One of the best admired of Jane Austen’s heroines is arguably Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth is an intelligent, witty woman who does not necessarily take things too seriously. Generally she is good natured and doesn’t offend easily, though Mr. Darcy’s behavior paired with the misinformation of gossip leads her to dislike him quite unapologetically for the beginning of the story. Additionally Elizabeth holds herself to a code of behavior that is the established etiquette of the time, which dictates how introductions are made, how one conducts themselves in company, and provides the basis of many judgments about others.
In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Elizabeth Bennet takes on another layer of complexity with her warrior’s code in addition to the etiquette she is expected to adhere. At times the warrior’s code supersedes the etiquette and unfavorable comments are made regarding Elizabeth by others. She also seems more easily offended as a result of her warrior’s code. Still many humorous moments are created with the blending of these two, at times, conflicting codes.
When One Must Yield to Modesty
In dangerous times with corpses crawling from the earth to feast upon the living, it is very necessary for one to travel with armed men or a weapon of one’s own. However, a skilled female warrior must find a balance to be “as ferocious as she is fetching.” This means that weapons considered unladylike to carry about in the open are sometimes left behind in favor of the more discrete dagger, which can easily be concealed beneath layers of skirts, though only a lady skilled in the deadly arts can draw it without revealing anything indecent. The curious use of a modesty string applied to one’s dress can allow for a lady to demonstrate her finger strength in hand stands without worry of her skirts falling over her head.
When One Must Choose
Elizabeth herself notes how challenging it is to be a lady and a warrior in a conversation on the subject while at Netherfield.
“In my experience, a woman is either highly trained or highly refined. One cannot afford the luxury of both in such times. As for my sisters and I, our dear father thought it best that we give less of our time to books and music, and more to protecting ourselves from the sorry stricken.”
This opinion is particularly offensive to the other ladies (Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley) present who claim they each know many women who are both, earning them the title of accomplished. It is obvious that neither offended woman can claim accomplishment, but seem to believe that asserting their knowledge of such women is enough to prove their claim.
Can a woman or even a man be equal parts highly trained and highly refined? Is it necessary to choose one over the other?
*Photo: Women at war 1 by Steve Punter, obtained through Flickr.