"Entailment 101" was first presented at the Jane Austen Summer Program of 2019, entitled "Pride and Prejudice and Its Afterlives." Eric Bontempo explores the structure of financial inheritance that greatly affects the lives of the Bennet sisters.
Mrs. Bennet, who comes from a family of lawyers, is often derided for her absurd and embarrassing attempts to ensure her daughters’ future marriages. How does entailment complicate depictions of Mrs. Bennet? Could she be the better, more responsible parent in the novel? What leeway does Austen give the reader to sympathize with Mrs. Bennet’s plight?
Mr. Bennet describes the entailment of his own estate as “a most iniquitous affair” and states that “nothing can clear Mr. Collins from the guilt of inheriting Longbourn” (61). How can we characterize Mr. Bennet’s attitude toward his family’s future posterity? Is he distressed like Mrs. Bennet, simply dejected, or altogether indifferent?
Taken as a whole, what does the novel suggest about the law’s relationship to the family dynamic and the courtship process? What do the numerous references to inheritance and yearly income indicate about how England’s upper classes defined themselves and others in the period?