Justice in July- The Independence of Jane Bennet

William_Blake_Mrs_Q_1820_engraving_after_Francois_Huet_Villiers_The_British_Museum
In an 1813 letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane Austen says she recently saw a portrait that was a good likeness of how she envisioned Jane Bennet. It has been suggested this portrait (Mrs. Q by François Huet-Villiers) was the one she had in mind.

In January, I examined Jane Fairfax and Jane Bennet. In the series, I argued that both Janes had inconstant lovers, a reputation as Miss Perfect, and secondary heroines. This week, I want to specifically consider Jane Bennet.

I have two anticipated releases for this month. Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride contains Jane, of course. The inciting moment of conflict happens when Elizabeth reads a letter from Jane about Bingley giving her a cut direct in a shop. More on that story later (currently posting!). My other book is called Kissed by a Lord and is a rewriting of Jane and Bingley from A Sense of Obligation–in which Bingley and Jane quickly fall in love and anticipate their vows.

One of the primary conflicts in Pride and Prejudice revolves around the question of Jane’s desire for a love match or willingness for a marriage of convenience. Of course, Elizabeth as a sister knows Jane is in love with Bingley. Darcy, somewhat understandably, believed Jane too cold-hearted to fall in love so fast. The irony is that Darcy, in turn, is cold and aloof and falls just as fast for Elizabeth.

In Kissed by a Lord, I hone in on the question of Jane’s desires and run with it. The ultimate end point is the same as A Sense of Obligation. Jack and Eulalie anticipate their vows. The path for getting there is entirely different.

 

Jane-and-Mr-Bingley-pride-and-prejudice-couples-6970676-600-389
See the immediate smitten kitten. If only he treated her better!

 

Eulalie is not Jane. The Ashworths have twenty thousand pounds a piece and are orphans. She is a little older, does not believe in romantic love, and considers a marriage of convenience. She even approaches Jack about marriage first. However, her core beliefs are the same as Jane Bennet.

Eulalie feels deeply for her family. As the eldest sister, she worries about the younger ones. She has never had a selfish thought before approaching Jack about a mutually compatible marriage. Throughout the book, she displays her kind heart. Although sensitive and easily attuned to the emotions of others, she puts on a brave face for others. Despite internal and external conflict, she appears unflappable. These are all elements present when I write a Jane Bennet. To me, they’re crucial for staying in character–although, I will add that I don’t dislike out of character Janes or ones that have more depth and struggle with vanity and selflessness (everyone has a backstory).

 

I try to write my Jane Austen Fan Fiction with Austen’s original intent in mind. There’s romance and love. I use my obsession with research to sprinkle details throughout the story so that we would call it Historical Fiction. But, I also try to talk about the themes Jane Austen addressed. It’s what has made her a Classic and not just the mother of romance novels. My spin-off series does not have the Classic aspect. It is purely Historical Romance/Historical Fiction. Who, then, should a Jane Bennet–or her non-Classic cousin– wed?

I admit I have problems with Charles Bingley at times. Mr. Darcy gets all the blame for Bingley’s decisions. What if Bingley decided to stay at the house he rented? What if he did what he wanted to do, and believed right and/or harmless, rather than listening to Darcy and Caroline? What if he thought his friend and sister had suspicious motives for their advice? He would have to be an imbecile to not consider what Caroline’s motive was. What if he had a backbone? How does the story change for everyone? At the very least, Jane and Bingley probably marry earlier. More than likely, so do Darcy and Elizabeth.

However, does Jane deserve this? Does she deserve a man that can be talked out of loving her and then talked back into it? I suppose his feelings may never have wavered but his intentions sure did. I might feel more forgiving if he seemed to have learned anything in the process.

 

Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems' PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.
Say what you will about zombies with Jane Austen, but I love that it made Jane kick a**. 

 

In the grand scheme of things, Bingley’s actions propel Jane into an independence she seems to have not displayed before. She is not as outgoing or buoyant as Elizabeth, but it is there. She won’t be controlled by her mother or the people of the area and all their gossip or pitying looks. She won’t let Caroline Bingley trying to block her access to Bingley affect her. She won’t even let Elizabeth meddle and tries to write to her sister in the best of spirits. None of these things will gain her Bingley, but she makes a life without him. When he returns to Hertfordshire, she is in control of her feelings and actions. Instead, he looks to her for encouragement. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has turned into the less independent sister and places her happiness in Darcy’s hands and then waits for him to do something. Just as Marianne and Elinor had to adopt a bit of the other’s disposition, so do Jane and Elizabeth.

So, how can we vary the story with Jane still gaining her independence? Does she have to marry Bingley? In Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride, I write him what many would say is out of character. He leans on Darcy’s guidance and then Darcy is gone and he’s left to stumble through decisions on his own. I don’t want to give any spoilers but it looks pretty bleak for Jane and Bingley and she is soon courted by a duke.

 

lizzie-bennet-diaries-bing-and-jane-x-500
Finally, an adaptation that has Bingley grovel and admit to not knowing what on earth he’s doing with his life. 

 

In Kissed by a Lord, Eulalie establishes her independence early in the book. Her love interest must be compatible with that. Jack Crewe has a lot in common with Mr. Bingley. He’s been a dutiful son, brother, and friend. He’s been insecure and anxious to be liked. He’s never been expected to do much besides exist. As the younger son of a marquess, he has no responsibilities. However, unlike Bingley, he recognizes a tipping point in his life where he can let others dictate for him or he can seize his own destiny. And he fights so, so, so hard for it. Time and again, things arise to threaten his marriage to Eulalie but he’s not having it.

While I think Austen’s version of Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley work within the author’s greater themes, I think it leaves something to be desired as a twenty-first-century romance reader. Jane deserves justice. Mr. Darcy’s Bluestocking Bride and Kissed by a Lord are my attempts of giving it to her.

Kissed by a Lord pre-order link: Amazon

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