Pride and Prejudice — and Zombies?

When I describe the influence of Jane Austen on Joanne Rowling to lecture audiences, my pet phrase is that a good way for them to understand the Harry Potter novels is as “Pride and Prejudice with wands.” This hyperbole is more true than not because (1) the Hogwarts Adventures feature narrative misdirection consequent to the voice chosen by the author, a voice lifted straight from Austen’s Emma, (2) the moral message of both authors is anti-empiricist, that is, not trusting unexamined prejudices or “first impressions,” the original title of Pride and Prejudice, and (3) the satirical quality of Austen’s manners-and-morals fiction is a big part of the genre melange the writing of which is Ms. Rowling’s peculiar genius. Inside a Schoolboy novel and gothic thriller, she includes without hiccup a Georgian era romance.

This genre mixing is postmodern “double coding,” which I explain at length in Unlocking Harry Potter. But Ms. Rowling isn’t the only author to include Austen in their genre story mix. Stephenie Meyer has said Twilight, the first book of her ‘Twilight Saga,’ is a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice (if Jane Eyre is behind and within many of that book’s scenes and characters, too). But Meyers and Rowling are way too subtle with their allusions and recasting for the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; it’s time for a real re-telling, straight up, with gothic horror elements on steroids thrown in. Regency romance meets Texas Chain Saw Massacre? You get the idea.

From the book description:

Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesPride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen’s beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen’s classic novel to new legions of fans.

Seth Grahame-Smith, the co-author with Miss Austen of this soon-to-be-classic, is “the author of How to Survive a Horror Movie and The Big Book of Porn.” He writes a very funny blog on the book’s page which is well worth checking out, believe me. On why he did it, for example:

I’ll admit it — I’m a message board stalker. Anytime I get a “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” Google Alert (any author who tells you they don’t obsessively scour the internet for the slightest mention of their books is a filthy, filthy liar) I swoop in and scroll straight down to the reader comments. As I mentioned yesterday, people’s reactions to the book’s existence (no one’s actually read it yet) tends to break one of two ways. On one side, you have the “awesome; this is full of win; I hate Jane Austen but I would totally read this” crowd. On the other, you have the “why? Why would you tamper with something as beautiful…as pure…as perfect as Pride and Prejudice?”

Well, I’ll tell you why: because it’s funny. Because the idea of uptight, early 19th Century aristocrats parading around in their finery, attending stuffy dances and taking tea in the midst of an all-out war with the undead struck me as really, really funny. And because the thought of Elizabeth Bennet striking down hordes of zombies with a Katana sword struck me as awesome. That’s the best answer I’ve got.

There seems to be very little grey area in people’s response to this book’s existence. It’s either “omg! best idea ever!” or “how dare you sir!”

Frankly, how much different is this Monty Python-esque in-your-face double coding from the Kafka-esque subliminal uses of Ms. Rowling? Both are funny and meant to turn your experience of Jane Austen upside down then right-side-up again, after all. Zombie movies, especially the Dawn of the Dead film archetypes, are all about portraying postmodern people as unthinking, unfeeling, not-quite-mentally-alive undead consumers without the power of self-reflection or self-restraint. (Meyer includes quite a bit of this satirical zombie meaning in her Eclipse.) I love Pride and Prejudice and love the idea of “Elizabeth Bennet striking down hordes of zombies with a Katana sword” because it makes some of the same points Austen makes, albeit in graphic, totally incongruous fashion. The incongruity makes the reader experience and explore both the original and the wild meaning, if only to try to answer the inevitable question, “what the heck is going on here?”

Your thoughts and corrective comments are much appreciated. I hope RevGeorge will add Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to his ever growing pile of books-to-read so he can give us a full report, or, better, that he will write the PoMo classic we’ve all been waiting for, Anne of Green Gables Meets Godzilla.


  1. Uh, can I read the original Pride & Prejudice first? I still have to read Anne of Green Gables too. However, I am well steeped in Godzilla having fruitfully spent most of my Saturday nights growing up watching monster movies & pro wrestling until the wee hours of the morning.

    Indeed, the history & evolution of Godzilla is a fascinating story in itself. For anyone interested I would recommend _Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters_ by William M. Tsutsui (Sep 23, 2004)

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