Social Anxiety: Mary Bennet 

Experiencing a troubled situation where the emotions were overwhelming, then, imagining having to do it again and somehow that managed to terrify someone without even having to do anything. Social anxiety is a commonly known psychological disorder that involves: the fear of judgement, insecurity, high levels of distress, conversational cues, interpretational bias and anxiety in social settings. This condition gains control over a person’s mentality by rejecting all forms of social encounters ideally with a large group of people. Usually people who are socially anxious tend to be more reserved and blunt with their surroundings. Social anxiety typically springs up in a person who feels like an outcast, often put aside and inevitably ignored. Mary is the third Bennet sister frequently referred to as the “least pretty” in the family. Due to her introverted personality her character primarily revolves around simplicity and her quality of a constant crave for attention.

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For Mary, educational matters are her kryptonite she continuously ditches her sisters to read books and persistently drops her chances of meeting a young man to marry. Although she seems to be shy and awkward all Mary seems to do is embarrass the family, thus, leading her to acquire the traits of a socially anxious person. Insecurity and Fear of Judgment Adjusting to life behind the shadows of four other sisters doesn’t come easy. Mary Bennet faces insensitivity and harsh judgment from her family. Mrs. Bennet often describes Mary as “the least pretty” and “the only plain one of the family” to emphasize her flaws in order to boost her other daughters she also does this because she mildly resents Mary for not being outgoing and a participant to find someone for her to marry.

In chapter two its for certain that Mary is seen as the troublesome within the family as her parents speak poorly of her saying, “While Mary is adjusting her ideas,” he continued, “let us return to Mr. Bingley” yet another sign that she is constantly overlooked. The fear of judgment runs and affects in the Bennet household, trying to keep up their social status’ through the marriage of all five daughters creates internal alterations leading to the socially anxious Mary. “Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us”. This ultimately gives the reader an insider of what the forgotten character, Mary, reflects upon. She seems to already have an idea of what her family and others think of her causing a weakness in her self-esteem, most socially anxious people have very low self-satisfaction and to hear others speak of them is one reason why they become invisible like and shy. Later in the book, when the ball came around she knew her facial features would not do her “so she had tried to make herself more able than others and was always eager to bring her musical skill to notice” as Mary sang her father noticed Mr. Bingley’s sister’s reaction and “gently stopped his daughter. This example strongly explores the reason behind her anxiety, as any other person with a mental disorder, she wants to feel accepted and wanted therefore, she tries harder than anyone else and since her own father just cut her off and compared her to her sisters she clearly wants to close off any social interaction.

Extreme Distress

Pride and Prejudice is essentially based on extreme distress over societal status, superficiality, and acceptance. Distress causes a strain in the family and basically breaks the family from their expectations. Emotional distress is what Mary portrays within the novel, she continuously searches for the acceptance of her parents, meanwhile, enduring the presence of anxiety. Towards the end of the story “Mary was the only daughter who remained at home” this must be due to her lack of social communication and shyness then again “Mary could never give up the time” to do so (Pg 119).

Conversational Cues

Everyone uses conversational cues when speaking these are cues given through “conversations and social interactions, these can be verbal or non-verbal” (??). For a person undergoing social anxiety it is difficult to identify these cues this may be since they are introverted people and merely do not associate at social gatherings. Mary doesn’t quite understand the reason for why the family needs to stay in a high status therefore, does not care. Her family sees her as someone “who [prefers] to read” rather than go out and find her marital status (pg22). Anxiety frequently creates a barrier between communication and timidity. Interpretational Bias“Interpretational bias may be particularly influential in individuals with social anxiety because social cues are often ambiguous and thus, easily distorted” (??). An example would be when Lydia is speaking to Mary about how she missed out on the fun her sisters had and once she allows Mary to reply she simply ignores her. “She rarely listened to anybody for more than half a minute, and never attended to Mary at all”, this could suggest to Mary that her sister is selfishly uninterested in anyone else but herself.

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is caused by “a fear” which varies from meeting new people to embarrassment and rejection. Mary’s character is full of fear of rejection from her parents she tries to keep their family honor and status but fails miserably every time inevitably leading to the bruising of her self-esteem. “Mary was forced to mix more with the world as her more beautiful sisters were no longer there to be compared with her” this example is probably the reason for her anxiety to play a major role in her character. Her sisters are gone and have married into the high status’ but the pressure for Mary is even higher since she can’t be ignored of pushed aside anymore she must part take in the search for her new husband to maintain the reputation the rest of her family has created. Her social anxiety is covered up by using the excuse of “having no attraction for [her]” and slightly more interested in books staying seriously minded. Socially anxious people tend to keep distracted elsewhere and stay far from any popular events.


“Social anxiety is the type of anxiety that is experienced when you are in situations where you may be observed, judged, or evaluated by others.

15 Jun 2020

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