Story: A Better Man
Author: Lea B
Story URL: Story Link 1
Alternate URL: Story Link 2
Word count: 106,200
Summary: After returning from Kent, Elizabeth continues to reflect on Mr. Darcy’s letter and her reflections lead to changes in her life at Longbourn.
When Elizabeth reflects upon Darcy’s letter at Hunsford she realizes that her father’s way of managing the family is destroying his children’s lives. She is so disillusioned with him that she decides to go stay with the Gardiners before their summer trip to Derbyshire. Upon returning from Derbyshire, things do not improve between her and her father. This creates a complicated, multi-faceted backdrop for the romance of Elizabeth and Darcy.
This story stuck with me so thoroughly that, a year after I had first read it, I found myself begging for help from other JAFF readers as I tried to recall the name of the story with the intriguing, slightly angsty, but ultimately insightful take on Elizabeth’s relationship with her father. (I’m terrible about remembering story titles and author names, which is a big reason why I started archiving my recs, years ago.)
When I first read this, I thought that the estrangement that develops between Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet was OOC (Out-of-character) for them. However, over time I’ve changed my mind on this. I think that Elizabeth was disappointed in her father’s behavior in canon. That is definitely expressed in her ruminations after she receives Darcy’s letter at Hunsford. It is easy to imagine how those feelings had the potential to affect things when Elizabeth speaks to her father before Lydia goes to Brighton. Her language in that canon conversation was actually quite blunt for the era, at a time when it would be profoundly disrespectful for a daughter to inform her father that he was failing to do his duty in raising his children (See her “If you, my dear father…” speech in Chapter XVIII of Vol. 2). Lea B pursues that concept a bit further, allowing us to see how it might have been if he had taken offense at Elizabeth’s challenge. What if he, like many of us who have obvious faults we don’t like to acknowledge, became resentful and defensive about Elizabeth’s observations on his indifferent parenting? And how would he have then felt when Lydia’s elopement proved Elizabeth right, much to his shame?
It sounds like a rather simple premise, beginning with a fairly minor elaboration upon the expressed sentiments in canon, but what results is a story with rich characterizations and an intriguing, introspective premise. I found myself thinking not only about the characters of Elizabeth and her father, but also about my own character. I love stories which cause me to stop and think about myself and my own life for a bit, and this was a great example of that. Best of all, the story adroitly avoided becoming too introspective, angsty, morose or whiny, as some character-study stories have a tendency to become. 🙂
I don’t want to leave you with the impression that the story is primarily about Elizabeth’s relationship with Mr. Bennet; that is not the case. The focus of the story remains a lovely romance about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. The depth of their attachment is only enriched and enhanced by contrasting it with the home from which Elizabeth came. I.e., because she has gained a better understanding of what her home with Mr. & Mrs. Bennet lacked, she is better able to appreciate what her home with Mr. Darcy has to offer.
My only critique: Hmm… all I can think to say is that I wish there had been an epilogue, as I would’ve enjoyed hearing Lea B’s version of what the future held for the Darcy, Bingley and Bennet families years down the road.
Nov. 21, 2010 post was significantly updated and expanded following a re-read in June 2011.