Elizabeth Bennet: Character Analysis & Personality

Instructor: Debbie Notari
In this lesson we will get to know Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist in Jane Austen's beloved story 'Pride and Prejudice.' Elizabeth's wit, common sense, and individuality help her discover love with a man who, at first, she truly despises.

Elizabeth

Relationships

The novel Pride and Prejudice is a complex wheel of relationships with Elizabeth Bennet at the center. All of the characters in the book are not only presented from Elizabeth's point of view, but their lives intersect with hers as well. As they do, we get to know Elizabeth better.

Elizabeth's Parents

Although Elizabeth is very close to her father, she sees his weaknesses. Mr. Bennet is a witty man with a dry sense of humor who is surrounded by women. He has his wife - Mrs. Bennet, who is his polar opposite - and five daughters. As the law goes, no woman can inherit property, so there is some anxiety when the family realizes that when he dies, their estate will pass to a cousin, Mr. Collins. Mr. Bennet is fairly passive in his parenting, and Elizabeth strongly urges him to set stronger boundaries for two of her younger sisters, Lydia and Kitty.

Mrs. Bennet is gregarious and shows a definite lack of discretion. She lives for nothing more than to see her daughters settled into prosperous marriages. She continually nags Mr. Bennet about their estate falling into the hands of Mr. Collins. In fact, the marriage of Mr. Bennet to Mrs. Bennet seems to be a mismatch, since they are so different from each other. There is a silliness to Mrs. Bennet's character. Her actions and words embarrass her two eldest daughters, Jane and Elizabeth. At one point, Mrs. Bennet tries to force Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins, so as to keep the estate in the family. Thankfully, her father intervenes. So, it is safe to say that Elizabeth is not very close to her mother.

Elizabeth's Sisters

Elizabeth is one of five sisters: Jane, Lydia, Kitty, Mary, and herself. She and Jane, the eldest, are intimate friends. Jane is very sweet and kind. Lydia, on the other hand, takes after her mother. She is very silly about men and gets herself into trouble with a handsome but dishonest soldier, Mr. Wickham, as the story unfolds. Elizabeth isn't very patient with Lydia. The two of them are very different. Kitty, the follower, imitates Lydia, but her character is flat in the novel. We don't get to know her very well. Mary is a bookworm, and she has no interest in men at this time in her life.

Elizabeth's Friendships

As mentioned before, Elizabeth and Jane are very close. They share everything, and Elizabeth intuitively understands how deeply Jane loves Mr. Bingley, although Jane is very private about her feelings. She is outraged that Mr. Darcy would talk his friend out of making a lasting commitment to Jane because Darcy interprets Jane's mild nature as evidence of lack of interest interest in Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth's loyalty to Jane never wavers, and she defends Jane fiercely to Mr. Darcy.

Her other closest friend, Charlotte Lucas, startles Elizabeth by agreeing to marry the pompous Mr. Collins. Elizabeth feels betrayed because she believes Charlotte is settling for someone who doesn't deserve her. She can't believe her friend would allow herself to marry for anything but true love, but Charlotte is practical. She is older and has no prospects. Marrying Mr. Collins gives Charlotte a secure future. Despite their differences over Mr. Collins, it is clear the two women will remain friends for life, and this is partly due, again, to Elizabeth's strong loyalty to those she loves.

Elizabeth's Love Life

When Elizabeth first meets Mr. Darcy, she sees him as a proud man, and she has good reason to dislike him. At a party, she overhears him describing her as 'barely tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt' him. Her pride is wounded, but at this moment she becomes prejudiced toward Mr. Darcy based on this first impression. She sees him as pompous and arrogant. In fact, she later tells him that he would be 'the last man in the would that (she) could ever be prevailed upon to marry.' This wounds him deeply. Jane Austen masterfully builds this tension between the two characters who eventually come to understand and deeply love each other.

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