Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies by Seth-Grahame Smith
“It is universally acknowledged that a zombie in search of brains must be in search of more brains.” – (Smith 1)
[[Essay Written 9 June 2011 – In this essay, T.H analyzes how the characters of Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies fortify themselves against the unmentionable menace and how their lives have been, or rather have not been, changed by the rise of the undead.]]

The lot of zombie fiction has rarely ever strayed from the path of an “all-out, blown-up post apocalyptic setting” when the cannibalistic creatures walk loose on the earth, hungering for human flesh. Usually when humans encounter the undead, they panic and become either useless or deadly. The human character Is met with the disadvantage of pain, loss, and lack of determination; while the zombie is simplistic, does not feel pain, nor loss, and is determined to seek out food. Such an adversary would sure enough create a respectable disturbance in the lives of the average Regent-English family.

The Bennets, however, are not.

The population of the undead menace in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies lightly intervenes in the events inspired by the original plot of the Jane Austen novel. People are carried off into the darkness and eaten, graveyards are razed and destroyed to prevent the rising of more unmentionables from corpses, and the Bennet family is put at risk when two of their daughters face terrible circumstances; yet through it all Mrs. Bennet still manages to take pride in the simpler things.

“The business of Mr. Bennet’s life was to keep his daughters alive. The business of Mrs. Bennet’s was to get them married.” (Smith 9).

One of Mrs. Bennet’s quotes expresses her view as well as that of many others, “Such joys are scarce since the good Lord saw fit to shut the gates of Hell and doom the dead to walk amongst us.” (Smith 10) in regards to the zombie apocalypse in Regency-Era England and the rest of the world. Mrs. Bennet, in contrast to her husband, is more interested in the grooming of her daughter’s feminine characteristics rather than their actual training for survival in the zombie-ridden world. Similar characters such as Mr. Bingley and his extended family share similar tastes, belittling the presence of the unmentionables as a common annoyance while pursuing their own social and economic goals.

A typical zombie film will feature a group of survivors forced to undergo intense conditions, but Seth Grahame-Smith takes liberty from this and forms all of the main characters into archetypal action parodies of the supernatural genre. From swordsman, to muskets, to ninjas; the main cast is primarily trained in order to confront the undead menace or defend their loved ones against it. This lack of hesitation during scenes like the defense of Mr. Bingley’s party from a horde of zombies, or the vanquishing of Lady Catherine’s ninjas, and of course Elizabeth’s plots to slay Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine illuminate the various points in which the main cast does not hesitate to proceed.

The Bennets have not been horribly affected by the zombie horde. In fact, it can be concluded that the parody itself runs off of Jane Austen’s plot closely, and that the relationships and discoveries of the four sisters make in manners, education, and marriage assert themselves. The events of the zombie outroar are only slightly referenced in certain chapters with Elizabeth, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and George Wickham all complimenting on each others’ skills at hunting zombies credibly.

“Why, my dear, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune; that he escaped Longdon in a chaise and four just as the strange plague broke through the Manchester line.” (Mrs. Bennet, in the middle of a casual conversation with her husband; Smith 7)

Elizabeth and Darcy are portrayed as the two most successful prominent characters in the novel and serve as the main love interests for each other. They start out roughly, but once their katanas and muskets are raised up high and the undead are a’comin, the chains are off and they immediately recognize the other’s uniqueness compared to their peers. Darcy, a haughty and impolite monster hunter, is fortified both as being incredibly skilled and ruthless both in combat and personality. As Elizabeth encounters him, then later faces him, their admiration for each other grows. It is indeed possible to say that this romance obscures the threat of the undead from either of them. It is the developing of their mutual attraction towards one another that is important, not their fighting.

Not only do the characters share an eerie lack of typical zombie fiction paranoia amidst their ranks, but the language of the novel frequently uses calm, polite adjectives and verbs much in the same way that the original novel did. Words such as “assuredly” and “agreeable” appear often in a book about the zombie apocalypse, while titles such as “ladyship” and “unmentionables” appear within battles to describe zombies and humans alike. Outside of pre-fight and post-fight scenes, Smith’s language conveys a sense of the commonness of that era but drops thrilling phrases in like this, spoken by Elizabeth on pg.231, “This is a most unfortunate affair, and will probably be much talked of. But we must stem the tide of idle chatter, and pour into our wounded bosoms the soothing balm of vengeance.”

The plot of Zombies overshadows the overall prominence of the zombie menace as Smith takes elements and themes from the original Austen work, such as romance, upbringing, morality, and parental negligence to enhance the flow of storytelling. Excerpts from the plot are commonly used to direct the path of the reader while the zombies, ninjas, and martial arts are injected into certain scenes for entertaining results. The Bennet family, their neighbors, and their interests all frolic within the ideals of society while staving off a barely agreeable common enemy.((T.H 2011))

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter bySeth-Grahame Smith
“Nearly all men can stand adversity. If you want to test a man's character, give him power.” – Abe Lincoln

[[Essay Written 9 June 2011 – T.H capitalizes on the twisted, sardonic, and dark concept of vampires portrayed in the epistolary, parody mash-up novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth-Grahame Smith; stating that the reinforcement of vampires being characterized as evil beings and the inclusion of actual historical events emulates the history of slavery in America.]]

Abraham Lincoln is arguably one of our nation’s most prominent presidential figures – you see him and the Lincoln Memorial on your five-dollar bill – and while he may play the “Daffy Duck” to George Washington, Lincoln’s history and likeness to the supernatural were often exaggerated by media as obscure. Combined with poverty and tragedy in Lincoln’s early and later life, this makes Seth Grahame-Smith’s recount of Abe’s early vampire-hunting years from his childhood to adult life so laughably hysterical. Not only is this fictional account of vampire-hunting in the early 1700s and the role of vampires in modern society capable of grabbing one with its audacious rationalizing of American history, but it takes the concept of vampires to a very serious, dark level not often seen in modern interpretations. This aboriginal look on vampires emulates the era which Lincoln existed – the time of slavery and political turmoil amongst America’s own people, and a time of numerous revelations.

Seth Grahame-Smith as few would probably know was, at one point in his life, visited by one of these stereotypically “unsightly, evil” creatures and received a package full of “Secret Diaries” left behind by Abraham Lincoln; written over the course of Lincoln’s life and encompassing his time from infancy to his death. Naturally, Seth is at first perturbed by this, but is unable to stop leering into the diaries, which were delivered him due to his struggling status as a writer so that he could refurbish them into a collection.

Seth’s obsessive behavior is at first illuminated since the idea of actual vampires existing, in which he mocks himself for even contemplating the truth of the diaries. When slavery was first brought into light, the public reaction since the 1850s was that abolishing slavery was a preposterous idea. It’s also interesting to note that slavery was one of the major folds of Lincoln’s presidency. Are the pieces starting to fit together?

Seth simultaneously begins lousing touch with his family, “For the first two months, my wife was concerned. For the second two she was suspicious. By the sixth month we’d separated.” (Grahame-Smith 14) as he acknowledges that he fears for his safety, his family’s safety, and his own wife’s safety; but around this same time he finally begins accepting the idea that vampires DO exist. And this fear for emerges when the facts are revealed throughout the story – these vampires are not friendly.
Not only through reading the diaries does Seth gain insight into America’s history behind-the-scenes, but the nature of the vampires in this world are revealed by none other than the vampire that saves a sixteen-year old Abraham Lincoln from certain death. This vampire, named Henry Sturges, explains that vampirism works two ways. One kind of vampire ends up being evil and bloodthirsty, while the other half remains good-natured or retains their original personalities. And while the Civil Rights movement contained a side that was militaristic and sought independence from “white” establishment, there was also a side that was passive-aggressive and used non-harmful approaches to gain ground.

Throughout the novel, Abraham is motivated to exterminate ALL vampires through the sheer actions of one vampire that had killed his mother, who until then he believed had died of a milk-related illness. It is also circulated in a darkly ironic fashion that it is the action of one single vampire that saved Abraham from death, and in turn, nurses and trains him into becoming a powerful vampire hunter. Slavery had slaves and masters working hand-in-hand, even if they were not given equal amounts of respect. In this case, Abe ends up both in debt to a vampire he ostensibly hates for saving and training him.

Lincoln’s personality as an established vampire hunter is not solely out of self-righteousness; however, as he soon learns that the purpose of slavery in America is for vampires to easily feed on the enslaved humans. This form of sustenance, Lincoln deduces, can only be thwarted by ending slavery in America, resulting Abe becoming an Abolitionist. Smith uses this part of Lincoln’s position to further explore the depth of vampires in the story for these are the vampires that are depicted as ultimately evil. This further establishes a representation of slave owners, who used slaves for manual labor and occasionally personal services. Vampires here magnify the “feeding” of Southern and Northern slave owner who endorsed slave labor as the only way to support the economy.

Furthermore, the novel goes onto state that Lincoln’s presidential election was fueled by the threat of a vampire invasion – the vampires intend to ignite a “civil war” in order to enslave all of America through the conflict itself – and in order to repel them Lincoln must secure the presidency. The conversion of history into a vampiric myth is inverted here, as Smith now takes actual documented events such as the last two above and uses them as plot points for the novel. The Civil War, Lincoln’s presidency, and the Emancipation Proclamation all are, in some way, related to uprooting the scourge of vampires, who seem to carry no other motive beyond requiring humans as a food source and manipulating nations in order to achieve this goal.

As the war on vampires (and thus slavery) dies down, things come full circle when Lincoln’s son, Willie Lincoln, is bitten/killed by a vampire assassin who breaks into the White House - mirroring how Lincoln lost his own mother due to her consumption of vampire blood. When the Civil War finally ends, though slaves are not completely free of segregation and discrimination in society, the vampires flee from America. However, in the middle of celebration, an aged Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in the middle of a theater in an attempt to rally the vampires behind Lincoln’s death. The circle of violence, the actions of a single individual, and the symbolism of vampires all shadow America’s history.

Lincoln’s stand against the vampires identifies the power of humans to alter the course of history. Without Lincoln’s interventions, the vampires surely would have won! Although Lincoln has the power to alter history with his own hands, he dedicates his life to hunting down the vampire menace and bestows upon Seth, far but not forgotten, the knowledge of vampires in America and his adversity. "And there is no knowledge that is not power." (Raplh Emerson)

((T.H 2011))

Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Even whilst facing the zombie apocalypse, those in Regency-Era England still find time to be vain, petty, and ignorant of the importance of significant events.

June 2016- In this critique, the extent to which the revitalized setting of Pride and Prejudice aids Seth Grahame-Smith in expanding upon Jane Austen’s criticism and satirization of the attitudes present the Regency Era will be analyzed.

It is a well-known fact that Jane Austen was satirizing the trivial nature of events deemed significant during the Regency Era when she wrote Pride and Prejudice. This criticism includes, but is not limited to: Marriage traditions based on security, not love (in the case of Lydia), Status-fuelled arrogance (Mr. Collins), and over-all triviality. The latter is exemplified by Mrs. Bennet the best: When her daughter, Jane is faced with the possibility of death, Mrs. Bennet simply shrugs it off because her death would have had been the result of a pursuit of a rich man, Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennet is so eager to advance her social status by marrying her daughters to well-off suitors, that any concern for her daughters’ well being is clouded. This situation is so absurd, it provides comic relief. Through this satire, Austen criticized the trivial nature which was synonymous with her era.
Seth Grahame-Smith builds on this criticism with further-heightened stakes, situations, and comedy in his novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Accordingly, Jane Austen is credited for co-authoring the novel since her initial criticism of the Regency-Era, Pride and Prejudice is the foundation of Pride and Prejudice andZombies in terms of theme, criticism, sequence of events, and narrative, albeit with some significant changes--most notably, the rotting corpses roaming England, killing people. Using this new and exciting component of the 19th-century work, Grahame-Smith, can illuminate the aforementioned flaws in the characters even more effectively. In a way, the main constituent of satire, exaggeration, can be pushed even further because of increased imperativeness of life events and heightened stakes.
Additionally, the inclusion of zombies in an antique setting is humorous in-and-of itself. Irony is evident because stories of the undead generally involve rugged men who have large muscles and tote firearms like water blasters. This is not paralleled in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Instead, the contrary is true: The protagonist zombie-killers are prude, priggish prisses. This humorous irony adds to comic relief and breathes a new life into the century-old story.
Another more overt reason that the addition of zombies is reinvigorating to the Pride and Prejudice novel is due to their prevalence in pop-culture. Zombies are everywhere. We have T.V. shows (The Walking Dead), Movies (Shaun of the Dead), Comics (The Dead), Books (Dead of Night), etc. And let’s face it; Pride and Prejudice is generally perceived as a boring, scholarly, and difficult to read by students.The inclusion of zombies makes the book inherently more interesting to students, and therefore, appealing to read. In addition, pop references make the satirical intentions of the author more obvious and easy to understand.
One example of triviality in the zombie-stricken universe is the debate regarding whether or not the women should carry muskets to defend themselves from the hordes of the undead. This, which would sound like quite a dandy idea to any sane person with regard for their life, is instead up for debate because muskets are seen as “lower-element” and “un-ladylike,” This issue provides the opportunity for Seth Grahame-Smith to supplement Jane Austen’s criticism of the triviality of the characters, while also staying true to the setting, staying interesting, and remaining relevant, all whilst paralleling the book that was written over a century earlier.
Another example of the narrative being made interesting is found when Elizabeth’s reaction to Wickham is compared to a fighting move. Fighting is a well-valued skill in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies universe, and this addition to status cues also aids in keeping the book interesting: “The gentlemen did approach, and when Mr. Wickham walked into the room, Elizabeth felt as if she has just been stunned by a devastating roundhouse kick.” (62)
Descriptions like this are plentiful and (almost always) hilarious. Yet, they still convey the emotion of the characters in a meaningful way. This is immensely important. Otherwise the undead addition to Austen’s original would be a worthless cash-grab gimmick.
The takeaway is just that: The addition of a pop-culture figure (or figures) can add to the effectiveness of conveying a novel’s theme, (which, in this case, is the criticism of triviality in the 1800’s,) without detracting from the meaning and essence of the work as a whole.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

C. G.
June 2016