I was a bit shocked for a moment at the obvious dramatization of the movie, since thus far it had been mostly in line. Then again, that is what movies do.
So I could go on and on about the movie versus the book, but there is actually something else I want to touch on. It was something I didn’t really pick up on in the movie, but in the book, it stuck out to me.
Is Mary Bennet Queer?
Bear with me for a few moments because I am not kidding.
I’m not going to do a full character survey, mostly because any queerness is likely an unintentional consequence of Austen not fully rounding out Mary’s character. However, I would like to posit that it is completely possible that Mary is (A) a lesbian, (B) asexual, (C) both, or (D) some other variety of the LGBTQ* labels.
I should infinitely prefer a book.Mary Bennet, Pride and Prejudice, 205
This is basically her staple throughout the novel. Yes, a dance would be fun, but she would rather read, or sing, or play the piano.
Jane is shy, but extremely taken by Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth has high standards, refusing to settle down for the sake of it. And while Jane and Elizabeth are wooing Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy (unintentionally in the case of latter), Lydia and Kitty are essentially boy crazy. They want to wander into town to see the soldiers. They want the attention of men. They are not quiet or subtle about it.
Yet, where is Mary in this?
She is missing from the narrative of a search for a husband. She is only mentioned in relation to marriage when Mr. Bennet says to send anyone in who might be looking for Mary or Kitty’s hand in marriage after Elizabeth accepts Mr. Darcy. Hell, when Jane accepts Mr. Bingley’s proposal, this is the reaction of Mary and Kitty:
Mary petitioned for the use of the library at Netherfield; and Kitty begged very hard for a few balls there every winter.Pride and Prejudice, 315
Even at the very end of the novel, Mary is the only daughter left at home. We don’t even see Kitty get married or leave home, just a reference to her having a better chance since she spends time with Jane and Elizabeth in high society.
I am fully aware that there are plenty of reasons that Mary may have stayed at home after the rest of her sisters were married. Yet, there is some part of me that sees the quiet middle child, who does not really care for marriage or men, that makes me wonder.
Maybe I simply see myself in her as a woman who loves to read and was never into men.
So what do you think? Did Jane Austen unintentionally give her readers a queer character? Am I reading too much into it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.