There are many aspects of Pride and Prejudice that do not make sense to the modern American reader, especially if you happen to be a guy. However, Seth Grahame-Smith, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, has recovered the missing parts of the story for us, adding in what the censors (and Jane Austen’s sense of delicacy) took out.
When you read the original story, you must remember that the British have always been masters of understatement. For example, a Victorian critique of Queen Cleopatra was that “her home life was so unlike that of our dear Queen.” Therefore, the fact that the British Isles were infested with “unmentionables” was, in fact, unmentionable.
You also need to remember that in 1808, when the events described in Pride and Prejudice weres happening, there was a war on, and the censors did not want to let on that something terrible was happening in the British Isles. It would have given unnecessary encouragement to Napoleon Bonaparte. And so one of Jane Austen’s books was apparently significantly altered in the name of national security.
Most of Pride and Prejudice is in the book, word for word, but there is additional information that makes sense of the story. Without spoiling the story too much, I can tell you that the following questions, which make no sense in the original novel, are answered:
Why is Netherfield empty?
[Since the answer is on the first page, I can tell you that “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Never was this truth more plain than during the recent attacks at Netherfield Park, in which a household of eighteen was slaughtered and consumed by a horde of the living dead.”]
Why does Mr. Bennett apparently have no interest in finding husbands for his daughters? Does he not care about them, or does he have other more pressing concerns?
Why are the soldiers really stationed in Meryton, anyhow?
And why is Elizabeth particularly concerned when Jane falls ill at Netherfield?
Why would Charlotte Lucas, a lady with apparent good sense, accept a marriage proposal from Mr. Collins?
What is the real reason that Mr. Darcy prides himself on separating Jane Bennett from Mr. Bingley?
Why does Lady Catherine de Bourgh keep inviting Mr. and Mrs. Collins over for tea, even though Mr. Collins is a dull sort and they were both so far beneath her station?
Why did Mr. Gardner have to take a shorter vacation than planned, and therefore visit Pemberly? What line of work is he in anyhow?
Why do Jane and Mr. Bingley decide not to settle at Netherfield?
While most of Seth Grahame-Smith’s reconstruction of the original story seems plausible, he also makes a few blunders. He seems at times to mistake muskets for repeating rifles, implying that Miss Bennett could shoot multiple zombies at close quarters with her musket. Muskets require manual reloading, and are therefore good for only one shot, except against the very slowest zombies. Then it is time to get out another weapon, like a big Samurai sword.
He also reports some scandalous things about Mrs. Gardner that could not possibly be true.
Finally, Elizabeth Bennett seems, in addition to having some anger management issues, to be a bit theologically confused. When she kills zombies, she thinks she is sending them to hell. It is well known that when you kill an undead creature, it goes on to the afterlife that it earned before it became undead. Even Count Dracula himself had a look of peace on his face when the stake went through his heart. Perhaps Elizabeth can be forgiven this confusion, since preaching at this period of British history was particularly bad, as evidenced by the fact that Mr. Collins had a job.
While there are some Jane Austen purists who will be aghast upon opening this book, or even upon looking at the cover, they will find, once they open it, that it is far from the worst adaption of Jane Austen that has been introduced. I mean, which is worse: inserting zombies into the story of Pride and Prejudice, or trying to make Keira Knightley into Elizabeth Bennett?