The Bennet Family and Gilmore Girls

Throughout Jane Austen’s novels, she brings to surface the complicated, deep and unique characteristics of a family. Austen emphasizes their imperfections and perks – highlighting both the happy and difficult qualities that encapsulate a family’s core – specifically the Bennet family in her novel Pride and Prejudice. Similarly, the television show Gilmore Girls explores this fascinating theme, focusing on one woman’s relationship with her daughter and her parents. Both the Gilmores and the Bennets exhibit “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of families in an engaging and intricate context. Pride and Prejudice and Gilmore Girls explore the strengths and weaknesses of the family dynamic to great depths. This relatable take on kinship is familiar to readers and viewers alike, and it leads to the conclusion that family is, in fact, the strongest tie in the world due to its complexities.

Pride and Prejudice is arguably Jane Austen’s most well-known novel, having been a world-wide phenomenon for the past two centuries and adapted to film and television numerous times; most would argue that it is romance which keeps Pride and Prejudice so prevalent in our society. Although Mr. Darcy is a most-ideal match for the story’s fascinating heroine – Miss Elizabeth Bennet – I believe it is her familial connection that maintains Pride and Prejudice’s popularity.

Consider the classics: there are wild, fanciful stories such as King Arthur and The Lord of the Rings, which takes its readers on fantastical adventures through foreign lands with magical inhabitants. Then there are works of literature like To Kill A Mockingbird and Little Women, wherein the relationships between the protagonists and their relatives makes the novels stand the test of time. Society has proven time and again that, at our core, we want to know that we are not alone in our circumstances – Pride and Prejudice, though often used as an ideal for romantic love, should also be considered by readers for its affirmation that, yes, other families are just as passionate as our own:

“’You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.’
‘I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.’
‘They have none of them much to recommend them,’ replied he; ‘they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.’ ‘Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.’
‘You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least,’” (Austen, 4).

Gilmore Girls, though set nearly 200 years after Austen’s time, displays this similar sense of fierce and familiar family dynamics. Lorelai is mother to Rory, an excellent student that notoriously reads a tremendous number of books (Jane Austen is often the choice). They live in an idyllic small town called Stars Hollow, navigating their reality of a single-parent household. Lorelai has an immense amount of love for and loyalty to Rory, yet her relationship with her parents, Richard and Emily, is much more vexing.

Though they are all committed to being a family unit that perseveres “through thick and thin” (as decided in the pilot), it is evident in the television show just how deep – and humorously human – the ties of a family can go.

“Lorelai: You need to develop a defense mechanism for dealing with Grandma. Emily: What are you talking about?
Lorelai: You just need a system, a new mindset. Take me, for example. Emily: What about you?
Lorelai: Well, I know there are many things in my life you don’t approve of. Emily: Like what?
Lorelai: Like this couch.
Emily: Well, this couch is terrible.
Lorelai: Okay, good – you think the couch is terrible. Now, at one point in my life, you saying a couch that I carefully picked out and had to pay off over eight months is terrible might’ve hurt my feelings, but not anymore.
Emily: No? Lorelai: No. Emily: Why not?
Lorelai: Because one day, I decided that instead of being hurt and upset by your disapproval, I’m gonna be amused. I’m gonna find it funny. I’m even going to take a little bit of pleasure in it.
Emily: You take pleasure in my disapproval? Lorelai: I encourage it sometimes just for a laugh. Emily: I don’t know what to think of that.
Lorelai: Think, ‘hey, that’s brilliant,’ because this idea could set you free,” (Gilmore Girls
Season 3, episode 10),

What is so refreshing about both Austen’s world and Stars Hollow is that we have all been to those points of frustration with our family members, yet we are still able to find the humor in the situation. This paradox is unlike anything else in our culture because we are forced into dealing with difficult situations concerning family: with coworkers, friends, roommates, and others, we can walk away from a dispute and move forward without dwelling on a disagreement. Family confrontations – both in a positive and negative context – are much more difficult to overcome without every factor surfacing.

Often in literature and film, we see this played out dramatically, but Pride and Prejudice and Gilmore Girls also explore the playful teasing associated with family drama. This is clever and affirming to audiences because it makes the statement that, despite whatever issues may be at hand, these family members chose to act lightheartedly most of the time, knowing that the family bond will not be broken just because a party is offended.

Not only is the content of both stories similar, but the deliveries are also uniquely complementary to one another. Jane Austen is known for her sarcasm, and Gilmore Girls is famous for its witty, lengthy banter. While these characteristics are amusing and cause much entertainment, they also are testaments to the vast and diverse content that these familial situations conjure. Explained simply, if there was not anything interesting to talk about – both in quantity and quality – then Austen and Gilmore Girls would be straightforward and concise.
Families are intricate and have layers upon layers of enduring connections, hence the rich dialogue.

Most of the complex conversations occur between the sisters Jane and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice and between Lorelai and Rory in Gilmore Girls. Both sets of women are foils: Elizabeth is cynical and independent while Jane is naïve and shy, and Lorelai is stubborn and fervent while Rory is sensible and forgiving. The contrast provides an intriguing character dynamic for both plots, but it is more than just a literary device to cause excitement. What both pairs exhibit is the challenging of one another: they balance each other out and give strength to the opposite’s weaknesses.

“’I was very much flattered by his asking me to dance a second time. I did not expect such a compliment.’
‘Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his asking
you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.’ ‘Dear Lizzy!’
‘Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in your life.’
‘I would not wish to be hasty in censuring anyone; but I always speak what I think.’” (Austen 50).

“Lorelai: Oh, I want a pet. Rory: You have me.
Lorelai: You won’t bring me my slippers in the morning. Rory: I might if you had slippers.
Lorelai: Will you wear a collar? Rory: No.
Lorelai: It’ll be pink!
Rory: You’re sick,” (Gilmore Girls Season 1, episode 11).

Both sets of relatives are so committed to each other and comfortable with themselves that their conflicting personalities are, at the core, vessels for strengthening their families.
Without differing beliefs, change cannot exist, and despite these confrontations leading to disappointment and sadness in some instances, it ultimately serves as a fortifying factor in the family relationship.

Despite the differences in circumstance and century, Pride and Prejudice and Gilmore Girls serve as popular examples that the strength of a family is unmatched to any other relationship. The Bennets and the Gilmores both exhibit the glorious loyalty and the heartbreaking disappointment associated with a relationship this substantial. What Pride and Prejudice and Gilmore Girls convey is that, regardless of the situation, the honest, relatable strength of one’s family can be the most powerful thing in the world.

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