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Seth Cassel
April 2007

Mr. Collins: Life Coach to the Rich and Powerful

Mr. Collins, in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, is a simple clergyman who is a sycophant, respecting power and status to an exorbitant degree. His class-conscious character leads him to revere Lady Catherine. At dinner with his patroness, "he took his seat at the bottom of the table, by [Lady Catherine's] desire, and looked as if he felt that life could furnish nothing greater. He carved, and ate, and praised with delighted alacrity" (139). Mr. Collins takes every opportunity to extol Lady Catherine. In order for Mr. Collins to promote his association with Lady Catherine, he attempts to please her every whim. At her request that "Mr. Collins, you must marry" (92), he promptly goes out in search of a wife. These characteristics make Mr. Collins "a mixture of… obsequiousness [and] self-importance" (61). He worships the desires of those above him, such as Lady Catherine, so he too may be considered among their class.

The modern Mr. Collins retains his former toadying nature. However, he no longer is a clergyman looking to help others hear the word of God to organize their lives. Rather, he is a "life coach," a recently created profession in which one assists his or her clients to establish and achieve personal goals. A life coach is similar in purpose to a therapist; nevertheless, a life coach does not need a Masters or Doctorate degree. Thus, Mr. Collins' patients are not paying top dollar for his services, and as a result, his financial position is comfortable, but he in no way can be considered "well-off." However, he does maintain a small but comfortable country home in Sparks and drives a used Mazda Miata. The car was purchased at a very reasonable price from a friend who needed to make room in his garage for his Aston Martin. The modern Mr. Collins' political views can best be expressed in one of his favorite phrases, "the people know best." He likes to see which candidate is ahead in the polls and subsequently votes for the one who is leading closest to Election Day. It is a common misconception that Mr. Collins, a middle-aged man and slightly overweight, uses hair gel. Instead, his often oily hair is achieved by frequent usage of a shower cap, as he believes this greasy look gives him a disheveled, yet distinguished appearance. Finally, he enjoys hobnobbing with the wealthy at Suburban Country Club, despite having to take out a mortgage to pay the membership fees.

In the contemporary topic discussing the problems of Lady Macbeth and Mr. Kurtz in a life coaching session, Mr. Collins attempts to please his patients at all costs. He readily notices that Lady Macbeth and Mr. Kurtz are two powerful and influential people, and as seen in his interactions with Lady Catherine, he tries to endear himself to them in order to further his position in life. He even submits to Lady Macbeth's scheme of killing the president of her husband's company in order for her husband to take the spot. If she carries out the plot, Mr. Collins will be associated with the wife of a company's president enhancing his "very good opinion of himself" (61). Due to Mr. Collins' toadying nature, he does not want to anger Lady Macbeth and Mr. Kurtz. Therefore, in his entire discussion with them he does not offer any potentially disagreeable advice to either group member. Similar to his conversations with Lady Catherine, he also reveres the comments of those of greater status, whether they are desires concerning his matrimonial status or criticisms of his coaching techniques.