For each character, find one line from the text that best captures who the character is and write a brief explanation for it.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The depth of characterization in Austen's work offers plenty of opportunity to find quotes that represent specific individuals in the narrative.  What is featured here is only a small sampling of what is available to you.  

Such abundance is certainly valid in finding quotes for Elizabeth Bennet.  Her ability to judge individuals in a blistering fashion is evident in exchanges with her Jane:

Did not you? I did for you. But that is one great difference between us. Compliments always take you by surprise, and me never. What could be more natural than his asking you again? He could not help seeing that you were about five times as pretty as every other woman in the room. No thanks to his gallantry for that. Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.

This quote shows Elizabeth’s insight into human beings, and in particular, men.  She is not impressed with the social conventions that make women less intelligent and intellectually subservient to men.  She speaks her mind and is direct about what she perceives as the truth.  Her blunt honesty as well as her pride and prejudice are on display in this particular quote.

Darcy is a good complement to Lizzy.  He lacks social eloquence to frame what his framing of what he sees as true:  "A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment."  Darcy is perceived to be prideful and rather ill- equipped at social graces.  The idea that he would articulate what women want and what he perceives them to believe is spoken with such brazenness and such openness that it reflects the exact view others have of him.  His unique ability to cast a negative impression on others is seen in the transparency with which he speaks, evident in the quote.

Jane Bennet is the sister to whom Lizzy is the closest.  Jane is one who "never sees a fault in anyone."  Elizabeth’s manner of describing Jane reflects how demure and well- bred the older sister is.  She does not want to think bad of anyone, even those who really do deserve it.  Lizzy’s assessment of Jane is reflective of both her greatest asset and her most tremendous weakness, serving as the reason she complements Lizzy so much.

In the case of Charles Bingley, there is a pivot from the direct and blunt nature of both Darcy and Lizzy.  Rather, there is a sense of compliance in the world and his place in it:   "When I am in the country, I never wish to leave it; and when I am in town it is pretty much the same. The each have their advantages, and I can be equally happy in either."  Charles is easy going, and easily influenced.  He can be molded and is quite malleable.  The quote captures this.  Whereas other characters like Darcy or Lizzy or even Lydia are hard- lined about what they want, Charles is shown to lack such defiance and determination.

When exploring the world of Mr. Bennet, there is an examination of how poor choices causes a sense of detachment in one's being in the world.  Austen reflect this in her characterization of the patriarch in name only:  "Mr. Bennet was not of a disposition to seek comfort for the disappointment which his own imprudence had brought on, in any of those pleasures which too often console the unfortunate for their folly or their vice."  Austen’s description of Mr. Bennett captures the detached manner in which he has committed himself to living the rest of his days.  He will not succumb to any vice to lessen the “disappointment” intrinsic to his being. Rather, he simply disengages from those around him. While he is passionate towards Lizzy for he sees his own traits in his second daughter, it is clear that his disposition is one where he renders himself almost as passive onlooker as opposed to active agent. 

Part of the reason for Mr. Bennet's detachment is because of Mrs. Bennet.  It could easily be argued that this is the fundamental reason for it.  Mrs. Bennet lacks the insight and understanding of and for her husband.  Her primary concern is to "marry off" her girls, seen in the opening lines of the book: "Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!"  This line shows how her primary interest as a mother for her girls is to find a “single man.”  Mrs. Bennett is socially conditioned for no other purpose than to seek men- wealthy and eligible men- for her daughters.  Her superficial and exterior nature is captured in both the quote and in Austen’s description of her as  “a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper.”  In Mrs. Bennet's statement, it becomes clear Mr. Bennet cannot get far enough away.

In terms of seeking distance, Austen's description of George Wickham makes one realize that pretty things can do ugly things.  Austen articulates this in describing the initial appearance of George Wickham:

His appearance was greatly in his favor; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.  The introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of conversation- a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and unassuming.

George Wickham’s description captures how appearances can be deceiving.  His superficial appearance belies a very cruel interior.  He represents how men prey on social advancement tendencies without regard or hesitation.  The embodiment of “the devil is in the details,” Austen’s description of his appearance and the means by which he is able to commit some repugnant acts is reflective of the challenges that women faced then and what women still face today in trying to judge a man.

In describing Lydia Bennett, Austen encapsulates the reason for her being.  Austen describes Lydia as one who "had [been] brought into public at an early age."   Austen’s description of Lydia as being brought out in public at too early of an age is reflective of the challenges that Lydia faces.  Lydia is "untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless"  and the reason for this is because she was introduced to a life for a woman at far too early of an age.  Austen makes clear that the challenges that Lydia faces are of her own creation.  However, such realities were set in motion as a result of Mrs. Bennet having brought Lydia out too early, exposing her for a lifestyle with too much risk and not enough educational awareness about it.  Lydia becomes the result of bad parenting choices.

Lizzy's description of Mr. Collins is a pointed one.  She captures his essence in describing him as "a conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man."  Lizzy’s assessment of Mr. Collins is reflective of how trivial she views him.  Austen herself confirms this in describing Mr. Collins as “not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society".  Lizzy’s view of Mr. Collins is indicative of how she criticizes those who lack substantive values and a sense of true commitment.  

Caroline Bingley is shown to be capable of hurtful words and actions.  Austen describes her as one who delights in deconstructing who she sees as adversaries with the choicest of words and in the most petty of manners:

Her face is too thin; her complexion has no brilliancy; and her features are not at all handsome. Her nose wants character- there is nothing marked in its lines. Her teeth are tolerable, but not out of the common way; and as for her eyes, which have sometimes been called so fine, I could never see anything extraordinary in them.

Austen uses Miss Bingley to address how callous and cruel people can be, in particular women.  Caroline rips Elizabeth in the only way she knows how:  Physical appearance.  She criticizes Lizzy’s looks in private in order to raise her own stock with Darcy.  In demonstrating this characteristic, Austen makes a rather strong point about how women who represent such behavior end up validating the system that denies them voice, primarily because they are denying it to one another.

Austen describes Lady Catherine as a woman who is capable of "delivering her opinion on every subject in so decisive a manner, as proved that she was not used to have her judgment controverted."  This quote captures her character well in her obstinance that she knows everything and knows it the best.  Lady Catherine’s wealth is what enables her to speak without any notion being controverted.  Her dominant nature is a result of her financial and social standing.

Charlotte Lucas recognizes the importance of financial standing. This is captured when she is talking to Lizzy about marriage and the choices in marriage:

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.

In chapter 5 when we first meet Charlotte, Austen describes her as "The eldest of them[ the Lucas children], a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twenty-seven, [and] was Elizabeth's intimate friend."  She is almost the anti- Elizabeth.  Austen’s description of Charlotte with her age is significant.  27 carries with it the perception that a woman is old and that time is passing for her to be deemed an eligible wife.  With “the clock ticking,” the description shows that people like Lady Lucas are at the mercy of prospective alliances.  Including Charlotte’s age is a way for Austen to offer criticism of the social expectation that women have to be married young and the older a woman gets without marriage, the worse it is for her.  It is for this reason that while other women in the novel like Lizzy and Jane marry for love, Charlotte marries for money and for external expectation. This becomes the reason why Charlotte says that Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance, something proven in her choice and rationale for marriage.

Georgiana is the younger sister to Darcy.  She is a sister who idolizes her brother.  When she sees Lizzy speaking with such openness to her older brother, Austen speaks to this condition of hero worship of her older brother:  "... At first she often listened with an astonishment bordering on alarm at her [Lizzy's] lively, sportive manner of talking to her brother."  Georgiana idolizes her brother.  She is incapable of thinking that he is any less than heroic status.  This is put to the test when she sees Lizzy joking with him in a manner of equals. For Georgiana, her reference for her brother, “respect which almost overcame her affection,” is dominant in both how she sees him and how she lives her life in reverence for him.  

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Pride and Prejudice

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