Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have different parental qualities.  Outline their differences and state who in your view is presented the better parent.

Expert Answers
mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennett is described thusly:

"a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news."

Here's Mr. Bennett's profile:

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

As such, they are foils, opposites, not a good match.  He is sarcastic, and she is silly.  He is neglectful, and she is meddlesome.  He is independent, and she is a social butterfly.  He is a cynic, and she is a gossip.  He's a critic of the comic action, and she's an alazon, an impostor who thinks she's better than she really is.

Because Mr. Bennett is the only male in the family, he gives up trying to parent after Jane and/or Elizabeth are born.  The younger daughters he neglects, leaving them entirely for Mrs. Bennett to raise (if that's what you call it that she does).

Enotes says it best:

Mr. and Mrs. Bennett wed because they are physically attracted to each other...Mr. Bennett’s intolerance of his wife leads him to leave his youngest three daughters alone, which is why they become so silly. Elizabeth acknowledges this after noting Lydia and Kitty’s vulgar behavior with the militia:

But she had never felt so strongly as now the disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable a marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a direction of talents, talents which rightly used might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife (177).

Mr. Bennett’s loathing of his wife is no excuse for his parental neglect, and he is responsible for not guiding Mary, Kitty, and Lydia properly. Lydia and Wickham are no better off—they foolishly run off to London without knowing much of anything of each other because they too are attracted to each other. Lydia is a carbon copy of her mother, and Wickham, who is far more cunning, soon tires of her. Had they bothered to acquaint themselves with each other, they might have avoided the Bennets’ fate.

So, I don't think Austen means for them to be very realistic as a couple.  They are a comedic team, like Laurel and Hardy, like Abbott and Costello, not parents.  We are not meant to judge their parenting styles according to realism.  Having said that, I would listen to Mr. Bennett, maybe not as a parent, but certainly as a comic.

ael | Student

thanks =)

Read the study guide:
Pride and Prejudice

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question