How could Mr. Bennet's character be described in Pride and Prejudice?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mr. Bennet is presented as an incredibly humorous character. It is he that acts as the mouthpiece for Austen's wit and sarcasm, particularly directed and his "long-suffering" wife. In the first chapter he is introduced as follows:

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.

However, although Mr. Bennet is shown to genuinely love Jane and Lizzie, Lizzie and Austen herself are not blind to his own limitations. We are told that he married because he was "captivated by youth and beauty" and therefore married someone with a "weak understanding and illiberal nature" that killed any affection early on in the marriage. Elizabeth, we are told, is not so consumed by her love for her father that she ignores the way that he has been a negative influence on her and her siblings:

Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of her father's behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible.

In spite of this, Mr. Bennet is desperate that his beloved Lizzie should not marry someone who is unsuited for her character, as he did, and we can see this clearly when Lizzie tells her father about her engagement to Mr. Darcy. In spite of his faults, he is an affectionate, loving father, who is always amusing.


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