The sword of division has been unsheathed at Thomas More College. The students find themselves at odds with one another. Every moment the tension heightens. Have there been controversial Student Life decisions? Is there dissatisfaction about the new proctors and R.A.s? Too much Pasta in the diet?
No. There is an argument. It is about Pride and Prejudice. Or rather, it is about Mr. Bennet.
It all began when some of the girls watched the BBC television version, and, girls being girls, of course they talked about it. The conversation at the lunch table one day alighted upon this subject, and in the course of the conversation junior, Augustine Kamprath, unwittingly set off a bombshell by expressing his affinity for Mr. Bennet. If it is true that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, then to say that one likes Mr. Bennet must be something pretty big, for the words had scarcely left his mouth when he found himself trapped in a veritable tornado of disagreement—at least that is what he thought it was. The girls will no doubt insist that they were merely explaining how Mr. Bennet was not so very likeable.
If one inquires of Augustine as to his views on Mr. Bennet, he says that Mr. Bennet is a great chap, and “deals with his giddy wife and daughters with a delightful wit.” Others, however, think otherwise.
The girls on campus, for the most part at least, do not seem to perceive the patient and enduring philosopher in Mr. Bennet. Mr. Bennet’s failing as a husband and father attracts the brunt of the criticism unleashed against him.
As senior Elisabeth Rochon insists, “He doesn’t treat her well because he mocks her. And then when he does go to introduce himself to Bingley he does it for his eldest daughters, not for love of is wife. And he blatantly mocks her, but she’s so stupid she only half gets it sometimes.”
Junior Erin Monfils does not mince words: “Sure, Mr. Bennet’s snarky responses to the antics of his wife and younger daughters are amusing, and you’re glad to see that he’s able to find some delight in it all—but still, they don’t exactly show a proper spousal or paternal love on his part. When you love someone, you have to respect them despite their silliness; also, his comments just provoke them to greater absurdity—he doesn’t at all help them become better, as a good husband and father would.”
“I think that Mr. Bennet is definitely a foil for Mrs. Bennet because he’s so intelligent,” says sophomore Theresa Scott, “but in reality he isn’t the best of men because he treats his wife very poorly by making fun of her.”
“Perhaps Mr. Bennet is a flawed character,” Augustine replies, continuing to play his preferred role as the devil’s advocate, “but you mustn’t write the man off as a bad father or husband simply on account of one or two mistakes. Many men in his situation might simply have gone to the bottle and abandoned their families altogether. I mean to say, a wife as silly as that is bad enough to endure, but pile on top of that a bevy of daughters of equal, if not greater, silliness, and you have a situation which could well drive a man to far worse extremes than making a parenting error or two.”
What is the root of the trouble? Elisabeth ponders Mr. Bennet’s failings: “I wonder if he would love his daughters more if he loved her more. His disposition attests to the fact that love is an act of the will not the feelings. His feelings are very reasonably turned away from her, but if he just accepted the fact that he chose to marry her and then made an act of the will, then he could come to love her.”
“I disagree with his parenting skills, the way he lets his youngest daughter go off, but I’m not completely anti—I just don’t like how he handles situations,” says sophomore Alison Welton, but she admits “I Like his relationship with Elizabeth.”
“Yes. I like Mr. Bennet. He’s very farmerish.” Thus senior Liam Mitchell gave his opinion, adding that “he does make one major flaw with Lydia. He acknowledges her silliness but he doesn’t take it seriously.”
“I think he’s pretty funny,” says alumna Kate Almeda, who happened to drop by for a visit, but “letting Lydia go off—he’s not very protective of his daughters. He’s not a very good judge of character.”
But who, really, can disagree with junior Vincent Deardurff’s unhesitating exclamation: “I think he’s hilarious!”?