The Indubitable Miss Bingley

The Indubitable Miss Bingley

I have often wondered if in another situation Caroline and Elizabeth would have been friends, or if their different views of the world would make that impossible regardless of the circumstances.

Tell me that’s not a maternal face?

Caroline has a thing for Darcy, but I don’t really think she cares about him. I don’t think she cares about anyone, really. I doubt she sits around day dreaming that he’ll take her hand or kiss her or any of the things young women do when they have a crush. I doubt she’s imagined what their children will look like or what they’ll name those children. 

No, I think Caroline’s interest in Darcy is based on his position in society and his gorgeous home. The fact that he is intelligent and attractive – and she is no dummy herself – has to be a big bonus, but still not the real reason she’s in the game.

She dislikes Elizabeth vehemently after she realizes Darcy likes her so much. She didn’t care for the Bennets before, but it wasn’t personal. Then she begins to view Elizabeth as a poacher, a trespasser on her turf, and she goes on the defensive.

I can understand that. I have an attractive husband (it’s kind of ridiculous, really) and he gets more than his share of women looking his way. Luckily, he’s the oblivious type so he has no idea why women talk to him the way they do or make those pouty faces or blink like there’s something in their eyes, but that’s him. Darcy was well aware of the attention he was getting and would have to have been blind not to see that Caroline had set her cap at him.

group caroline
“Come on, Darcy! I’m not getting any younger.”

Was she embarrassed that he never proposed or asked to court her or behaved like a lover? I have read stories that have Darcy and Caroline having a prior sexual relationship, but that is not something I can really wrap my mind around. I don’t think she’d do it. She values herself too highly to lower her desirability in the marriage mart. So how does she feel as time marches on and he continues to be silent on the subject of a future together?

Does she feel herself getting older? Does she grow desperate? Is she angry at him, or only at rivals? Have there been other rivals before Elizabeth?

Chasing after a man can make a woman crazy. Especially when the man doesn’t get caught in the end. (Maybe then, too.)

So is she delusional? Does she imagine that the talks between them are more than what they are? Is she so happy in her little imaginary world that she has no clue about how others view her?

Miss Bingley is always fashionable.

She seems to me like a person completely wrapped up in herself and her goals. Ambitious.

Now, I have always admired ambition. In general, I think it is a good trait. But when the goal of one’s ambition involves other people, specifically marrying them and trading off their good name, it gets murky.

Is she a classic narcissist only looking out for herself, or is she a product of her raising?

Were most women of high society like that? Does she have a heart and is she capable of loving? If she is a true narcissist, then she likely isn’t.

We know not whether she has any actual affection for her brother, and her relationship with Louisa seems rather shallow.

bingley sisters
The sisters are very close. And the differences between them are very subtle. Hard to imagine why Louisa married first…

But maybe it isn’t. Maybe they are the best of friends and deeply care about each other. Or maybe each is simply convenient to the other and a responsibility that can’t be gotten away from.

Caroline is so two-dimensional in the book: she has one purpose – to become Mrs. Darcy and enjoy all that entails. But there must be at least a little something more to her. What is it?

If she were alive today, would that ambition have taken her into politics or business or law? Would she have been a force to be reckoned with or a role model for other women? Was she suffering the horrible fate of an intelligent woman in a society that neither wanted nor needed what she had to offer?

Is it power that she craves?

Caroline-Bingley- hat
I’d vote for that face. And that hat.

I’ll admit that I wonder about her a little bit, but not too much. She isn’t very likeable and therefore not someone I want to think about, but there has to be something else there.

What kind of man does she finally marry once Darcy is no longer an option?

How does she take to married life? Does she have children? How many? If she gets a son, is she one and done? Or is she more of the ‘five and alive’ variety? I confess I think that unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

What do you think? Would Caroline make a good wife? What kind of mother would she be?

Do tell!


37 Responses to The Indubitable Miss Bingley

  1. You asked a question about why Louisa married before Caroline. Maybe she already had Darcy in her sights, and he was the man for her. Maybe Louisa had to marry Hurst to avoid a scandal, or he was the man for her.

  2. Lovely analysis, Elizabeth. Whenever Caroline “appears” I hear the subtle notes from JAWS. I have had great fun in using her as a comic foil in my stories. She is the perfect over-the-top character.

  3. While I’d like to blame Caroline’s behavior on her youth, I don’t think she’s young enough to fall into that category. I like the novels where she comes to the realization she has wronged the people in her life and at least makes an effort to improve. We all know people who were bullies at some point in their life and most manage somehow to lessen that behavior as they age…my hope is the same for Caroline.

  4. I have had many of the same thoughts about Caro as you but never once have I ventured to examine how her ambition would play out in a more modern era. It’s an intriguing idea. Most of the modern variations I’ve read have inserted her into the tale as about the same degree of territorialism directed toward Darcy–or maybe a little worse. It’s true, though, that women have so many more options now than they did 200 years ago. I think she would still be a snob, but there would certainly be aspects of her that would be very different. She would certainly be a feminist. The fact that she wouldn’t necessarily need a man to be something in society changes the game in very substantial ways. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    • Yeah, I wonder if she would be a high-powered lawyer or fancy executive. The more I think about it, the more I think she craves power, not romance or sex or companionship, just status and power. I she can get those with no strings attached, I think she would do it.

  5. I always think of Caro as ultimately self-serving. I have enjoyed the books where she figures it out and becomes a better person for it, but the Caroline I always picture just moves on to the next eligible fellow. Darcy was everything she pictures herself as. Wealthy, gorgeous, elegant, well-connected, above the riff-raff, etc. Once he marries E, I would imagine she looks for someone who needs a beautiful wife and her dowry, perhaps even a desperate fellow with a title where she could have one son and never have to go through THAT again but be Lady X forever. LOL Nannies, shopping, committees, gossip, theater, offering to sponsor the Darcy’s untitled daughter and smirking behind her hand… You really should read The Three Colonels (LOVE it) and write the “Life after Darcy” story.

    • The Three Colonels is now on my reading list. And I made notes on the Life After Darcy story this morning before I lost the thought. 😉

      I agree about her likely going on to the next man and if she got a title and E didn’t, she would absolutely rub it in every chance she got. She wouldn’t be able to help herself.

  6. I do not think she would be a good mother, as a wife I could see her be with someone who is a lot like her personality wise.

  7. I think Caroline is totally self absorbed and desperate to get her hands on Pemberley and the prestige that goes with it. When she loses out to Elizabeth I think she will eventually accept someone who Charles picks when he can’t have her living in his home any more. If she has a child she will see him as a possession to be brought out occasionally. (you may have guessed that I don’t like her very much!)

  8. Great analysis, Elizabeth! Caroline’s one of those characters we love to hate, she’s so self-absorbed. I think she’d make a cool and collected society wife, but I can’t quite imagine her having an epiphany and falling genuinely in love, in a ‘life after Darcy’, she’s been selfish for too long. But as you say, stranger things have happened 🙂

  9. Jann Rowland recently wrote a book called An Unlikely Friendship where Caroline and Elizabeth become friends and she even tries to hook up Darcy and Lizzy. Of course she has a husband in that book and the Bingley’s grew up with the Darcy’s but it was a really good book. You should check it out.

  10. I like to think that, once Darcy married Elizabeth, Caroline realised she wasn’t actually heartbroken about the loss of him, and it made her re-evaluate things for herself I like to think that she married well, but at least had a little affection for her husband, and that becoming a mother would have shown her how strong an emotion real love can be when she held her baby in her arms for the first time. I hope that she mellowed and “forgave” Elizabeth for marrying Darcy, so that she could at least be civil in their company, as she would definitely be on a regular basis, given that her brother was Darcy’s best friend and also married to Elizabeth’s elder sister! I hope she didn’t get bitter, but found at least a little happiness.

  11. Caroline is one of those characters I enjoy despising. She’s not bad enough to warrant hatred, but she’s so self-serving and such a sycophant that she drives me batty. Although Mr. Collins is also sycophantic, he’s too stupid to merit anything but pity. Caroline–she’s just entirely too self-serving. However, as far as narcissists go, the character in P&P who is most classically a narcissist (seemingly a full-one NPD person) has got to be Lady C. She fits pretty much every one of the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder if she lived in our time. Love it!

    • I’d have to agree about Lady C fitting the profile, though I do think she may just be puffed up on her own importance and rank. It would be interesting to see what she would be like if she were lower on the societal food chain. Like a merchants’ wife or a maid. Ohhhh! How fun that would be to watch!

  12. Have you seen Lost in Austen? She is portrayed as a closeted lesbian in that which I think is an interesting take (though I guess its unlikely that was the intention). In terms of her ambition – getting married was essentially a woman’s career, and marrying for love was far less common that marrying for status. So I think she was just a product of her time in that way. Even though they don’t get on, I think her and Mrs Bennet’s understanding of the world for women is probably very similar.

    • I did like that take in Lost in Austen. I think it could very well be true and could be why she likes Jane so much when she first meets her…

      You make a great point about Mrs. B and Caroline – there is a lot in common there.

  13. Well, Caro is definitely self-absorbed. We may need more background information to understand why. I agree, she is after the prestige more so than the man himself. And if that is the case, once Darcy has passed her by with his marriage to Elizabeth, there is no reason why she could not make a good marriage of convenience. Of course, many of our JAFF authors have often painted her in a different light and she has not always been so fortunate.

    • I would really love to have some background info on her. No one is the way they are without a reason, be it good or bad. I’ve read a few that made her wounded by giving her a nasty past and I liked those – it made her more understandable and reasonable to me.

      • My sequel: Life after the Wedding Series- Parts 1-3 are in one volume and is called: The Bingley’s Story. In it we meet the Bingley’s still alive mother, come to understand how Louisa and Caroline became as they did, and see Caroline humorously fall for a man very different from herself. I agree that she did not truly care for Darcy, but she does change over time… Especially when she for the first time has a child in her life! In my story it is Charles & Jane’s child that touches her heart first. I just released part 5 and Caroline is a mother at this point. Part 6 will be the one that expands on her role as such. I’m really looking forward to writing it. Someone who read the series said it was the first time they liked Caroline. I had editing problems early on but they have been corrected.

  14. I think Caroline is shallow and only sees Darcy as good looking and wants the prestige and money she wold have by being Mrs. Darcy. She is not empathetic or warm…I see her as a cold fish. She will either marry someone who has a title and needs he money (she won’t realize they are in monetary trouble) or be forced to marry someone her brother chooses, depending on how long she takes. Once she has an heir she’ll be done. He will be neither seen nor heard in the nursery with the nurse or nanny all the time, brought only only to be shown off. Thank you for sharing.

Your thoughts are precious!