Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Elizabeth Bennet, a spirited and intelligent girl who represents “prejudice” in her attitude toward Fitzwilliam Darcy, whom she dislikes because of his pride. She is also prejudiced against him by Mr. Wickham, whose false reports of Darcy she believes, and hence rejects Darcy’s haughty first proposal of marriage. Yet Wickham’s elopement with her sister Lydia brings Elizabeth and Darcy together, for it is Darcy who facilitates the legal marriage of the runaways. Acknowledging her mistake in her estimation of Darcy, she gladly accepts his second proposal.
Fitzwilliam Darcy, the wealthy and aristocratic landowner who represents “pride” in the story. Attracted to Elizabeth Bennet in spite of her inferior social position, he proposes marriage, but in so high-handed a manner that she instantly refuses. The two meet again while Elizabeth is viewing the grounds of his estate in Derbyshire, and she finds him less haughty in his manner. When Lydia Bennet and Mr. Wickham elope, Darcy feels partly responsible and straightens out the unfortunate affair. Because Elizabeth now realizes his true character, he is accepted when he proposes again.
Jane Bennet, the oldest and most beautiful of the five Bennet sisters. She falls in love with Mr. Bingley, a wealthy bachelor. Their romance is frustrated, however, by his sisters with the help of Mr....
(The entire section is 710 words.)
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Themes and Characters
Jane Austen is a keen observer of human behavior. She shows that while men and women often think too highly of themselves, deceive or flatter others, and act stupidly, they are also capable of love, kindness, and moral growth. With this mingling of positive and negative traits, her heroes and heroines seem deeply human.
The novelist is reputed to have considered Elizabeth Bennet her favorite creation. Indeed, the twenty-year-old possesses brains, beauty, musical talent, confidence, and—for the era— rare independence. At every turn Elizabeth displays the latter trait: she walks several miles alone to visit her ailing sister Jane at Netherfield; she declines Mr. Collins's marriage offer despite her mother's outrage; she angrily rejects Darcy's condescending proposal in the novel's most stunning scene. But this independence—perhaps inherited from her mother—leads her to make mistakes: she judges Wickham, Darcy, and others too soon, and then clings stubbornly to her prejudices.
Fitzwilliam Darcy first appears as an exceedingly self-impressed figure. Early in the novel, as he rudely refrains from dancing at a ball, Elizabeth overhears him talking derogatorily about her and the other women. At the next dance, he "must" admit to himself, although he still considers himself superior, that Elizabeth's intelligent expression is "beautiful." He falls in love with her against his wishes—despite detesting her bumptious mother, despite erroneously...
(The entire section is 892 words.)
The chief protagonists in this story are Fitzwilliam Darcy, the rich but aloof inheritor of Pemberley, and Elizabeth Bennet, the liveliest and wittiest of five daughters of a country gentleman of limited means. Their halting progress toward love, hindered by traits of personality and misunderstanding, is played out against the backdrop of late-eighteenth-century English country society, where several other couples act as foils for their relationship. The primary foils are the marriage of the senior Bennets, the Lucas-Collins marriage, the Jane-Bingley courtship, and the notorious Lydia-Wickham alliance.
Darcy appears in the vicinity of the neighboring towns, Longbourn and Meryton, only because his close friend, Charles Bingley, has rented the nearby estate at Netherfield. Darcy is richer and more urbane than his friend Bingley, but both are better off than any of the other families. Darcy very early on offends Elizabeth by snobbish comments at a dance. When Bingley is drawn to Elizabeth's older sister, Jane, Darcy (for reasons not disclosed until later in the novel) dissuades Bingley from seeing Jane, who has fallen in love and suffers badly. Although reserved, she is the kindest and most warmhearted of the Bennet sisters. Elizabeth tends to be more critical, with the kind of incisive wit that proves a match for Darcy's intelligence and social polish. Mary, the middle, bookish sister, has the most accomplishments, but she does not know when to stop...
(The entire section is 1008 words.)
Catherine "Kitty" Bennet is virtually a nonentity in the Bennet family. Although she is the fourth sister, younger than Mary but older than Lydia, Austen reveals that she is "weak-spirited, irritable, and completely under Lydia's guidance . . . ignorant, idle, and vain." However, the end of the novel is a bit encouraging for Kitty. Jane and Elizabeth make sure that she visits both of them frequently, and they introduce her to more intelligent and entreating society. Austen notes that this change in environment has an excellent effect on Kitty.
See Elizabeth Bennet
"Elizabeth Bennet," writes Elizabeth Jenkins in her critical biography Jane Austen: A Biography, "has perhaps received more admiration than any other heroine in English literature." Elizabeth is the soul of Pride and Prejudice, who reveals in her own person the very title qualities that she spots so easily in her sisters and their suitors. Elizabeth has her father's, Mr. Bennet's, quick wit and ironic sense of humor. Unlike her older sister Jane, she resists accepting all people uncritically. She is quick to recognize most people's principal characteristics—for instance, she recognizes the stupidities of many members of her family and quickly characterizes Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a control addict and her sister's suitor Charles Bingley as a...
(The entire section is 2600 words.)
The younger of Bingley's two sisters, Miss Bingley is rich, attractive, elegant, snobbish, and conniving. She is determined to marry Darcy, flattering him constantly -- though in vain -- and disparaging Lizzy at every opportunity. She treats Jane like a dear friend while secretly undermining her relationship with Bingley, who she hopes will marry Darcy's little sister.
Bingley is half as rich as Darcy, meaning very rich indeed, and he has just begun renting a manor house near the Bennets'. He is outgoing, affable, good-looking, charming, and so open and artless that everyone can tell almost immediately that he is in love with Jane. But he is also somewhat flighty -- boasting to Mrs. Bennet that "whatever I do is done in a hurry" -- and thus susceptible to the persuasions of Darcy and his sisters, who oppose his marrying into the Bennet family.
The second of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's five daughters, who has inherited her mother's beauty and her father's intelligence. At 20, Lizzy has perfect manners, but she is as witty and independent-minded as the period's strict social code will allow. She finds her mother's vulgarity humiliating, but reproaching her for it, even in private, would be a breach of decorum. On the other hand, she publicly teases Mr. Darcy for his lack of chivalry, and her willingness to assert her own opinions...
(The entire section is 1651 words.)