I’m Particular about My Bennets: A Brief Reflection on a Few Adaptations of Elizabeth from Pride & Prejudice

My litmus test for any adaptation of Pride & Prejudice essentially boils down to the scene where Mr. Darcy slights Lizzie. How the writers of the adaptation chose to make her respond pretty much establishes how well they know the character of Elizabeth Bennet.

In Jane Austen’s original work, Elizabeth’s reaction is this:

[Darcy] coldly said: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”

Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings toward him. She told the story, however, with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous.

In the A&E miniseries, this is pulled of to perfection.

There’s the touch of shock on Jennifer Ehle’s face as she hears Darcy’s declaration, but there’s also this hint of a smirk as she gapes. And as her mouth closes, the smirk broadens into a genuine grin and she immediately rushes to tell Charlotte.

She’s offended, to be sure, but Ehle’s Elizabeth has enough self-confidence that her primary takeaway from the encounter is amusement.

In the 2005 film, it gets a little rough.

Kiera Knightley certainly brushes Darcy’s comment off with a quip, but she doesn’t come to that point naturally. She’s actually deflated by his low opinion, and needs to be coaxed into the playfulness by Charlotte.

It’s an interesting take on Lizzie, but not one that I personally enjoy. I’m somewhat frustrated by it, in fact.

But at least it’s not Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

By all rights, I should like this book. I’ve made a habit out of mashing Austen and scifi together. And despite some warning signs in the beginning, I did have fun. The author hit Austen’s style pretty well, and that was enjoyable in and of itself.

But then this scene happens, and Elizabeth’s response is to plan to slit Darcy’s throat to defend her honor.

Look, I get that “zombies exist” is going to change a lot for how the characters live their lives, but there comes a certain point where “character altered by circumstances” becomes “brand new person with same name” and P&P&Z screams over that line faster than Halo 5′s Cortana.

I put the book down and haven’t touched it since.

Its writing style is tolerable, I suppose, but its character development is not decent enough to tempt me.

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