Study Guide

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Zombies

By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Zombies

If you thought that zombies were just corpses risen from the dead with a thirst for brains, think again: they're full of symbolism.

Oh, yeah, zombies are deep.

The idea of a "zombie" originally came from Haitian Vodou folklore, but it didn't become popular in literature until the 20th century. That's way after Jane Austen died…and failed to claw her way out of her grave in Winchester Cathedral.

You might have noticed that zombies have been having a bit of a moment lately. They got popular after movies like Night of the Living Dead and games like Resident Evil, but they've really taken off with 28 Days Later, World War Z, Plants vs. Zombies, Shaun of the Dead, and, of course, The Walking Dead.

Okay, but why mesh zombies with Pride and Prejudice? Well, zombies in literature and moves have always reflected on the time period they've appeared in—so why not have them comment on Regency England, too?

As Seth Grahame-Smith said, "the people in Austen's books are kind of like zombies […] no matter what's going on around them in the world, they live in this bubble of privilege." Well, that's definitely true of folks like Caroline Bingley and Mr. Collins: zombies may be roaming around the countryside, but as long as they're protected from the undead menace, it's not a big worry, right?

Zombies may also represent the crippling fear of women's social expectations. Hear us out.

19th-century English society tells the Bennet girls that they're supposed to marry a wealthy man who can take care of them. That's what respectable young ladies do—and it's a necessity, because how else are they going to make it through life? Ladies don't work. So why should these girls pick someone they think is intelligent, or whom they love? They might as well roam around the country looking for men…mennnnnnnnn.

See? It's as if girls in Regency England are expected to be zombies lunging at the first eligible man in their path. Their own individuality isn't that important—they're just bodies who can play the pianoforte.

And that brings us to one more point. Imagine that you're a young woman in this society. Basically, you're at war with all the other young women around you, because you're all looking to get the eligible men. And yet you all have to be completely polite and ladylike at all times, never revealing what you're really thinking.

That's tough. In that way, it's almost like the zombies constantly attacking represent that actual, real tensions of these marriage wars, the tensions that everyone tries desperately to hide.

Scary, right?

And you thought zombies were just mindless brain-eating machines.