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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

Start Free Trial

What are the relationships between Fitzwilliam, Jane, Elizabeth, Mr Bennet, Mrs Bennet, and Charles Bingley?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pride and Prejudice tells the stories of the marriages of three sisters out of five in the Bennet family within a setting of class conflict in early 19th-century England. The sisters and their parents are some of the main characters; they occupy much of the action, and relationships among them shape the story. Especially important here is Mrs. Bennet's obsession with getting her daughters married, preferably to wealthy men.

The changing relationship between the two main characters, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, forms much of the novel's plot. Their relationship progresses from complete strangers who do not even know of each other's existence to a married couple.

Lizzie has four sisters: Jane, the eldest; and Mary, Lydia, and Catherine, who are all younger than her. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are also important characters. They have an affectionate but often strained marriage as they have contrasting personalities. Lizzie is closer to her father, as they are intellectually matched, but she realizes that his class prejudice has influenced her.

Jane and Lizzie are very close. Jane, a lovely and mild young woman, becomes involved in a romance with and, ultimately, marries the well-to-do Charles Bingley, who is Darcy's close friend.

The novel's theme of pride and the insidious prejudice it inflames is best played out through the relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy. Their initial meeting at a dance establishes an animosity between them, as Lizzie sees Darcy as arrogant and he appears to believe that he is superior to her and her family because of his higher social rank. Later she resents him for trying to come between Jane and Charles. Her opinion worsens when she thinks that he mistreated a young officer named George Wickham, but changes later when she learns that Wickham was a cad and Darcy acted honorably to protect his younger sister, Georgiana, and later to rescue Lydia from disgrace.

Darcy, in turn, realizes that Lizzie and Jane are honorable young women. As his love for Lizzie grows, he decides that their mother's and younger sisters' foolish behavior should not be held against them. His decision to help Lydia when things go awry with Wickham shows his affection for Lizzie and her family. Lizzie is also moved when she learns what Darcy did; he sought no recognition for his actions, which proved his humility.

When they finally come together as husband and wife, after Lizzie rejects Darcy because she thought he was condescending, they have come to understand each other as equals in ways that transcend social rank.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main characters of this novel are Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. The two have a love/hate relationship. When they first meet, they are prejudiced against each other. Elizabeth thinks Mr. Darcy is stuck up and pretentious, and he thinks Elizabeth is unworthy of his attention. Eventually though, they begin to fall in love with one another, and must fight their pride (and social conventions) in order to admit it. The other major characters are Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley. Jane (Elizabeth's sister) and Charles fall in love with each other, but outside forces try to keep them apart. Much of this has to do with their differing social status (Charles Bingley is very wealthy). Eventually love prevails and Charles and Jane are happily wed. Mr and Mrs Bennet are Jane and Elizabeth's parents. They are a very entertaining and interesting couple. The two are complete opposites - Mr. Bennet has a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor (which Elizabeth has inherited) and Mrs. Bennet is very nervous and silly, very concerned with social status and socializing. Mr. Bennet, on the other hand, is very laid back and lets his household full of girls run a bit wild. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial