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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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How does Jane Austen contrast Elizabeth and Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice?

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Jane Austen contrasts the characters of Elizabeth and Jane Bennett. While Jane is sweet and trusting of men, Elizabeth is quick to point out the weaknesses of others. Truly, Elizabeth is quick to judge. She does not trust Darcy. On the other hand, Jane sees the best in people. She is nonjudgemental. She is deeply caring about individuals. She is one who easily overlooks one's faults.

On the contrary, Elizabeth is nontrusting of others. She is quick to make judgements. She worries that her sister Jane will get hurt by her trusting nature. No doubt, Elizabeth is her own person who refuses to accept others uncritically:

Unlike her older sister Jane, [Elizabeth] resists accepting all people uncritically. She is quick to recognize most people's principal characteristics—for instance, she recognizes the stupidities of many members of her family and quickly characterizes Lady Catherine de Bourgh as a control addict and her sister's suitor Charles Bingley as a simple and good-hearted young man.

Truly, Elizabeth is a keen observer of people. She thinks she has everyone figured out. Due to her pride, Darcy is the last man on earth with whom she could be. Cleary, Elizabeth is prideful and prejudiced. She refuses to accept the fact that Darcy could be worthy of her love.

Jane is adorable in her sweet, trusting nature. Jane is content in pleasing others. Even Jane's father assesses her as too willing to please others:

Her father considers her too willing to please and believes that she lacks the character to deal with life's difficulties. He tells Jane, "You are . . . so complying, that nothing will ever be resolved on; so easy, that every servant will cheat you; and so generous, that you will always exceed your income."

Both sisters are lovable in their own unique ways. Eventually, each sister finds the happiness in which both are so deserving.

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How does Jane Austen use contrast between characters or between chracters?

Jane Austen's novels often feature contrasting characters, as a literary foil to highlight or showcase particular qualities of another character.  Pride and Prejudice has several good examples of literary foils:

Mr. Darcy vs. Mr. Collins

Both are potential suitors to Elizabeth's hand, and both make the mistake of a terrible marriage proposal; Austen uses the odious Mr. Collins show the reality of what many women like Charlotte Lucas had to consider: a loveless marriage in exchange for security and comfort.  When held up next to each other, Mr. Darcy's positive attributes outshine Mr. Collins; both were possible choices for Elizabeth to marry, but in the end, she shows wisdom in waiting for a man she could truly respect and love.

Lydia Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett

Lydia makes Elizabeth look good in the story; to be honest, Lydia could be the poster child for bad decisions and behavior in Regency England.  She has none of Elizabeth's finer qualities, and her outrageous behavior sharply contrasts Elizabeth's good sense.  Lydia is without a doubt, one of the "silliest girls in England" as her father described her, but it is really her decision to elope with Wickham that Austen uses to drive home a hard point about marriage and family.  Lydia's selfish decision to elope brings shame to the family, but Elizabeth's outstanding marriage to Darcy honors the family.

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