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What describes Elizabeth's character in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

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btigger | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:26 PM via web

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What describes Elizabeth's character in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 25, 2013 at 5:43 PM (Answer #1)

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Elizabeth does a fairly good job of describing her own character in Volume II, Chapter XIII (36) after having read Darcy's famous letter written after Elizabeth rejects his marriage proposal and told him exactly what she thinks of him: "You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it."

After reading Darcy's explanation of his actions and of Wickham's history, especially his rejection of the living (clergy position) reserved for him by Darcy Sr. and his infamous, scandalous behavior toward Miss Georgiana Darcy, Elizabeth makes a serious re-evaluation of her own character.

"How humiliating is this discovery! -- Yet, how just a humiliation! -- Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. -- Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.'' (V. II, Ch XIII (36))

Elizabeth character is best described as young and thoughtless. She is not malicious, though she does do harm. Yet the harm is fairly mild, as harm goes, and can be repaired by thinking and doing better. She harms Charlotte by disparaging her choice to marry Collins. She harms Darcy by harboring a prideful dislike based on his behavior at the Meryton Assembly Ball. Elizabeth is proud, though she accuses Darcy of having pride.

Elizabeth is prejudiced. She was prejudiced toward Wickham for not reason than that he flattered her vanity. She was prejudiced against Darcy for no greater reason than that he was uncomfortable with dancing at a ball where all were strangers (while Bingley had such difficulty) and he slighted her beauty. She is, by her own confession, by her father's admission, and by what we observe of her in the text, given to laughing at people and herself a bit too much so that she misses some truly important moments for which earnestness would be more appropriate. 

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