Lydia Bennet: Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No

Lydia Bennet: Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No

Hello, Austen Lovers! Can you believe the month of May is coming to an end? Sometimes it seems time is passing so slowly; and yet, we’re nearing the half-way mark of 2020 with surprising speed!

In my home state of Colorado we are still living under quarantine rules, although some restrictions have been relaxed. Now we can visit a salon to get a haircut (which I haven’t done yet, so I’m rockin’ a ponytail), and just this week restaurants were allowed to open with serious limitations.

Since I have an underlying health condition to consider, I am still staying at home, where I know I’ll be safe. To pass the time, I’ve worked jigsaw puzzles, painted the entire interior of my house, and brushed up on my conversational Spanish skills.

I also re-read Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time, and last weekend I watched a favorite old Hollywood musical, Oklahoma!

Now, maybe I’ve been under quarantine too long, but I hadn’t watched the movie for very many minutes before I began to notice elements of the story that reminded me of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the film centers on the romance between farmer Laurey Williams and cowboy Curly McLain in 1907 Oklahoma Territory.

Curley and Laurey, singing their hearts out in Oklahoma!

As usual, their course of true love does not run smooth, due in part to a socially outcast farmhand named Jud Fry who has the hots for Laurey. I confess it reminded me of Mr. Collins’ pursuit of Elizabeth Bennet, especially when Laurey says of Jud:

“He makes me shiver ever’ time he gits close to me.”

In the film, Laurey has a good friend named Ado Annie Carnes, a boy-crazy farmer’s daughter who loves cowboy Will Parker, but can’t stop herself from seeking attention from other men.

As Ado Annie explains to Laurey: “I’m just a girl who cain’t say no.”

Wasn’t that Lydia Bennet’s problem, too? Both Ado Annie and Lydia where raised in good families, and both were taught right from wrong. Yet when Ado Annie sang these lyrics in Oklahoma!, I instantly thought of Lydia:

It ain’t so much a question of not knowin’ what to do
I knowed what’s right an’ wrong since I’ve been ten.
I heared a lot of stories an’ I reckon they are true
About how girls are put upon by men.

I know I mustn’t fall into the pit
But when I’m with a feller
I fergit!

A few verses later, Ado Annie chirps:

Every time I lose a wrestlin’ match.
I have a funny feelin’ that I won!

Despite her love for Will Parker, Ado Annie juggles a romance with Ali Hakim, the traveling peddler who promises to take Annie “to paradise.” But what Ali really means is, he wants Ado Annie to spend a few hours with him in a hotel room in the next town.

Ali Hakim, Ado Annie, and Will Parker.

Just as Lydia Bennet thought there wouldn’t be any harm in running off with Mr. Wickham, Ado Annie considers joining Ali Hakim on that trip to “paradise” he promised. And when her father finds out about it, and realizes Ali has compromised his daughter, Mr. Carnes forces him to offer Ado Annie marriage.

Ali put it this way:

I wanted to marry her when I saw the moonlight shining on the barrel of her father’s shotgun.

Shades of P&P! Lydia Bennet had a sort of shotgun wedding of her own after she ran off to London with Mr. Wickham; and, just like Ado Annie, Lydia was shameless in telling everyone she knew exactly how her wedding came about, causing Elizabeth to scold her:

I do not particularly like your way of getting husbands.

I won’t give away the ending of Oklahoma! for those who haven’t seen it, but since it’s a Hollywood musical from the 1950s, you can be sure there are plenty of happy endings to go around, just like in P&P.

This weekend, I plan to treat myself to another old movie—a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical from the 1930s.

Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in Swing Time (1936)

I wonder if I’ll spot some parallels to Austen’s novels in that movie, too?

Are you like me? Do you see bits of your favorite Jane Austen novels in modern movies and TV shows?

Do you have favorite movies you like to watch over and over again?

8 Responses to Lydia Bennet: Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No

  1. I think the themes of Austen are timeless and apply to any era. You can place P&P just about anywhere.

    Our state is gently relaxing restrictions like your state, Nancy. My husband only leaves the house once a month to see his cancer doctor. We are VERY careful. I only go out when we run out of something. He got his last haircut a couple of days before the shut-down. I gave him his COVID haircut the other day and I didn’t do half bad. It wasn’t exactly a Sheldon haircut [Big Bang Theory] but it was OK. No one will see him and the last time I went shopping, I bought a hair clipper so I can do a better job the next time he needs a trim. LOL!

    I love those old movies. So, have fun watching old Fred. No one dances like he did. Blessings and stay safe and healthy.

    • You’re so right about Austen’s themes being timeless. And I’m glad to know you and your husband are still safe and well (and that he survived a COVID haircut!) 🙂 All my best to you both.

  2. I was on a FB event this past week promoting “Losing Lizzy.” One of the commenters said she was never much of an Austen fan, but she liked Regencies. I wanted to tell her there would have been no Regency romance genre without Austen and Heyer. Like you, I take note of more than one author, script writer, etc., who uses Austen’s plots.
    A former student of mine complained in his AP class when I had the students read Pride and Prejudice. He kept complaining he would never use this again. THEN, after graduation from NC State’s film school, he went on an interview. The scriptwriter and director of the film (both quite young) were describing the plot. Daniel says, “So it was a modern Pride and Prejudice?” The other two did not know what he meant; therefore, he described Austen’s plot. He did not get the entry level job, but a higher one. He wrote me to thank me, after all. The three others working under him were very pretty young women. LOL!

  3. Oklahoma is a good movie! I do see parallels sometimes! It’s fun sometimes to look for them in other movies and even books!

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