Study Guide

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Themes

By Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

  • Family

    If you think your family is weird, you might want to meet the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Sure, they can defend themselves from attacks by the undead, but they can't stop the rest of the world from gossiping about them behind their backs.

    Having an eccentric father, a flighty mother, and several silly sisters who would rather flirt with officers than slay zombies reflects pretty poorly on Jane and Elizabeth. If zombies could talk, even they would be mentioning how over-the-top some of these Bennets are at parties.

    Questions About Family

    1. Who do you think is a better parent, Mr. Bennet or Mrs. Bennet? Or are they both awful in their own ways? Or good?
    2. Why do you think Jane and Elizabeth are the most highly trained warriors of the Bennet sisters? Because Mr. Bennet put the most effort in with his oldest daughters? Or were Jane and Elizabeth just more dedicated?
    3. Which family do you think seems the most dysfunctional? The Bennets? The Lucases? The de Bourghs? The Darcys? Which one would have been the best one to grow up in?

    Chew on This

    Elizabeth is determined not to repeat the mistakes her parents made with her own family. That's why she turns down both Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy right away.

    Mr. Bennet might be slightly more sensible than his wife but, by the end of the novel, Elizabeth realizes that he's actually failed as a husband, father, and zombie trainer.

  • Lies & Deceit

    Zombies may look human, but they're not fooling anyone. In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it's the non-zombies walking around that you've got to watch out for. Mr. Wickham, of course, is the biggest culprit, but lots of other characters engage in a little bit of trickery to get their own way. Sometimes, it's the little lies that are motivated by pride and prejudice that will get you in the most trouble…

    Questions About Lies & Deceit

    1. Why do you think Jane always refuses to believe that people are lying?
    2. Do you think Elizabeth's zombie training prepared her to be a good judge of character? Or is she deceiving herself?
    3. Why is everyone Mr. Wickham meets so ready to believe his lies?

    Chew on This

    Elizabeth wants to believe Mr. Wickham's lies because she's already prejudiced against Mr. Darcy.

    Mr. Darcy says he hates lies and deceit but then admits to lying in his letter. This makes him realize that he's not as blameless in the Jane and Mr. Bingley affair as he thought.

  • Love

    Love. It's the most magical feeling in the world. It's also the most dangerous.

    Well, it is if you're Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, anyway. She may know how to behead a zombie in her sleep, but when it comes to this whole love thing, she's pretty lost. It's a total shock, for example, when Mr. Darcy says he loves her. (And here Elizabeth had been thinking up clever ways to kill him.) Eventually, she comes around, but first she has to figure out that feelings are just as good as fighting.

    The good news is that she and Mr. Darcy can slay the undead and then hold hands afterwards.

    Questions About Love

    1. We see a lot of couples in this book—Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Jane and Mr. Bingley, Lydia and Mr. Wickham, Charlotte and Mr. Collins. Which do you think are truly in love? Which are not? Do you think being in love makes these couples happier?
    2. Which characters know the most about love? Which know the least?
    3. Why do you think Mr. Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth? Why does she fall in love with him?

    Chew on This

    Charlotte knows she's going to die, so she's cool with living out her last days with Mr. Collins. Otherwise, she might have chosen another suitor.

    Elizabeth knows a whole lot about battling the zombie menace but almost nothing about love. She has to learn more about matters of the heart in order to grow as a character and find true happiness.

  • Marriage

    Love and marriage—they go together like zombies and brains. At least in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

    But that wasn't always the case. Back in the 19th century, a lady didn't necessarily marry because she was head over heels in love; she married because her husband had an income of five thousand pounds a year. You could buy a lot of daggers and swords with that kind of money.

    Basically, if you wanted to survive as a woman in a society where you couldn't earn a living (or where the dead were rising from their graves), sometimes you had to be practical. Love was a luxury, and only the lucky could find it in marriage.

    We think that means Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy really hit the jackpot.

    Questions About Marriage

    1. Elizabeth not only turns down Mr. Darcy's marriage proposal, but she also tries to kill him. Why?
    2. Why do you think Mr. Darcy is so picky about his wife? Why not marry a girl like Caroline Bingley, who has the money and connections he's looking for?
    3. Why does Mr. Wickham decide to marry Lydia? Is it just about the money? Or does the fact that he'll never walk again finally convince him?

    Chew on This

    Mr. Collins is determined to get married—and he's not choosy—so he would have eventually found a wife even if Charlotte turned him down, too.

    Perhaps being a zombie is a bit like being married: once you've been infected, you're cursed to wander the earth with dulled senses until you are put out of your misery. Oh, that's dark.

  • Society & Class

    We totally get you: the dead are rising from their graves and these ladies are worried about snagging a rich husband. Huh?

    Okay, just hear us out. Yes, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the undead walk the earth but, so far, the landed gentry are still in business, which means that the class structure is alive and well. In fact, the zombie menace has given rise to a new way to flaunt your social status: Where you go to train to fight the undead—China or Japan—is one way to show off your wealth and power. (Japan is the "classy" location.)

    Zombies may have changed the equation, but the folks on the top of the social ladder aren't willing to slip off their perches just yet.

    Questions About Society & Class

    1. Do you think Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley end up marrying beneath themselves socially? If so, why doesn't it hurt their social standing?
    2. Why doesn't Lydia's marriage to Mr. Wickham tarnish the family socially in the end?
    3. Why does Lady Catherine take so much pride in her Japanese training? Mr. Darcy was also trained in Japan, but he doesn't talk about it as much. Why not?

    Chew on This

    Mr. Collins is totally preoccupied by his place in society. When he finds out that he was married to a zombie and never noticed, he's so ashamed that he decides to kill himself.

    It doesn't really matter what social rank someone has or where that person was trained in the deadly arts. All that matters is how hard that person works to survive the zombie apocalypse.

  • Strength & Skill

    When a mob of bloodthirsty zombies comes rampaging, it's pretty tough to ward them off with excellent conversation skills. As we learn in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you need to learn how to fight, too. Some characters—like Elizabeth and her sisters—are highly trained. Others are just zombie food waiting to happen.

    Training in the deadly arts can mean the difference between life and death in this zombie-ridden countryside. We don't know about you, but we're headed to the dojo after this—just to be on the safe side.

    Questions About Strength & Skill

    1. Why do you think the Bingleys haven't been trained in the deadly arts at all?
    2. Mr. Bennet decided to train his daughters in the deadly arts but seems to have slacked off with the two youngest girls. Why do you think that is?
    3. Do you think Mr. Darcy is attracted to Elizabeth because of her fighting skills? Would he have married a woman who couldn't behead a zombie?
    4. Do you think the Bennet sisters will keep slaying zombies even after they're married? Will they train their children to fight the zombie menace, too?

    Chew on This

    Mr. Darcy wants to be both a zombie killer and a gentleman. By the end of the story, he has finally achieved both.

    The novel draws a distinction between inherited ranks and wealth, on the one hand, and on the other, individual skills and strength that are earned through hard work and persistence.

  • Violence

    Okay, we love Jane Austen, but there's something kind of amazing about taking her refined and mannerly world and throwing in a dash of ultraviolent zombie mayhem.

    Sure, the all the guts and gore in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are fun, but it's the juxtaposition of the two that's really brilliant. And it makes sense: the overt scariness of the zombie violence is actually a lot like the hidden scariness all these young ladies face in their search for a husband. A 19th-century woman without a husband to provide for her? Gasp—talk about an unmentionable.

    Questions About Violence

    1. How does the zombie violence fit into the original scenes in the book? Where does it add to the humor, and where does it seem not quite right?
    2. If there are so many random zombie attacks on the road, why does everyone keep going for walks? Aren't they just asking for something violent to happen?
    3. Is it strange that hardly anyone hires bodyguards to go places with them, even though zombies are attacking left and right? And that the bodyguards they do hire are essentially red shirts?

    Chew on This

    The book opens with a zombie attack on Netherfield Park as a way of explaining why the house was available for rent in the first place.

    The fight scenes between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth and between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth add to the tension that is already present in those two scenes. In other words, we always got the feeling from the original that someone wanted to punch someone else, anyway.

  • Women & Femininity

    Girls, girls, girls—that's what our story is about. Oh, and zombies, too. But mostly, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is about women trying to figure out their place in a society that has very specific rules for what they can and can't do. They can't get jobs. They can't marry whoever they like. They also probably shouldn't carry muskets with them when they go for walks—it's not ladylike.

    What's a gal in a zombie-infested wasteland to do? Elizabeth Bennet may not totally break the rules, but she sure bends them as much as she can.

    Questions About Women & Femininity

    1. Why would a lady ever need to learn to fight zombies? Wouldn't killing zombies always be seen as totally unladylike?
    2. Lady Catherine is the only woman in the novel who's independently rich and well protected, and yet she's a total mean girl. What do you think the authors are trying to say about women in power?
    3. Does Mr. Darcy fall in love with Elizabeth because she's not like other girls? Does he love her because she's a warrior and not traditionally girly?

    Chew on This

    Elizabeth has a point when she says, "a woman is either highly trained or highly refined." If you're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, it's more important to excel as a warrior than to excel as a lady.

    Elizabeth considers her feminine emotions a weakness, but it's not until she puts down her sword and figures out what she's feeling that she can become truly happy.