Jane Bennet: The Human Equivalent of a Really Good Vanilla Scoop of Ice Cream

A portrait of Mrs. Quentin by Jean Fran├žois-Marie Huet-Villiers, thought to be observed by Jane Austen as very like Jane Bennet

Ah, Jane Bennet. There’s a very harsh (but funny) way of characterizing certain heroines as TSTL (too stupid to live). In other words, they make dumb mistakes to move the plot along, rather than seem to behave like actual human beings.

Jane Bennet is certainly intelligent and self-possessed, but she has been criticized as being TNTBR (too nice to be real) and often seems to exist mainly as a foil to her sparkier and more relatable, though less pretty sister. Austen herself was clearly very fond of her Jane Bennet character, even “casting” the subject of the above-cited painting at an exhibition to be very like her fictional Jane.

Austen’s comments are interesting not simply because they show the detail with which she thought about her characters, even when she deemed such details unnecessary to be included in her books (such as Miss Bennet/Mrs. Bingley’s fondness for green), but also the fact that Mrs. Quentin was reported to be the despised Prince Regent’s mistress.

Of course, Jane Bennet would never commit such folly. In fact, the reason that Jane Bennet can never be a true Austen heroine, merely a side character (although fan fiction authors certainly disagree with me), is her lack of capacity to change. She is incapable of having underhanded motives herself, so she cannot assume other people do as well. Understanding the psychology of other, more complex, difficult, and nastier people is beyond her. “I do not at all comprehend her reason for wishing to be intimate with me; but if the same circumstances were to happen again, I am sure I should be deceived again,” she writes to her more quick-to-judge sister Elizabeth, of the duplicitous Miss Bingley’s behavior (Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 26).

If Jane Bennet were ice cream, this would be her flavor.

Jane Bennet, in other words, is just too nice to see things as they are, and is incapable of learning from her mistakes. Her father forecasts that she and her husband will be cheated by every servant they have dealings with at the end of the book. “You are each of you so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income.” (Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 55). She is kind, compliant, and for that reason, perhaps a teeny bit dull?

However, at least by the end of the novel she doesn’t have to worry about riding in the rain at the prompting of her mother to catch a man. Remember to follow current CDC guidelines at Netherfield if you do the same.

Note: Please follow CDC recommendations rather than Mrs. Bennet’s

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