I Once Met Jane Bennet

I Once Met Jane Bennet

I once met a girl. Let’s call her Jane, not because that is her name but because she reminded me of Jane Bennet. She was everything that a popular young girl should be. She was beautiful in that you should be a model way. She was friendly in that never seemed to meet a stranger way. She smiled — a lot, nearly always. She was a joy to be around. Her kindness spilled out of her and onto everyone she met. No one was beneath her notice. To look at her, you would think perfection. She just seemed nearly too good to be true. But, I was privileged to see her beyond the first impression. I got to know more of her as a person.

Jane Bennet 05 (5)Now, as you may know, I enjoy delving into the secondary characters in Pride and Prejudice. These are the characters that are less developed. They are there to serve a purpose but are not shown to us in detail. We get glimpses of them but nothing in great depth — only what is necessary to the main plot whether that be to create conflict, move the story along, or be a backdrop against which the main character can be contrasted. Recently, I have been considering Jane Bennet because I have a story or two in the works that feature her as more than just the beautiful older sister. In these stories, I hope to bring her out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

In considering Jane Austen’s Jane, I have thought a good deal about the real life Jane Bennet I mentioned above. As I said, I got to know her to some extent. I got to see the angry Jane when after being pushed to her limit of patience — and it took quite some time — she became fiery and demanding. I got to see the sorrow that nearly overwhelmed her heart when people disappointed her. I saw how her heart broke for them Jane Bennet 05 (3)because she knew they could be or do so much better than they were. I got to see her love and care for others demonstrated through projects that reached out to the less fortunate. She was not a weak person. She was a positive person, who always tried to shake off the negative. She held strong beliefs but never forced them on others. She treated those who had wronged her with forgiveness but with caution, as well. She was not perfect. She was just as human as any of us.

Jane Bennet 05 (4)That is what I hope to accomplish in writing my various versions of Jane Bennet — I hope to make her human, to show her as not perfect, but as a person who strives to be light to other people even when she struggles with keeping that light for herself at times. I may even let her light dim and her smile fade. I will, more than likely, give her a back story — as I did in Two Days in November (a short story in my Teatime Tales collection) — that gives some explanation as to why she is still single or why she does not wish ever to offend. I would love to be able to write her as someone who deals with an immense amount of self-created stress as she strives to fill the role of “perfect” daughter, lady, and sister. It might also be fun (and this one I have already started) to show her as capable of a bit of vengeance against a particular catty sister of a handsome gentleman.

Just talking about the possibilities makes me rather excited. This is what I love so much about writing stories about secondary characters. I get to look behind the facade they present. I get to delve into contemplations of who they might be in private and why they might be who they are. I get to consider what might happen if they are pushed beyond their limits.

Jane Bennet 05 (1)

Oh! And the secrets that could lie behind that smile! Oh, my! I can’t wait to start writing, but first, I would love to hear if you have any ideas about what secrets are hidden by Jane’s perpetual smile and proper manners.




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22 Responses to I Once Met Jane Bennet

  1. I have always said Jane Bennet hides a whole world of emotion and intelligence behind her serene mask, just like Darcy does. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with her! 🙂

    • You know, in more than one story, I have had Darcy recognize a similarity in their facades. It should be fun writing her and learning her surprises….such as she ties a wicked knot (in For Peace of Mind) or she was engaged but an accident took him from her (in Two Days in November, Teatime Tales). I have a story started where she hits her head and has been laying there unconscious for more than a year now. I really should at least get her out of the water I suppose….maybe seen by a doctor. 😉 So much writing to do and not enough time to do it. ?

  2. I enjoyed this post. I loved this Jane more than any of the other ladies who portrayed her. She can’t actually be so serene. I wonder what wicked thoughts she has going on behind that smiling mask.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Debbie! I agree; there has to be something going on behind that smile. Perhaps it is the wicked thoughts that make her smile. LOL

  3. Leenie, I enjoyed your wonderful post. We never know what is going on behind the mask people wear.

  4. Knowing someone like Jane, I would say she carries a heavy burden inside that she probably doesn’t even realize is there. She has to be the responsible one, to remember where everything is in case it is needed. She has to be the peacekeeper by trying to understanding each person’s feelings. She sometimes takes on the feelings of another so much that she actually feels the emotions herself! She will never say no to anything that is asked of her. She likes to please people and have them depend on her. This way she feels needed and worthy of being included. Yes I know that Jane, that was me! Thank God I have been liberated! I have boundaries now and can easily say no!

    • Wow. Yeah. It can be tough trying to fit that “perfect” role. I imagine for Jane being the eldest and having a mom like she had, she probably felt the need to be responsible quite heavily. I mean if you look at her expressions of delight after Bingley proposes they are not just for herself but also for her family.

      I’m glad you have learned to set boundaries. That can be so very challenging!

  5. I adored the actress that played Jane opposite Keira Knightley. You featured some of the best of her pictures from the film. She was simply a vision and so well cast to portray the beautiful Jane Bennet.
    I also liked the actress in the Colin Firth version of P&P. She was able to portray that serene look that was needed for the Jane character.

    • I chose this Jane because she reminded me the most of the one I know in real life. Happy and animated and beautiful. These pictures just seemed to capture that feeling. I especially like the two where she is more thoughtful looking — those pictures seem to give a little look at the fact that there is more to Jane than just the sweet, serene smile. 🙂

  6. I have an older sister who is very much a Jane Bennet-type. She’s adorable, wonderful, and the kindest and most loving person you could ever meet. However, that personality type comes with it’s own challenges. She struggles with stress because she’s a perfectionist. She has a difficult time as a mother because she was NEVER naughty or disobedient as a child and it is difficult for her to understand why her own children might be. (Although she still has the patience and unconditional love of a saint. I just don’t know how one person can be so loving!) She also struggles to balance priorities because she will do anything for anyone and her own needs are ALWAYS placed last, which is a great stress. She will run herself to exhaustion for others. Perhaps the most difficult thing for me as her sister, though, is seeing what an enormous load of guilt she feels whenever she has a human-type failure, an oops moment. To me, those small things (like running out of patience, snapping at someone, tossing ashes onto an impossible camper or whatever else I might do in a fit of pique) are not big deal and easily apologized for. I guess I’m more like Lizzy, I might feel bad, but I can learn my lesson and move on without too much trouble. My sister, though, will struggle with guilt for months and lose some serious sleep over the simplest things. I guess we all have our challenges, but I readily admit that I’m grateful not to be a Jane!

    • YES! So true! So much stress can come from all of those things. I admit to struggling with perfectionism at times, but not as much as my older sister does. She does everything right — always has. Or, at least, that is how it seemed to me. I am certain I was in trouble far more times than she ever was. 🙂 My poor mother! I really did try her nerves.

  7. A Jane Austen-girl crush, I know them well. Emma is mine. OK, not a minor character. I also agree about Jane Bennet—definitely crush worthy.

    • I think Jane Bennet would be that one girl that was pretty and liked by all the guys and you want to hate her, but you can’t because she is just too darn sweet.

  8. I love the way you explore minor characters! And I agree that Austen’s Jane had more going on in her head. I don’t mind reading the occasional mean Jane story, but I love ones that give her more depth in a good way. Looking forward to it!

    • Thanks, Rose! I love exploring them! I don’t mind a mean Jane occasionally either….I mean the smile could conceal an evil, cold heart. I am looking forward to writing my “get even” Jane, and I currently have a poor unconscious, doubtful Jane that needs attention, too — not to mention the Jane who might have to choose between a couple of guys in my Thursday story. Yep, been thinking about this minor character a great deal. LOL

  9. I knew someone very similar to your Jane many years ago and I thought her perfect when I met her. But when she and I became friends, I found that she was always unsure of herself and that eternal smile and sunny disposition hid a very insecure girl and a broken heart. She used to tell me that she always showed sunshine because too many people around us have to live in rain all the time. You just never know. I love when Jane is fleshed out and is more than just the girl who won’t judge and smiles too much.

    • Oh, my goodness, that thing about sunshine and people in the rain sounds just like something this girl would have said! Such a Jane thing! It is amazing what can be hiding behind a beautiful smile, isn’t it?

  10. A beautiful post, Leenie! I wholeheartedly agree, characters such as hers deserve so much more page time. What strength of character jane must have, perhaps even greater than Lizzy’s, to keep her smile in the face of all adversity! Best of luck in your writing and do give us a lot more of Jane Bennet.

    • Thank you, Joana. 🙂 I love considering characters like her. I have always thought there was something more to her. How could anyone be so serene with a mother like Mrs. Bennet and sisters like Lydia? Yet, she does it some how. And she never pitches a fit (at least, not that we get to see 😉 ).

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