Going back in time before Elizabeth and Jane meet any of our proper men of character, we are introduced to a few absurd men of caricature. These are the men who were cut, and glad we are to see them go. It is almost like the beginning of a bad joke. There was a baron, a captain, and a doctor…
This would be the lecherous fat man with enough money and power to be considered eccentric in polite circles, but is truly an arrogant cad. Even in polite circles it is only the dimmest or most naive who think of Lord Lumpley as eccentric, for the aristocracy he is supposed to belong to won’t have a thing to do with him, hence his living at Netherfield away from any society of true note. His belief in his own “verve, nerve, and skill” is at every turn demonstrated by his sickeningly obvious–and over the top–behavior unbecoming of a gentleman.
In fact, as a reader I vacillated between bafflement and outrage that Jane would be so inclined to ignore Lord Lumpley’s inappropriate behavior, especially with Elizabeth’s being so studious to notice and warn her sister of it. Lord Lumpley being cast as the absurdly stereotyped lecherous lord could have been laughable had his presence not been made to emphasize Jane Bennets over done naivety. (And I don’t even want to speak of her character destroying involvement in his demise.)
A veteran of The Troubles, still, Capt. Cannon is marked as cannon fodder from the moment he is wheeled into the story by his Limbs. Missing both arms and legs, leading a rag-tag motley bunch of men made soldiers should have signified just how dire the situation was for Capt. Cannon to have been activated because how a man in his condition could have retained active rank is a mystery beyond all comprehension. The two burly men assigned to act as his Limbs is also beyond belief as they are too well disciplined and if any extreme amputee had such attendants he’d have to be very wealthy or connected, neither of which Capt. Cannon seems to be.
But wait! There is more absurdity for the captain we learn was once the amour of Mrs. Bennet, and dares to woo her behind Mr. Bennet’s back with the assistance of his Limbs. Do we really believe that Mrs. Bennet could ever be distracted from her dogged mission to get her daughters married? Do we really believe that even with the history of old flames that she would be moved by Capt. Cannon’s advances? Do we really believe Mrs. Bennet secretly curious to entertain the idea of Capt. Cannon and his two attendant Limbs in the bed chamber? Hilarious, but I think not. Fortunately, we are not subjected to his survival.
This character is something of the absent-minded professor Frankenstein. Dr. Keckilpenny–whose name seems invented just to be mispronounce by every other character in the story–is meant to be the necrosis consultant, but what exactly that means his role is with Capt. Cannon’s unit he seems more interested in his pet project of the re-Anglification of the captured zombie he dubs Mr. Smith. All the while we are led to believe that this intelligent, yet idiotic, man appeals to our heroine Elizabeth Bennet. Predictably, Dr. Keckilpenny becomes infected by his re-Anglification project, and is beheaded for his trouble.
There are a couple of other men introduced that aren’t quite as stereotypically absurd, one of which we are left with a premonition of his returning to our story in future given the fact that Steven Hockensmith is also the author of Dreadfully Ever After, which is the next and last installment in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies trilogy.
A word to the ardent Austen fans: this book was obviously intended to be a humorous story, and would have succeeded had it not involved the characters first developed by Jane Austen.
What are your thoughts on the men presented in Dawn of the Dreadfuls? What about Mr. Bennet’s behavior as he interacts with these men? What about how our leading ladies behave with these men present?
*Photo: Et tu, Brute? by jonfeinstein, obtained through Flickr.