In real life, someone will occasionally make a rude or cutting remark and, rather than immediately being able to put them in their place, I’ll be rendered speechless…left merely staring at them, stunned, my tongue unable to find the perfect retort.
It’s unclear whether, in real life, Jane Austen herself ever experienced that same feeling of muteness but, thanks to the wonders of fiction, we know that her finest characters did not. They were witty and clever and oh-so-fast with their conversational comebacks.
One of my favorites has always been the Lizzy/Lady Catherine de Bourgh scene in Pride and Prejudice (while they were walking in that “prettyish kind of little wilderness”). Her Ladyship volleys questions and demands at Lizzy, but the intelligent Bennet girl returns them with swift cunning and wit. And though Lady Catherine insults her by every possible method, presenting with arrogance and extreme lack of tact the familiar objection to Lizzy and Darcy’s potential courtship (namely the low connections of the Bennet family as compared to those of the Darcys), Lizzy keeps her head about her. She infuriates Darcy’s aunt by her composure and her unwillingness to be cornered. As a last-ditch effort, her Ladyship attempts to bully Lizzy into agreeing never to become engaged to Darcy, but our smart and spirited heroine pointedly refuses to make any promise of the kind.
Exasperated, Lady Catherine finally says, “You are then resolved to have him?”
To which Lizzy replies, “I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”
I will always love that line! Not only the fabulous comeback but, also, the show of personal strength and the sentiment behind the statement.
What’s a scene you loved from an Austen story (or from anywhere in the world of fiction) where you felt one character really gave a terrific retort? Did it leave you cheering? And are you good at snappy comebacks yourself or, like me, don’t think of the perfect response until hours (or days) later?
Have a great weekend, everyone!!