Greetings, mortals. I am Artemis, Goddess of the hunt. My powers extend to chastity, protecting women, and also, to a lesser extent, cage fighting. Therefore, I am proud to welcome you to the first of what I hope will be many installments of my new column, “Literary Ladies Cage Fight!” I thought that, in this post-9/11 dystopian world, what mortals really needed was a new kind of heroine, someone who…what’s that? You’ve heard I’ve been exiled from Mount Olympus for allowing feminism to become a dirty word? And that this column is a punishment, of sorts, to remind me of the power of women? Well…that’s correct, actually. But I want you to know, I don’t look on this as a punishment. I see it more as an opportunity, an opportunity to showcase women of strength and integrity—and make them fight each other! So without further ado, I give you LITERARY LADIES CAGE FIGHT!
Our first matchup is a doozy. These beloved heroines are easily some of the most relatable characters in literature. Who among us in our teen years did not drift off to sleep clutching one of these novels to our chests? Who among us did not waste hours fantasizing over the romances we would have with the highly-unsuitable-yet-strangely-appealing men of these books? Who among us would not cut a bitch for professing not to love at least one of these books? That’s right, I’m referring to the colossally popular, ever-misquotable-on-Pinterest heroines of Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, Miss Elizabeth “I am very fond of walking” Bennet and Miss Jane “I am not an automaton” Eyre!!!! I give you… THE CLASH OF THE TITANS!!
According the UFC rules, each bout will last for five rounds. I will declare a winner after each round, and the girl who wins the most rounds will be the victor! Of course, should any fighter knock out her opponent, rendering her unable to continue, then the fight is won. Are you ready to rumble?
Round One: Harry Potter House
For this first round, I call upon the mighty J.K. Rowling, the Woman Who Wrote. She created a classification system that I have found to be highly useful in rating fighters. So with every matchup, I will be sorting our ladies into Hogwarts houses.
Jane is a resourceful, clever orphan who grows up ostracized by her adopted family and yearns to find a place where she belongs. Sound like anyone familiar? At first glance, Jane is a textbook Gryffindor. However, when faced with the prospect of a life of freedom in India with a hunky husband or a life rebuilding a drafty old house with a blind ugly widower, she chooses Option B. Her story has even been turned into a BDSM novel. She’s not quite vanilla enough to be a Gryffindor. RAVENCLAW
Lizzie is one girl in a family of five girls, charmingly poor but not without pride (and…prejudice? Sorry. So sorry). She distinguishes herself by being smart (but not quite as smart as Mary) and outspoken (but not quite as outspoken as Lydia). She will tromp through the mud to save her ailing sister and is not afraid to turn down not one, but two marriage proposals until she gets the one she wants. With her “tolerable” personality and determination to fight for her sisters’ rights, she’s a GRYFFINDOR for sure.
WINNER: Lizzie. Because Gryffindors always win.
Round Two: Sidekick
What is a fighter without her entourage? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In this round we explore the coterie of our women and discuss whether they are helpers or hindrances.
Jane goes through life primarily alone. Her only friend is Helen Burns, a girl she befriends at Lowood School. Helen pulls a Beth-from-Little-Women and dies, calmly and poetically, in the arms of her best friend. Before departing, Helen assures Jane she is going to God, and they share a Heaven is for Real moment. Jane carries the memory of her sweet friend, and her faith in God, for the rest of her life.
Lizzie has not one, but four sidekicks: her sisters. Lizzie can hardly go anywhere without her accompanying gaggle of siblings, who usually cause a ruckus. From Mary’s horrid singing and piano-playing to Lydia’s harlot-y ways, Lizzie is generally embarrassed (or at least we are embarrassed for her) of her family. Indeed, I find myself often wishing that Mrs. Bennet had ascribed to my views of chastity after the birth of her second daughter. Although Lydia is the impetus that finally pushes Mr. Darcy and Lizzie together, her family causes her much more heartbreak than happiness.
WINNER: Jane, obviously.
Round Three: Love Interest
Since so many promising women refuse to see the benefit of my celibate way of life and devote themselves to the pursuit of love instead of hunting, I am forced to consider the love interests of each heroine as part of her fighting abilities.
Jane, while briefly enticed by the adorably useless cousin St. John, is in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester. A Byronic hero who’s raising his daughter from a fling with a French dancer, he is described as a “good master” by his housekeeper. Like all good Byronic heroes, he’s got a dark secret—he’s married! And his crazy wife lives in the attic! The discovery of his marriage is too much to bear and Jane wisely flees, sleeping on the moors and almost dying of starvation rather than live in sin with him. He does stare out the window and sigh her name after she leaves, though, and she somehow telepathically hears him and replies. So that’s something.
Lizzie thinks she’s maybe in love with the rakish solider Wickham, whose good looks hide his secret—he’s not a victim of Darcy’s family but in fact a leech, who burned through his inheritance and caused them great pain. Lizzie is so taken with this cad that she all but ignores Mr. Darcy, not becoming kindly disposed towards him until she tours his enormous estate (and meets his devoted staff who paint him as a kind man, but let’s not kid ourselves—she falls in love with the house first, then the man). Mr. Darcy himself is sort of a jerk, who refuses to dance at parties, doesn’t flirt with ladies, and probably takes the last beer out of the fridge without asking or offering to get more.
WINNER: Tie. Still married is tough to overcome, but at least when Rochester proposes he doesn’t insult the object of his affections.
Round Four: Tragic Flaw
What would a battle governed by a Greek goddess be without a tragic flaw? #Oedipus! I was unable to find flaws in these women, so I grudgingly asked my half-sister, Aphrodite, to help out. Please excuse any grammatical errors in the next round…she’s not very bright.
OMG SHUT UP ARTIE I HATE YOU SO MUCH! Just kidding, love ya, mean it. Anyways hiiiii everyone! I am so excited to be helping my big sis with this column! She never asks me to help her with anything, or lets me give her a makeover, WHICH SHE SORELY NEEDS. But whatevs. So, I didn’t read these books, but I did watch the BBC miniseries of “Pride and Prejudice” and the movie of “Jane Eyre” with yummy Michael Fassbender, so I feel like I have a pretty good handle on this!
Jane is super serious! I mean, I know she’s an orphan and all but live a little, girlfriend! She always wears grey, and sometimes, like, purple-grey. And they totally wash her out, IMO. So that’s a flaw, for sure. And also, once she finds out about Rochester’s wife, she won’t run away with him. I mean, when a man offers to run away with you to Paris, YOU GO.
And Lizzie? Girl, you got to say YES to Colin Firth! The FIRST time he asks you! Didn’t you see him dive into that lake in that white shirt? Damn. Eventually, she gets it, but it takes her way too long. Also, stop dragging your nice skirts through the mud. Take a cab, for real.
WINNER: Lizzie! Because even though she gets mud on her dresses, she DOES know how to get prettied up for a ball. Okay, Artie is taking the laptop from me but hopefully see you soon byeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Round Five: The End
Terribly sorry about that. Hopefully her intrusion wasn’t too annoying. In any case, we have had an exhilarating battle so far! Lizzie is currently on top with 2.5 rounds, while Jane is not far behind with 1.5 rounds. If Jane wins the final round, we will be forced to go into SUDDEN DEATH, wherein first to land a blow wins. If round 5 is a tie or goes to Lizzie, then she is the winner! Anticipation is high. Even my insipid half-sister has looked up from painting her nails. In this final round, we determine whose ending was the happiest. Here we go!
Jane is just about to set off to India with St. John when she hears Mr. Rochester’s voice, summoning her home. Convinced her walkabout stunt has amply demonstrated her independence and refusal to be played a fool, she returns to him. He is now blind and missing one hand. His crazy wife has conveniently committed suicide to free him up to marry again. Jane overlooks his physical deformities and consents to marry him. They live happily ever after—Rochester even regains sight in one eye and is able to see his firstborn son. Incidentally, the spurned St. John resolves not to marry, which I approve of.
Lizzie, once she realizes how ardently Darcy cares for her, does consent to marry him. They move to his majestic estate, far from the crass family, and sit around being rich together. Her meek sister marries the milquetoast Bingley, which for some reason makes everyone happy, and the tart Lydia is condemned to her “indifferent” husband Wickham and begging her sisters for money. Mrs. Bennet, Lizzie reports, is still a “silly” person.
WINNER: Although both women end up married and are therefore both losers, Lizzie’s tale mentions no children, while Jane bears Rochester a son. I do not approve of sons. Therefore, in an extremely close call, I declare Lizzie Bennet the winner of this fight! However, I do add that if Jane had agreed to live “as a sister” with St. John and gone to India, that would have been an immediate KO and Jane would have had the win. So consider your choices, ladies.
I hope you enjoyed the fight! I for one always find a battle most stimulating, second only to a good hunt. Neither of these books features any hunting. But you should still read them AND NOT JUST WATCH THE MOVIES ‘DITE YOU IGNORAMUS because, for unchaste women, both Jane and Lizzie are really quite something. See you in two weeks!
Laura Sook Duncombe lives in Alexandria, Virgina with her husband and a mutt named Indiana Bones, Jr. Musical theater, pirates, and Sherlock Holmes are a few of her favorite things. Her work can be found on the Toast, the Hairpin, Jezebel, and at her blog.