Mothers, sisters, and daughters
I’m releasing a novella this week and, as always when I write, I enjoyed examining the relationships Jane Austen presents. In Mr. Darcy’s Kindness, Elizabeth chooses to marry Mr. Collins to protect Jane, her relationship with Mrs. Bennet has ups and downs, and she becomes a mother herself.
The story is an expanded version of a short story I wrote, The Happiest Creature in the World, half inspired by Mother’s Day and a half for my daughter’s first birthday in May 2014. As I reconsidered how difficult my pregnancy with my daughter was, I, naturally, came to the conclusion she was worth it all. I suffered from terrible insomnia–which led to me finding JAFF. I also had a kidney infection the entire time. It was due to the infection I even knew I was pregnant as several home pregnancy tests came back negative! Towards the end of the pregnancy I still struggled with the infection, began early labor and the fever spiked increasing my daughter’s heart rate and making an emergency cesarean section necessary. Throughout the pregnancy, I was anxious about financial and living matters. Just considering dividing my love in half for a second child seemed unfathomable. My husband insisted that everything would sort itself out. The moment they put her in my arms, I realized he was correct. One of these days I might forgive him for that. 🙂 Most of this I already wrote about in a short story called Presenting Miss Darcy (in my short story anthology Love Lasts Longest), but in Mr. Darcy’s Kindness I also considered Elizabeth Bennet’s relationships as a sister and a daughter.
Rather than get into in-depth study of Elizabeth here, I wanted to give an overview of how Austen treats the sister and daughter relationship in general. Austen uses the Mother/Mamma/Mama 857 times in her works. Sister is used 910 and daughter appears 343 times. The masculine counterparts are much lower: Father: 787, Brother: 562, Son: 225. In case we didn’t now, the statics plainly show Austen wrote about women and how they related to each other.
Time and again, we see Austen consider heroines in the roles as daughters and sisters as we never see their married lives. In these capacities, Austen shows a heroine’s struggle between identity and family, desire and duty, selfishness and selflessness. Each heroine must learn to balance her own needs with not only society’s expectations of behavior, but her feelings of affection for her family.
It just might happen that Austen’s most beloved female character who walked three miles in mud (and intended to walk the three back) and flambéed Mr. Darcy with a scathing: “Do you think that any consideration in the world would tempt me to accept the man who has been the means of ruining, perhaps forever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?” would marry Mr. Collins. Yes, he “is a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man” and “the woman who married him cannot have a proper way of thinking” but love of family can very often lead to dysfunctional thought processes.
I try to present Elizabeth as tolerating the marriage–that is until she has feelings unexpectedly grow for another. In the end, it is worth it all because she has her daughter–which I think any mother would say. What do you think? Would Elizabeth be able to manage Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine or would she be miserable from the start? Or too selfish to agree to such a thing?
To celebrate the release of Mr. Darcy’s Kindness, I am sharing an excerpt. There will also be one ebook giveaway! Entries must be in by Saturday, March 5 by 11:59 pm EST. Comment to enter!
Pre-order on Amazon now! Purchase live on March 5th!
Blurb: Although Elizabeth Bennet once refused her father’s heir, she reconsiders when her elder sister—despondent from heartbreak—contemplates marriage to him. Confident that Mr. Bingley will return to Netherfield and confess his love for Jane, Elizabeth accepts Mr. Collins’ offer of matrimony. When Fitzwilliam Darcy visits his aunt’s estate months later, his heart breaks at learning Elizabeth is now Mrs. Collins, and due to his selfishness. As Darcy determines to right his wrongs, a fever breaks out in London, forever altering his relationship with Elizabeth. In Mr. Darcy’s Kindness, misunderstandings and pride lead to more regret and heartache than Jane Austen’s original, but love always finds a way.
A few days after their conversation, Mrs. Gardiner drew Elizabeth aside again.
“You shall marry in a few days, and I cannot miss your lack of enthusiasm at the prospect.”
Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders. “I do not marry for my own sake.” Elizabeth relayed Jane’s despondency after hearing of Mr. Bingley’s departure from Netherfield. “I truly feared she would leap at any chance to marry Collins. I think she was desperate to be away from Longbourn.”
“Elizabeth, it is very kind that you would wish to save your sister but do you not see the foolishness in this? What does your father say?”
Elizabeth sighed. “He did wish to refuse permission at first. I admit that I may have acted imprudently, but I find it difficult to think rationally in defense of Jane. By all that my parents have done proceeding the event, I had little thought they would act on her behalf.”
Mrs. Gardiner nodded her head. “I can see how you might come to that conclusion. And do you think you can be content with him?”
“I am not entirely content now. I live with parents who dislike each other. My mother is prone to fits of nerves, my father to sarcasm and seclusion. My youngest sisters are ridiculous, and Mary sermonizes everything. Jane has always been my only consolation. What is it to trade one disagreeable man with his own interests to that of five others? There must be more freedom in managing my own household than in being subject to another’s rule.”
“If you are decided, I shall say no more,” her aunt said. “We all expect you to use your sense. You do not lean towards melancholia. I shall wish you happy on your wedding day and mean it with every beat of my heart.”
“Oh, do not wish me happy, Aunt. For after happiness even moments which previously would have created contentment seem to lack. Wish me healthy, secure and satisfied. That is all I ask.”
Mrs. Gardiner agreed, and no more on the subject passed between them. The days passed swiftly with Mrs. Bennet arranging several dinners and soon Elizabeth’s wedding day dawned. After some insincere words on obedience and love, a rushed wedding breakfast and kisses of farewell, Elizabeth began her intention of connubial contentedness with Mr. Collins and journeyed to Kent.