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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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In Pride and Prejudice, what are Elizabeth's weaknesses?

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It's hard not to love Elizabeth Bennet, heroine of a novel that Jane Austen jokingly referred to as too light and bright and sparkling. Elizabeth, bright and witty and with beautiful eyes, sparkles, so much so that we can miss some of the weak points that make her a believable and very human character.

First, we need to keep in mind that the novel is largely, though not entirely, told through Elizabeth's point of view. We all tend to be the heros of our own dramas and to place ourselves in the best possible light, and Elizabeth is no different. But over time, her weaknesses emerge. Her greatest weakness is her tendency to jump to conclusions and form opinions before she has all the evidence she needs to make an informed decision. She develops prejudices, as the novel's title indicates. Chief among them is her prejudice against Mr. Darcy. She overhears him at a ball refusing to dance with her because in his opinion she's not too hot, and her dander goes up. This makes her putty in the hands of the charming  Mr. Wickham, and she's too quick to believe his stories of Darcy's bad character, as they jive all too well with her first impressions (the original name of the novel) of Darcy as proud and arrogant. 

Elizabeth is impulsive, as when she races to nurse Jane at the Bingleys, arriving with muddy petticoats,  and can have a temper (her explosion at Mr. Darcy over his inept marriage proposal is a classic, as is her fury much later when Lady Catherine tries to forbid her to marry Darcy ) and like most of us, she tends to favor the versions of events told by people who have been nice to her. For example, Miss Bingley can be haughty to her, so Elizabeth refuses to hear the warning she tries to offer about Mr. Wickham being less than trustworthy. Her prejudice against Miss Bingley blinds her to that woman's helpful advice about Mr. Wickham. 

Elizabeth also decides that her friend Charlotte's marriage to the socially challenged Mr. Collins will be a disaster and a horror. She learns when she goes to visit that perhaps she was a little too quick to judge and that Charlotte's situation is not that bad at all. Likewise she will learn she's been wrong about Darcy.

Elizabeth: quick to jump to conclusions, quick to be swayed by the opinions, reliable or not, of the people who are nicest to her, quick to judge and quick to lose her temper, especially when she feels insulted by people like Darcy and Lady Catherine: is she much different from the rest of us? 



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