Meanness is one of many particular vibrations that can put their stamp on an act. Because of its pronounced character, it is relatively easy to trace the path of meanness in the story and study its consequences. Ill will is a stronger, more organized vibration that actively seeks and enjoys the misfortune of others. The pattern that we find for meanness and ill will is true of every positive and negative vibration. Each vibration can be described in terms of a quality and an intensity that characterize the acts that express it and the consequences of those acts. Generally, the society depicted in the story is not mean or perverse, but the character of negative acts can be seen at several points.
Mr. Bennet teases Collins about Collins’ capacity to readily formulate complements. Collins may not be conscious that Bennet intends a mild insult, but subconsciously he cannot fail to sense that the Bennets look down on him or make fun of him in some way. After Lydia’s elopement, Collins has the satisfaction of writing a letter of condolences to the whole family that reaps full revenge for their earlier mocking.
Mrs. Bennet, a beauty in her youth, takes a mean joy is gloating over the physical beauty of her children, especially Jane, and in demeaning the appearance of the Lucas and Long girls. At Netherfield ball, Mrs. Bennet wishes Lady Lucas might soon be equally fortunate (as Jane is with Bingley), “though evidently and triumphantly believing there was no chance of it.”
Mrs. Bennet: “It is a pity they are not handsome! Not that I think Charlotte so very plain-- but then she is our particular friend."
Bingley: "She seems a very pleasant young woman."
Mrs. Bennet: "Oh! dear, yes; but you must own she is very plain. Lady Lucas herself has often said so, and envied me Jane's beauty. I do not like to boast of my own child, but to be sure, Jane-- one does not often see anybody better looking. It is what everybody says.”
Longbourn goes to Charlotte, whom Mrs. Bennet called plain. The irony of Mrs. Bennet’s words is that everyone in the story is repelled by the ugliness of her own behavior.
Collins’ remark to Eliza that she may never receive another marriage proposal is a mean statement intended to remind her of her precarious social position and encourage her to accept his proposal. Whatever the truth in this statement, it reaps a response from life. After Darcy proposes to Eliza, Lady Catherine takes out her anger on Collins, who leaves Hunsford for a week to escape her wrath. The response to Collins’ earlier meanness comes precisely with regard to the issue of Eliza’s marriage and on the very point the proves Collins’ statement untrue.
Both Mrs. Bennet and Eliza respond rudely to news from Charlotte and Sir Lucas: two people who have intense good will for Eliza.
Eliza responds: "Engaged to Collins! My dear Charlotte-- impossible!"
Mrs. Bennet, with more perseverance than politeness, protested he must be entirely mistaken; and Lydia, always unguarded and often uncivil, boisterously exclaimed. “Good Lord! Sir William, how can you tell such a story? Do not you know that Collins wants to marry Lizzy?”
Public humiliation over Lydia’s elopement is a response to their meanness.
Mr. Bennet: “What, has she frightened away some of your lovers?”
This uncalled for, thoughtless statement has a strong grain of truth in it. For ignoring Eliza’s advice and retorting in this way, Mr. Bennet gets humiliated by Lydia’s elopement and has to take full responsibility for it.
Although Mrs. Bennet does no know of Darcy’s magnificent efforts to save Lydia, her attitude is unpardonable and not supported by life. Her bad behavior relieves Darcy and Eliza of any sense of obligation to Mrs. Bennet after their marriage. We are told that Mr. Bennet frequented Pemberley after Eliza’s marriage. No mention is made of Mrs. Bennet.
On several occasions, Caroline tells Darcy that Eliza is not pretty or claims other faults in her such as impertinence. Caroline’s anger and jealously toward Eliza goes beyond merely trying to denigrate her in Darcy’s eyes. She actively wills and takes initiative against Eliza. When Eliza and Mrs. Gardiner call on Georgiana at Pemberley, Caroline intentionally refers to the militia leaving Herefordshire, a sly reference to Wickham, in the hope of embarrassing Eliza before Darcy. Actually, the statement embarrasses not only Eliza, but Darcy and Georgiana as well. After Eliza departs, she makes nasty comments to Georgiana and then to Darcy. The next day Eliza receives news of Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. Caroline’s ill will is an important immediate cause for the bad news. The intensity of the misfortune that befalls Eliza expresses the intensity of the jealousy that Caroline unleashes. The consequence of Caroline’s ill will is to foster Darcy’s affection for Elizabeth. Caroline loses Darcy as a potential husband and Georgiana as a sister-in-law. After Darcy marries Elizabeth, Caroline has to compensate for her meanness by especially good behavior to the mistress of Pemberley.
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