Oh, how I love Jane Austen. This may make me girlier than I like to admit, but I love her insights on life, her characters, her wit, her stories. I have a fondness for Pride and Prejudice because I decided a while back that my family is freakishly similar to the Bennets. I’d give examples, but you didn’t come here for my “life imitating art” theories!
You came here for the Jane Austen-style aggression!
Take Pride and Prejudice. Add Zombies. Surprisingly awesome combination!
Some have told me they couldn’t finish Pride and Prejudice. Because it’s Valentine’s and you’re probably ready to hurt someone, I’ll give a somewhat sarcastic and basic summary to the classic.
The rich Mr. Bingley moves into the neighborhood. Mrs. Bennet practically shoves her five daughters at him, yelling, “Marry one!” Bingley goes, “Hey Jane B., you’re hot. Darcy, check out Elizabeth!” Darcy: “bleh!” After a while, he’s thinking, oooo…. pretty eyes… but Lizzy has none of it.
Majority of the book: Darcy falls in love while Elizabeth gathers evidence to hate him. This evidence includes the testimony of the charming Wickham, and that Darcy broke up Bingley and Jane. *GASP* So when he proposes to her, she (more or less) replies, “not a chance, jerk. I loathe you.” He writes her a letter entitled “Proof I’m NOT a jerk, ” and she starts thinking maybe she was wrong.
When Lydia Bennet ruins her reputation by living with Wickham, Darcy (secretly) pays Wickham to marry Lydia, thus saving the Bennets from disgrace. After hearing a rumor, Darcy’s aunt Lady Catherine comes by to tell Lizzy that she won’t allow Darcy to marry Elizabeth since Darcy is WAY out of her league. Lizzy responds “none of your business who I marry.” Darcy takes this to mean EB’s changed his mind about him, which, yeah she has. Jane and Lizzy have a double ceremony with Bingley and Darcy.
Now that the romance is summed up, ENTER THE ZOMBIES!!!!
Seth Grahame-Smith is pretty good at keeping the Austen dialog intact and adding 21st-century humor and zombie/ninja references when needed. He keeps the Austenian* language and style. The fact is, the sisters Bennet are not damsels in distress. They are warriors fighting against the zombie plague!
Here are some differences and favorite parts:
- The 19th Century was so reserved… so subtle in their insults. Just tell us what you’re REALLY thinking! There are many great lines, but my favorite comes from Mrs. Bennet. When she is told to set an extra place for dinner, she retorts:
“I know of nobody that is coming, I am sure, unless Charlotte Lucas should happen to call in– and I am sure my dinners are good enough for her, since she is an unmarried woman of seven-and-twenty, and as such should expect little more than a crust of bread washed down with a cup of loneliness.”
- Oh. We need a moment. Poor Charlotte gets stricken by the “plague”. Few realize she’s becoming a zombie, and Lizzy has sworn not to kill her. The transformation becomes both disgusting and hilarious when she loses control of herself (her impaired speech is amusing, her eating habits… not so much).
- Here’s a short example of the exact Austen dialog… with appropriate zombie references. (Original conversation between Lady Catherine and Lizzy about governesses/education.)
Lady C: Have your ninjas left you?
EB: We never had any ninjas.
Lady C: No ninjas! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without any ninjas! I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been a slave to your safety.
(EB assures her that her mom did not.)
- BTW, Elizabeth beats up Darcy after his ridiculous first proposal. Good. He deserved a big kick to the face. In his defense, he separated Bingley and Jane because he believed Jane was striken.
- Grahame-Smith includes an amazing “Reader’s Discussion Guide,” where he calls his adaptation “a rich, multi-layered study of love, war, and the supernatural.” My personal favorite question is about zombies representing marriage: “an endless curse that sucks the life out of you.” LOL!
I avoided Austen for a long time because I believed it was “puff-ball” literature (as one of my professors would say) and I’m not a “girly-girl.” I don’t think the original P&P is completely puff-ball, because although Darcy “saves” their reputation, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is one strong, confident woman who is no distressed damsel. She says no to two marriage proposals, even though it meant financial ruin. She doesn’t hesitate to walk three miles in the mud to see her sister. She’s sensible, but she lives big, loves big, and laughs big. Other than the whole judging before you know someone, she’s pretty awesome.
Most “Austenesque literature” (people writing like Austen)* is semi-annoying. It has a formula opening with an adaptation of the line “it is a truth universally acknowledged….” It usually reduces P&P to a sappy romantic comedy, and it’s big on the “oo, I married a rich man” aspect. If that was all that mattered, half of P&P wouldn’t exist.
In contrast to other Austen-inspired work, P&P&Z acknowledges that Elizabeth is a kick-ass woman without anyone by her side. Sure, it’s got the romance, but it takes a backseat. I’ll admit, I can get sick on suggestion, and some of the pictures (and descriptions) are pretty gross. Overall, he stays true to the book’s characters, script, story, etc. At the end of the day, Lizzy and Darcy are lopping off zombies’ heads… together. AWWWWW!
Continued goals for this book/For the classroom:
A, 7th/8th grade & above. (BTW, the Scholastic Book Sales that go home every month or so have this in their catalog for older middle school students.)
Now, I have a twisted sense of humor. I love the original, but don’t mind poking fun. I think Ms. Austen would chuckle at this. The question remains, is an appreciation of the original necessary for enjoying the satire?
This book should appeal to boys, but most guys avoid Austen like a [zombie] plague. I may conduct an experiment this summer: The subjects will be at least two males (probably nephew and husband, but if anyone else would be interested, let me know!). One will read/watch P&P, then read P&P&Z; the other will just read P&P&Z, and they can let me know what their thoughts are. Dang it, this experiment is WAY better than my masters’ thesis! Anyway, when this happens, you will be the first to know!*Austenian and Austenesque “differences”: I looked up both, neither seemed a definitive way to describe Austen. While one friend said “Austenesque” was correct, I feel like that means “like Austen,” instead of Austen’s personal style. If you care, comment. 🙂