Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Elizabeth Bennet

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Extended Character Analysis

Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of Pride and Prejudice, is the second-eldest Bennet daughter. She is intelligent, spirited, and opinionated. Elizabeth is closest to her older sister, Jane, and serves as a foil to Jane’s innocent and trusting character. Upon Elizabeth’s and Mr. Darcy’s first meeting, he calls Elizabeth “tolerable. . .but not handsome enough to tempt me,” wounding her pride and spurring her prejudice against him. Elizabeth is often judgmental, and although she does not truly know Mr. Darcy, she almost immediately judges his character as haughty and proud.

Although Elizabeth is prone to prejudice, she is also open and kind to those who are kind to her. This impulse towards reciprocity allows Elizabeth to easily bond with the charming and attentive Mr. Wickham, a stark contrast to the cold and rude Mr. Darcy. Due to her bad first impression of Darcy, Elizabeth is quick to believe Wickham’s lies about Mr. Darcy’s awful treatment of him. Elizabeth even considers Mr.Wickham a love interest for a short time. Meanwhile, each chance meeting between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy increases Mr. Darcy’s affections for Elizabeth and deepens Elizabeth’s dislike of Mr. Darcy. When Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and Mr. Bingley’s sisters leave Netherfield for London, Elizabeth finds herself grateful for Mr. Darcy’s absence, even if Mr. Bingley’s leaving hurts her sister Jane.

Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy again while visiting the Collinses near the Hunsford parsonage in Rosing’s Park. While there, Elizabeth finds out from Colonel Fitzwilliam that Mr. Darcy was responsible for convincing Mr. Bingley to leave Netherfield and to stop courting her sister Jane. Mr. Darcy calls on her during her visit and, to her surprise, he proposes to her. Elizabeth wholly rejects him and wounds his pride by implying that he did not behave in a gentlemanly manner during his proposal. Elizabeth also blames him for hurting Mr.Wickham and for ruining her sister’s chance at love with Mr. Bingley. Mr. Darcy later writes Elizabeth a letter explaining his actions. Elizabeth is at first angry with Mr. Darcy and rejects what he says in the letter, but after reading it many times she begins to understand his point of view. At this point, Elizabeth reflects on her own judgmental nature and starts to realize that Mr. Wickham is not a good man.

Several months later, Elizabeth embarks on a long trip with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. They go to Derbyshire, where Mr. Darcy lives. Although she fears running into Mr. Darcy again, Elizabeth agrees to go on a tour of his estate after being reassured that he is out of town. However, Mr. Darcy comes home while she is there and shows a great change in manner towards her; he is very courteous, impressing both Elizabeth and the Gardiners. Elizabeth begins to fall in love with him while spending time at Pemberley, but she is forced to leave hastily after discovering that Wickham has eloped with Lydia. Elizabeth has now fully transitioned from being prejudiced against Darcy to understanding his nature, allowing her to forgive him. She is less prideful and more aware of her own flaws.

When Elizabeth finds out that Mr. Darcy persuaded Wickham to marry Lydia in order to save the Bennet family from shame, she is grateful to Mr. Darcy. Soon after, Mr. Darcy returns to Longbourn with Mr. Bingley and once again proposes to Elizabeth. Elizabeth, having undergone a significant change of heart, happily accepts. Elizabeth exhibits significant growth throughout the novel as she comes to recognize her own prideful nature and learns to be less judgmental. By marrying Mr. Darcy, she is able to continue to be independent and true to herself while also making an ideal marital match.

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Mr. Darcy