Study Guide

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Women & Femininity

By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Women & Femininity

"In nine cases out of ten a woman had better show more affection than she feels. Bingley likes your sister undoubtedly; but he may never do more than like her, if she does not help him on."

"But she does help him on, as much as her nature will allow. Remember, Charlotte—she is a warrior first, and a woman second." (6.2-3)

Jane may be a warrior, but Charlotte's advice isn't bad if we're talking about women. A guy isn't going to stick around long if a girl doesn't give off flirty vibes. Charlotte's statement turns out to be right when Mr. Bingley is convinced that Jane doesn't like him because she's so coy. Sure, the fighting skills are great, but some flirtation skills would have come in handy in this situation.

Muskets and Katana swords were a more effective means of protecting one's self, but they were considered unladylike; and, having no saddle in which to conceal them, the three sisters yielded to modesty.

Well, you wouldn't want to look unladylike when you're fighting a zombie, now would you?

"The word is applied," said Darcy, "to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse or covering a screen. My sister Georgiana deserves the distinction, however, for she is not only master of the female arts, but the deadly as well. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are thus accomplished." 

"Nor I, I am sure," said Miss Bingley.

"Then, Mr. Darcy," observed Elizabeth, "you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman." 

"A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages; she must be well trained in the fighting styles of the Kyoto masters and the modern tactics and weaponry of Europe. And besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved. All this she must possess, and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading." 

 "I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any."

"Are you so severe upon your own sex as to doubt the possibility of all this?" 

"I never saw such a woman. In my experience, a woman is either highly trained or highly refined. One cannot afford the luxury of both in such times. As for my sisters and I, our dear father thought it best that we give less of our time to books and music, and more to protecting ourselves from the sorry stricken." (8.39-45)

Mr. Darcy thinks that Elizabeth is dissing her fellow women, but she's just being practical. How can a girl think about painting when the dead are rising from their graves and eating people's brains? It's survival of the fittest. Elizabeth doesn't have time to polish her ladylike attributes for high society.

"Elizabeth Bennet," said Miss Bingley, when the door was closed on her, "is one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art."

"Undoubtedly," replied Darcy, to whom this remark was chiefly addressed, "there is a meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation." (8.47-48)

Mr. Darcy is no fool. He knows what these mean girls are up to. They're cutting down Elizabeth to make themselves look better by saying that she cuts down other women to make herself look better. Oh, the delicious irony.

"If I may mention so delicate a subject, endeavour to check Miss Bennet's unladylike affinity for guns, and swords, and exercise, and all those silly things best left to men or ladies of low breeding." (10.31)

Why does Caroline Bingley hate the deadly arts so much? Maybe it's because she's not trained in them? It's weird because she doesn't stop to consider that Georgiana Darcy is a trained killer, too, so Mr. Darcy obviously doesn't think killing zombies is unladylike. This line of flirting is bound to fail epically.

Jane and Elizabeth tried to explain that all five of them were capable of fending for themselves; that they could make tolerable fortunes as bodyguards, assassins, or mercenaries if need be. But it was a subject on which Mrs. Bennet was beyond the reach of reason, and she continued to rail bitterly against the cruelty of settling an estate away from a family of five daughters, in favour of a man whom nobody cared anything about. (13.9)

Okay, so even though the Bennet estate has to pass to a man, the girls seem to think that they can earn a living as bodyguards. Yeah, they could also get jobs as governesses, too, but that would be a step down for them. It's probably something they should avoid unless they want to be seen as—gasp—middle class.

"When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on the subject, I shall hope to receive a more favourable answer than you have now given me. I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application."

"Really, Mr. Collins," cried Elizabeth, "you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as to convince you of its being one." (90.16-17)

We're not sure where Mr. Collins is getting his intel, but he seems to think women go around all the time rejecting men and then hoping they'll propose again. That's a pretty dangerous game. Ironically, this is exactly what happens with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, so maybe Jane Austen is giving us a little wink here with Mr. Collins' absurdity.

Lady Catherine was a tall, large woman, with strongly-marked features, which might once have been handsome. Her once-flawless figure had been softened by age, but her eyes no were less striking than Elizabeth had oft heard them described. They were the eyes of a woman who once held the wrath of God in her hands. (29.10)

Even Elizabeth has to admit that Lady Catherine is impressive. In a novel filled with women who are completely dependent on the men around them to provide them with money and protection, Lady Catherine is both financially and physically independent. That's why it's kind of a letdown when she turns out to be such a stone-cold jerkface.

The tumult of her mind was now painfully great. She knew not how to support herself, and from the feminine weakness which she had so struggled to exercise from her nature, sat down and cried for half an hour. (34.31)

Elizabeth tries to repress her emotions using her warrior strength, but eventually it's just too much. We're not sure we'd call being female a weakness, as Elizabeth does, but it's clear that all of Elizabeth's training is no match for what she's feeling right now—love.

"You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking, and looking, and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused, and interested you, because I was so unlike them. I knew the joy of standing over a vanquished foe; of painting my face and arms with their blood, yet warm, and screaming to the heavens—begging, nay daring, God to send me more enemies to kill. The gentle ladies who so assiduously courted you knew nothing of this joy, and therefore, could never offer you true happiness." (60.5)

Elizabeth asks Mr. Darcy to explain why he fell in love with her and then she explains it herself. We've gotta admit, we kind of like her answer. This girl had spark. She was different from all the other women out there. She bathed in the blood of her enemies. You won't find that among the refined ladies of every sitting room.