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Compare and contrast the writers presentations of Beverly (Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party) and Mrs. Bennet (Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice) as warped reflections of the societies in which they live.

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Introduction

Kate Hamp Candidate Number Centre Number Compare and contrast the writers presentations of Beverly (Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party) and Mrs. Bennet (Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice) as warped reflections of the societies in which they live. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party are both critical studies of their societies. The characters of Beverly and Mrs. Bennet are tools used to demonstrate what is wrong with society. Beverly's pitiable class aspiring attitudes are tantalising to the point in which her behaviour enrages the audience, she illustrates how formidable this new capitalist society appears in aspiring to wealth. Mrs. Bennet's behaviour is more subtle, her main occupation is for arranging her five daughters to marry well rather than improve her own social status. At the time that Abigail's Party and Pride and Prejudice were written, society was under great change particularly in the 1970s. Britain was embracing a world of consumerism and capitalism. Abigail's Party is set in the 1970s and was written in 1977. In 1963 the Equal Pay Act was passed followed by the Equal Opportunities Act in 1972. These laws had a large impact on society: they were particularly significant to the breaking down of traditional class and gender barriers, with wealth and consumerism becoming dominating factors. This change resulted in Margaret Thatcher's government of 1979 which brought drastic changes to society introducing privatisation which led inevitably to a divided capitalist society (Beverly was a prime example of the people at this time who wanted to shrug off their class roots and aspire to greater wealth). During most of Austen's life, Britain was at war with revolutionary France, and at home England was seeing the massive upheaval of the developing industrial revolution upon the traditional agricultural economic way of life. None of this is portrayed however in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's rural middle class society feared the newly acquired wealth of the developing industrial cities, which similarly produce consumerism and new found materialism. ...read more.

Middle

Beverly even blames Laurence for his own death: " Angela, I told him this would happen". Beverly's actions are an experiment of her levels of control, dominantion and used as a tool for the dramatic tension of the play, both with Susan's rushing to the lavatory and her explicit flirting with Tony. Like Beverly Mrs. Bennet's behaviour has a negative impact on those around her. The episode describing Jane's fever is treated with mild disdain and appears comical. However as the novel continues it becomes clear that Mrs. Bennet's once comical behaviour has the potential to sabotage the long term happiness of her daughters. Austen portrays Mrs. Bennet in a negative manner with destructive implications. This couldn't be conveyed more than the episode in which Mrs. Bennet is insistent on Elizabeth to accept the proposal of marriage to Mr. Collins. Yes it may be financially wise for Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins however Elizabeths character does not share this desire for money and financial security, Mrs. Bennet as her mother should be aware that this would have not been a happy ending or in the best interests of her daughter. This illustrates both Mrs. Bennets carelessness with regard to the institution of marriage but also her role as a mother. If Mrs. Bennet had her daughter Elizabeth's happiness in mind she would know that she would not happily marry Mr. Collins. Austen presents Mr. Collins overtly in a negative light - his character is conveyed idiotic and hypocritical, whom nun of Mrs. Bennet's daughters can stand and whom she herself had only spoke about with contempt: " I cannot bear to hear that man mentioned. Pray do not talk of that odious man." A marxist critique would justify this with the plausibal point that Mrs. Bennet does not loathe Mr. Collins but resents what he will take from her and her daughters. Mr. Collins is the reason that Mrs. ...read more.

Conclusion

Jane and Elizabeth overcome their mother's negative influence and marry for love. However Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's laxity results in the scandal of Lydia's 'elopement' with Wickham, with all its potentially adverse effect. Mrs Bennet's reaction to the news of the elopement merely focuses on her concerns with materials: " And tell my dear Lydia, not to give any directions about her clothes till she has seen me, for she does not know which are the best warehouses." Here again Austen is further criticising the link between marriage and materialism in this society. Mrs. Bennet fails to realise the long term damage Lydia has imposed on her family as a result of her behaviour. When Lydia and Wickham return to Longbourn Mrs. Bennet appears thrilled at this marriage whilst the other members of the family appear ashamed. Austen gives use a satirical progression of Mrs. Bennet a lady who once appeared foolish and eccentric to a thoughtless, ignorant mother forcing Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins, to a careless mother who would sacrifice her daughter's welfare for the shows of marriage. By the end of Abigail's Party, Leigh shows Beverly's character as futile and useless. When Laurence dies she can offer nothing. Her power is lost and the attention has been drawn away from her. Leigh uses her as a reflection of society whose values are empty and fundamentally worthless. Similarly Austen makes Mrs. Bennet explicitly responsible for Lydia's downfall. At the end of the novel she has had no part in her two daughters securing suitable partners who escape her negative effects. Both texts are highly entertaining and critical of their societies. The writer's use these characters in a warped manner to focus our attention to everything that is wrong in societal attitudes as we watch the characters initially of self-importance, and in an influential position to become practically worthless and humiliated in their lack of ignorance as the other characters either overcome their dominance or fatally succumb to their poor behaviour. . ...read more.

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