Charlotte. Charlotte Lucas. My Charlotte.
I was cast as Charlotte in my local theatre group's production of Pride and Prejudice, which wrapped in February. I'd seen the miniseries and movie, and after I was cast, I read the book. Now, after reading it and spending months thinking about the character, I'm feeling feelings and I CAN'T STOP and I need to talk it out with you all.
The set up: In Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Lucas is a relief of level-headed pragmatism amid the drama that is Elizabeth in particular and the Bennets in general. I like Elizabeth's passion and her snark, but what I like most about her is how much affection Charlotte clearly has for her (am I biased? Absolutely). Next to Elizabeth, Charlotte's indifferent view of love in its relation to marriage is made all the more pronounced. Marriage is simply a socioeconomic necessity, not something from which she can expect to derive any happiness, other than happiness in not, you know, starving. She works at this pragmatism, emphasizing what of it she has naturally until it envelopes here, becoming armour. "I am not romantic, you know; I never was," she says in Chapter 22.
What I'm getting at: I think she's a giant liar.
From Chapter 22,
She is not romantic, she says. But look how she cares about Elizabeth Bennet. Though Charlotte's affection for Elizabeth may be platonic, though she may be aromantic, from what she says about love earlier in the book, how she tells Elizabeth of her engagement to Mr. Collins, and the way she seems to pine after Elizabeth after moving to Hunsford, well, I call shenanigans.Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. [...] The least agreeable circumstance in the business was the surprise it must occasion to Elizabeth Bennet, whose friendship she valued beyond that of any other person.
What she says about love: (from Chapter 6) "there are very few of us who have heart enough to be really in love without encouragement." Does she include herself in those few? Is she trying to convince herself that whatever she feels for Elizabeth isn't truly love, since it's not returned in the same fashion?
Our director, who adapted the book into our script herself, fleshed out the proposal reveal a bit when compared to the book. Instead of the (delightfully) awkward and abrupt end we see in Austen, here's how our scene read:
CHARLOTTE: [...] Given Mr. Collin's character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chances of happiness with him are as fair as most people can boast upon getting married.
ELIZABETH: Is that all you hope for in a marriage?
CHARLOTTE: It will be enough, Lizzy. It needs to be enough. I do not have the luxury of waiting for love to sweep me off my feet. Indeed, nor do I wish for it. I am quite a few years older than you, and not nearly as pretty. I am in danger of being a burden, first to my parents, and then, when they die, to whichever of my relations will take me in. Please do not pity me or disparage my choices. This marriage will bring me security and, with that, peace. It is more than I thought possible.
Is that all she hopes for in a marriage? That's a resounding NOPE. But it's all she'll get, all that's possible for her. At least she has her security. Her chickens and her good roads. It will be enough; it needs to be enough.