Pride and Prejudice Questions and Answers
by Jane Austen

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Was Mr. Bennet a secret enemy of the Bennet sisters and Mrs. Bennet?

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Mr. Bennet is one of the most likable and amusing characters in Pride and Prejudice, so much so that readers tend to forgive his faults as a father. His daughters must marry well or be destitute when he dies, for Mr. Bennet never saves any of his income, which at £2,000 a year is a substantial one. Mrs. Bennet, whatever her faults, is acutely aware of this, and spends her life trying to secure suitable husbands and endowments for her girls. Mr. Bennet does nothing to help them and is inclined to sneer at his wife's efforts.

It is putting the case against Mr. Bennet too strongly to say that he is a "secret enemy" of his wife and daughters. His faults are indolence and selfishness rather than malevolence. Since his wife exasperates him, he enjoys doing the same to her. His main tactic is pretending to be more indifferent to his daughters' marital prospects than he actually is. The novel opens with his apparent refusal to visit Mr. Bingley at Netherfield. Later, he reveals that he has made the visit without telling any of his family. Mr. Bennet is not an enemy of the other Bennets. However, he does the bare minimum of his duty as a father and, with the exception of Elizabeth and occasionally Jane, displays little affection for his family.

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