The things that make Pride and Prejudice’s middle sister so unappealing as a supporting character are precisely what make her compelling as a star.
.. In a fantastic essay for The Guardian, Charlotte Jones describes the current attempt to reimagine and reanimate Mary as largely missing the point of her creator’s novel. Austen is not George Eliot, after all; she is neither copious nor comprehensive in her empathies. She is Jane Austen, OG Gossip Girl. Her narrator, in Pride and Prejudice, is judgy. She plays favorites. She mocks. She deploys her wit with surgical strikes.
.. Mary is “the forgotten sister” because Austen chose, on behalf of her readers, not to remember her.
.. How many times have you wished to say something very sensible, but knew not how?
.. And “with nearly all of her sisters married and gone from the household,” The Pursuit of Mary Bennet announces, “the unrefined Mary has transformed into an attractive and eligible young woman in her own right.”
.. The character who once informed her youngest sister that she would not be dancing at the ball, for “I should infinitely prefer a book,” is now an author herself.
That serves as a mild rebuke not only to Lydia—it is hard to imagine such self-fulfillment materializing for Wickham’s wife—but also to Pride and Prejudice’s Mary-mocking narrator.
.. And to all of Jane Austen’s narrators, really, who—being judgmental and cruel and kind and omnipotent and arbitrary—mimic history’s own ruthless whims. They decide, as the victors in battles of everyday banality, who will be acknowledged, and who will not. They take it for granted that some people (the people, often, with the “fine eyes” and the “light and pleasing”figures) deserve attention, while others (the “plain” ones) do not.
.. the current renaissance of Mary Bennet is literary revisionism that suggests a more sweeping ethical project—one that celebrates the dignity of the marginalized.