Pride and Prejudice and Mommies

Pride and Prejudice and Mommies

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Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet

This Sunday is Mother’s Day in the United States, a day that is filled with gratitude for some and guilt or sadness for others.

Though I’m blessed with a wonderful mother, my novels don’t reflect it. I learned early on that, especially when writing about young adults, an author can’t have a responsible and caring mother to help her characters the way my mother has helped me. Thus, some readers might assume that I have a less-than-wonderful mother.

Readers through the years may have made similar assumptions about Jane Austen, that perhaps her mother was like the tactless Mrs. Bennet, or maybe like the relatively passive but caring Mrs. Dashwood. Of course, Cassandra Leigh Austen, Jane’s mother, was completely different from any of these characters. Most accounts show that she matched her daughters in wit and intelligence.

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Julie Walters as Cassandra Leigh Austen in Becoming Jane.

Cassandra was from a higher class than her husband, and, from this, we can assume that she married for love. Most knew her to be a happy and busy mother, running a large household with economy and enjoying the company of her neighbors. She had common sense and a good sense of humor. With her family, she enjoyed reading books aloud and putting on plays. Most importantly, she and her husband gave Jane the freedom to pursue her own interests.

Cassandra Leigh Austen died about ten years after Jane, so she undoubtedly read all six of Jane’s novels, as well as her many unpublished works. I imagine that she got a kick out of Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and all the other mothers Jane depicted.

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Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan

I like to think Cassandra particularly enjoyed Jane’s early manuscripts, especially the hilarious Lady Susan, which depicts the most monstrous mother of all. If you’re feeling a little blue this Mother’s Day weekend, I invite you to come over to the Writer’s Block and sample a little of the sarcastic wit in Lady Susan. I guarantee it will make you feel better. Plus, it will prepare you for the new movie, Love and Friendship, which is based on Lady Susan.

Are you planning to see the movie this month? If you’ve already seen it, I’d love to know what you thought of it.

I’d also love for you to join us on the Writer’s Block for our future Read Along Wednesdays.

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10 Responses to Pride and Prejudice and Mommies

  1. A nice post. I agree with Jennifer. I love how Aunt Gardiner is brought out as a loving mother in many JAFF stories and as a mothering level headed aunt to Lizzy.

  2. Thinking about JA mommies, I would like to give a shout out to Aunt Gardiner. Though we don’t get a lot about her in P&P, we know that she was a caring woman who saw great worth in her two nieces. Many JAFF stories have expanded her loving, supportive role, which I really like. Jen Red ?

  3. Nice pitch, Rebecca! Love reflecting on Austen’s moms as well. I tend to think Jane’s relationship with her mother was a bit ticklish. My perception was that she favored Cassandra, but she certainly was not vapid or silly like many of the mom’s in her novels. It certainly provides great character conflict/development. Happy mother’s day!

  4. Happy Mother’s Day!!! I think mothers have the hardest, toughest job in the world and it is awesome that they have their very own day to be appreciated and praised. For those of you not in the U.S., we wish you a happy Mother’s Day also. We’re friends and you are important to this fan site.

    For some, it is bittersweet. They may have lost their mother, lost a child, are struggling to conceive, or are unable to have children of their own. I fall in two of those categories and struggle with Mother’s Day. However, anyone who has ever taken care of, had an influence on, worked with or taught [school, church, orphanage or institution], has been a mother figure to a child. That is an important role to fill.

    So, once again, to all mothers and mother figures, I will wish you a Very Happy Mother’s Day.

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