Something About Mary

Mary Bennet (Talulah Riley)

Mary Bennet, as played by Talulah Riley in the 2005 movie version of “Pride and Prejudice.”

Good old Mary Bennet. Jane Austen treats her badly, her family treats her badly, her father embarrasses her—though not quite as much as she embarrasses herself. Austen didn’t even like her enough to make her deliciously awful, like Mr. Collins or Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mary is merely pathetic. She aspires to be what she is not: interesting, talented, pretty, smart, socially adept.

A number of writers, including “Thorn Birds” author Colleen McCullough, apparently think Austen was too hard on Mary. As an article in The Atlantic points out, Mary is enjoying a bit of a heyday thanks to several books (and books-to-be) that focus on her and her story, delving beneath the plain facade of the middle child in the Bennet family.

Well, why not? Even the Marys of this world deserve a life. And for what it’s worth, Austen at least paid some attention to Mary. Other than describing her as irritating and insipid, she almost completely ignored fourth-sister Kitty.