Why does Mrs. Bennet want her husband to visit Mr. Bingley in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is a commentary on class and wealth in Victorian English society. While most of the characters are concerned about wealth and class for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways, no character is quite as obvious about it as Mrs. Bennet.
She has five girls to marry off, and the only standard she seems to have for any of them is marrying above their circumstances. She is a woman who demonstrates her lack of class, propriety, and discernment. Mrs. Bennet is
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.
She allows, even encourages, her youngest daughters to pursue husbands rather than educations, believing that it is more important for them to marry well than to be educated.
So, in chapter one when Mrs. Bennet learns (via gossip, of course) that someone has rented Netherfield Park, she tells her husband all about the news.
"Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week."
"What is his name?"
"Is he married or single?"
"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!"
"How so? How can it affect them?"
"My dear Mr. Bennet," replied his wife, "how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them."
"Is that his design in settling here?"
"Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes."
Propriety calls for Mr. Bennet to be properly introduce himself to the newcomer before the girls are allowed to meet him; and, since she wants her girls to be favored, Mrs. Bennet insists that her husband call on Mr. Bingley as soon as possible. He is not moved, as she is, by the man's money, and he rather makes fun of his wife and his foolish daughters. He says perhaps he will visit Bingley and recommend to him that the daughter Bingley should marry is the only sensible one, his favorite, Lizzy.
"They have none of them much to recommend them," replied he; "they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters."
Of course Mrs. Bennet is not distraught that he has called her younger daughters "silly and ignorant"; the only thing she dislikes is that he favors Elizabeth over the others. All she wants is for one of her daughters (she has no preference--any one of them will do) marry this rich man, without any concern about compatibility or love. She is a frivolous woman.
At the beginning of chapter two, we learn that Mr. Bennet did, indeed, pay a visit to Mr. Bingley:
Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley. He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid she had no knowledge of it.