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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Jane Bennet

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Jane Bennet is the oldest and most beautiful of the five Bennet sisters. She is thoughtful, selfless, and trusting. She often sees only the good in the people she meets, whereas her sister Elizabeth is more shrewd in judgement. Jane falls in love with Mr. Bingley, a wealthy bachelor who moves into Netherfield Park near her family’s home in the countryside. Although Jane does love Mr. Bingley, her quiet and gentle nature does not allow her to outwardly show her affections. Mr. Darcy sees this and is convinced that Jane does not love Mr. Bingley. With the help of Mr. Bingley’s sisters, Mr. Darcy convinces Bingley to stop courting Jane. For Mr. Darcy, the benefits of this are twofold, as the Bennets are considered socially undesirable and he believes Jane isn’t in love.

Jane spends the majority of the novel unhappy over Mr. Bingley’s leaving, as she truly loves him. She even goes to London to stay with her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, in the hopes of meeting him and his sisters. Jane is disappointed when, upon calling on Caroline and Mrs. Hurst in London, they treat her coldly. Jane also has no luck in finding Mr. Bingley in London. After Lydia and Wickham elope and then are found and forced to marry by Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy return to Netherfield. Upon returning, Mr. Bingley goes to Longbourn to see and propose to Jane, who happily accepts.

Mr. Bingley

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Mr. Charles Bingley is a wealthy, good-natured bachelor from the north of England. He prides himself in his spontaneity and is very loyal and trusting towards his friends, possessing “great natural modesty.” Although he falls in love with Jane Bennet, his trust in Mr. Darcy and his sisters allows them to persuade him to leave the countryside and end his courtship with her.

Mr. Darcy convinces Mr. Bingley that Jane is not in love with him and argues that the Bennets are vulgar and socially beneath them. However, after Elizabeth confronts Darcy about his decision to deter Bingley’s affections for Jane, Darcy realizes his mistake and eventually encourages his friend to return to Netherfield. Upon returning to the countryside, Bingley resumes his courtship of Jane and they marry.

Mr. Bennet

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Mr. Bennet, the father of the five Bennet ladies, is eccentric, intelligent, and sarcastic. Mr. Bennet is a small landowner, and, since he does not have any sons, his estate is entailed to Mr. Collins, his closest male relative. In his youth, Mr. Bennet married Mrs. Bennet for her beauty, unaware of her shallowness. He is now disappointed with his marriage, but he copes with Mrs. Bennet’s ridiculous nature through sarcasm and indifference. Although aloof, negligent, and often emotionally closed off to his daughters, Mr. Bennet loves and admires Elizabeth Bennet, viewing her as his most intelligent daughter.

In expressing his concerns over the match between Elizabeth and Darcy, Mr. Bennet states that a marriage without respect cannot be fulfilling. This view, likely learned as a result of his own poor marriage match, manifests itself in Elizabeth’s rejection of both Mr. Collins’s proposals and Mr. Darcy’s first proposal. Though largely a negligent father, Mr. Bennet encourages Elizabeth to pursue a match founded on love and respect, preventing her from making the same mistakes that he did.

Mrs. Bennet

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Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Bennet’s wife, is silly, shallow, and interested only in getting her daughters married to wealthy men. She favors her youngest daughter, Lydia, but she also takes a great amount of pride in the beauty and grace of her eldest daughter, Jane. Mrs. Bennet shows contempt towards Elizabeth, often pointing out Elizabeth’s flaws in beauty and manner as compared to Jane's. Mrs. Bennet constantly seeks out attention and adds to the Bennet family’s continuous embarrassment in social situations.

However, for all of her flaws, Mrs. Bennet’s concerns about her daughters’ futures are valid. As opposed to Mr. Bennet, who largely ignores the problem, Mrs. Bennet actively encourages her daughters to marry so that they will be financially stable when their father passes away. Her aggressive pursuit of suitors for her daughters, while comical, is also a manifestation of the very well-founded concern that they will end up destitute and with no prospects, showcasing a genuine, if sometimes misguided, love for her children.

Mary Bennet

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Mary Bennet, the middle child of the Bennet family, is the most reserved and formal of her sisters. Mary focuses almost solely on practicing her piano and reading, but she is a poor performer and often expresses herself in a pedantic manner. Mary serves as comedic relief in Pride and Prejudice, as her overly complex observations and sometimes embarrassing social acts further highlight the Bennet family’s many social flaws.

Catherine Bennet

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Catherine (Kitty) Bennet is the second youngest daughter of the Bennet family and is closest to Lydia Bennet, the youngest daughter. Kitty primarily follows Lydia’s lead and shares many of her uncouth mannerisms. When Lydia is allowed to go to Brighton with Colonel Forster and his wife, Kitty becomes jealous and angry, feeling neglected. The separation of Kitty and Lydia near the end of the novel allows Kitty to take steps towards gaining her own independence and personality.

Mr. Collins

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Mr. William Collins is a pompous, sycophantic clergyman, who is distantly related to Mr. Bennet. Mr. Collins idolizes Lady Catherine de Bourgh, his patron. He sees himself as more important due to his connection with her, and everywhere he goes he mentions her and her elaborate estate. As the heir to Mr. Bennet’s estate, Mr. Collins seeks to marry—mostly due to the urging of Lady Catherine de Bourgh—one of the Bennet girls in an attempt to ensure the Longbourn estate stays connected to the Bennet family.

When Mr. Collins first arrives at Longbourn, he expresses interest in marrying Jane Bennet. Mrs. Bennet, however, is convinced that Mr. Bingley will propose to Jane and urges Mr. Collins to propose to Elizabeth instead. Elizabeth steadfastly refuses him, even after several attempts. Feeling embarrassed and under appreciated by Elizabeth and the Bennet family, Mr. Collins then stays with the Lucas family, where he meets and proposes to Elizabeth’s confidante and close friend, Charlotte Lucas. The two marry and live in a small parsonage near Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh

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Lady Catherine de Bourgh is Mr. Darcy’s aunt and Mr. Collins’s patron. Lady Catherine is a haughty and domineering woman. She wants Mr. Darcy, her nephew, to marry her only daughter, Anne. When Lady Catherine meets Elizabeth Bennet during Elizabeth’s visit to see the Collinses, Lady Catherine notes her unusual and bright nature and remarks condescendingly on Elizabeth’s lower social standing.

Upon finding out that Mr. Darcy had proposed to Elizabeth, Lady Catherine becomes enraged. She tries to extract a promise from Elizabeth that the two will never marry, but Elizabeth refuses to comply. Ironically, it is Lady Catherine’s subsequent confrontation with Darcy, wherein she tells him that Elizabeth refused to promise not to marry him, that gives Darcy the confidence to propose to Elizabeth again.

Anne de Bourgh

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Anne de Bourgh is Lady Catherine’s spiritless and sickly daughter. Her mother plans for her to marry Mr. Darcy in order to combine two great family fortunes.

Charlotte Lucas

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Charlotte Lucas is Elizabeth Bennet’s closest friend and confidante. Charlotte is a thoughtful, intelligent, and a bit older than Elizabeth. Charlotte knows she is advancing in age and thus worries about her prospects. Knowing that she will have few chances to marry, she accepts Mr. Collins’s proposal after Elizabeth rejects him.

Charlotte is logical and figures that she will attain a healthy and comfortable life with Mr. Collins, even if she doesn’t love him. Elizabeth struggles with Charlotte’s decision to marry a man she does not love, as Elizabeth is set on love and fulfillment in marriage and life.

Caroline Bingley

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Caroline Bingley, Mr. Bingley’s sister, is a haughty and worldly woman of fashion. Caroline looks down on the Bennet family and the people residing in the countryside near Meryton, but she begins a shallow friendship with Jane Bennet for the sake of her brother, Mr. Bingley. Although supportive of her brother, she disapproves of Mr. Bingley’s courtship of Jane, and she works with Mr. Darcy and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst to separate them. Caroline tries and fails to court Mr. Darcy, who rejects her at every turn. Caroline becomes jealous of Elizabeth Bennet due to Mr. Darcy’s interest in her, often resorting to petty insults that rankle both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Though mortified by Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s marriage, she is ultimately forced to set aside her resentment in order to maintain such a valuable acquaintance.

Mrs. Hurst

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Mr. Bingley’s sister Mrs. Hurst is also a haughty, worldly woman and is married to Mr. Hurst. Mrs. Hurst shows significantly less malice and thought compared to Caroline, and often follows Caroline’s lead. Mrs. Hurst represents the overindulged and unfulfilled wealthy woman, with an unexciting husband and a life focused on social status.

Mr. Gardiner

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Mr. Gardiner, Mrs. Bennet’s brother, is a London merchant. He is fond of fishing and has three children with his wife. After Lydia elopes with Mr. Wickham, Mr. Gardiner immediately goes to London in order to assist Mr. Bennet in finding the two and forcing them to marry.

Mrs. Gardiner

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Mrs. Gardiner, Mr. Gardiner’s wife, is kindly and sensible. She is closest to Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. After visiting Pemberley and witnessing Mr. Darcy’s behavior towards Elizabeth, she suggests that Darcy is still in love with Elizabeth. She is also responsible for confirming Darcy’s involvement in Lydia and Wickham’s marriage for Elizabeth. Though most of Elizabeth’s relatives are seen as sources of embarrassment, both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth hold a deep affection for the Gardiners.

Georgiana Darcy

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Mr. Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana, is shy, intelligent, and talented. She loves her brother, Mr. Darcy, and trusts his judgement absolutely. When she was 15, Georgiana was nearly manipulated into eloping with Mr. Wickham, which is a great source of shame for both her and Mr. Darcy.

Sir William Lucas

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Sir William Lucas is the head of the Lucas household. A knight, Sir William Lucas is preoccupied with his status and wishes to be of help to everyone. He is overly solicitous at times, but he is generally a good-natured man.

Lady Lucas

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Lady Lucas is a good friend of Mrs. Bennet’s and serves as her gossiping partner. Although they are friends, Lady Lucas and Mrs. Bennet also engage in small rivalries, comparing each other’s families and estates.

Marie Lucas

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Marie Lucas is the youngest daughter of the Lucas family. She often spends time with Catherine (Kitty) Bennet and Lydia Bennet. Marie joined her father and Elizabeth Bennet on their trip to Rosings Park, and she was left dumbfounded by Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s domineering nature.

Colonel Fitzwilliam

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Colonel Fitzwilliam is Mr. Darcy’s friendly and outgoing cousin. Elizabeth meets him while visiting Rosings and takes an immediate liking to him. Colonel Fitzwilliam also unwittingly reveals Mr. Darcy’s efforts to separate Jane and Mr. Bingley to Elizabeth, fueling her anger towards Mr. Darcy.

Aunt Phillips

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Aunt Phillips is Mrs. Bennet’s sister. Much like her sister, she is shallow and ostentatious, frequently hosting parties for the militia officers and spreading gossip around Meryton.

Uncle Phillips

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Uncle Phillips is Mrs. Bennet’s brother-in-law. He inherited her father’s law practice in Meryton.

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Mr. Wickham