Our October meeting featured a panel discussion where members passionately pled the cases of mothers in Austen’s novels and novellas, arguing which mothers were truly monstrous and which were actually misunderstood. Before diving into the panelists’ presentations, we listened as Meghan Adrian read excerpts from Pride and Prejudice featuring Caroline Bingley. Meghan pointed out Caroline’s tactic of distancing herself from feminine pursuits to attract male attention, using the term “pick me girl” to describe her behavior. Unfortunately for Caroline, her attempts were unsuccessful in capturing the heart of Mr. Darcy.
Our Panelists for the day:
Meghan Adrian on Lady Susan: A Case of BPD?
Meghan considered the idea that Lady Susan might have had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). While acknowledging the term “monster” to describe someone with a neurological disorder may be too harsh, it prompted contemplation on the complexities of Austen’s characters. That being said, Meghan chose to classify Lady Susan’s behaviour as more monstrous than misunderstood. Interesting fact: Lady Susan was not intended for publication.
Phyllis Ferguson Bottomer on Mrs. Bennet
Phyllis took the stage to discuss Mrs. Bennet, a character often maligned for her anxious demeanor. Phyllis suggested a reconsideration, urging the audience to delve into Mrs. Bennet’s backstory and the impact of Mr. Bennet’s attitude and treatment of her. In Phyllis’ opinion, Mrs. Bennet is misunderstood, not a monster.
Jean Brown’s Take on Lady Bertram
Jean offered a sympathetic review of Lady Bertram, asserting that things “could have been a lot worse.” Her perspective sheds light on the importance of understanding characters within the context of their circumstances, challenging the notion of Lady Bertram as a monstrous figure.
Barbara Phillips’ Examination of Mothers in Mansfield Park
Barbara explored the evolving attitudes towards mothers in Austen’s time, scrutinizing the mothers in Mansfield Park. Mrs. Price, Lady Bertram, and Mrs. Norris were dissected for their varying attributes. Barbara’s conclusion, however, was stark: none of these mothers were redeemable. Intriguingly, Mrs. Norris, portrayed as manipulative and self-serving, stood out as a true monster among them.
The Verdict: Monsters or Misunderstood?
As the discussion unfolded, it became evident that these mothers, whether deemed monsters or misunderstood, defy easy categorization. The panelists’ diverse perspectives underscored the richness of Austen’s characterizations.