Pride and Prejudice Study Guide

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice follows the lives of the five Bennet sisters and their parents, especially focusing on the second eldest daughter Elizabeth. Though weary of her mother's desperation to place each of her daughters in good marriages, Elizabeth finds herself drawn to Mr. Darcy, a proud and wealthy gentleman who is attracted to Elizabeth because of her intelligence and wit. Amidst the drama of their friends' and families' lives, both must overcome preconceived notions and expectations in this story that explores class, love, and social change.

Elizabeth Bennett

Elizabeth Bennett Elizabeth Bennet is the second eldest daughter in the Bennet family and the central character to the plot. She is intelligent and quick-witted, and the favorite of her father. She is well-read. Elizabeth's independence and wit make her seem strong. And throughout the novel, this independence makes Elizabeth a likable character, even when she makes poor judgments concerning the character of the people she meets. Elizabeth's strong character makes her an opposite to her father and mother, who often seem feeble and ineffectual. Elizabeth's reasoning often seems to be the calm in the eye of the storm that is the Bennett household. Elizabeth is a strong woman, and can hold up her end of a spirited conversation. This makes her a favorite female character in literature. The reader is led to believe, through Elizabeth's conversations and battles with the higher social class, that a woman's wit and intelligence are to be appreciated over wealth and power. Though not as beautiful as her sister Jane, Elizabeth is both lovely and clever. Her conversations with Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine are often spirited. Elizabeth has the tenacity and strength of character to decline the marriage proposals of both Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy, making her a much stronger personal of moral character and intelligence than her mother and younger sisters. But while her wit and honesty allow Elizabeth to rise above her society, Elizabeth's sharp tongue and a tendency to make hasty judgments about people, such as Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, often get her into trouble. These judgments often leave her trusting the wrong people. For instance, Elizabeth judges Mr. Wickham to be an honorable man, something he is not. And though Mr. Darcy is at first proud and haughty, these faults are only skin deep as opposed to the character of Wickham, which in the end is deemed awful through and through. It is through these faults of judgments that Elizabeth becomes human to the reader, and not just an impulsive girl who cannot hold her tongue. It is Elizabeth's admissions of having misjudged, which make the reader like her. Elizabeth Bennett is a charming but proud girl who gradually comes to recognize her mistakes in judgment of character.

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy

Mr. Darcy is the love interest of Elizabeth Bennet and a central character to the plot of the novel. He is the friend of Mr. Bingley, and travels with Bingley to Netherfield Park. Mr. Darcy owns a great estate, called Pemberley, and seems very aware of the desire of the local families to marry well. From the beginning Mr. Darcy seeks to guard himself well against a woman that would seek to marry him for his money, and in doing so makes himself aloof and insensitive to the feelings of others. It is through the first ball at Meryton that Darcy shows this stand-offish nature as he slights Elizabeth and refuses to dance with her, though she is without a partner. The reader feels Elizabeth's embarrassment at this slighting and Darcy seems not to be a suitable match to her. But Darcy is from a very wealthy, high society family and these high connections and wealth have made him a bit spoiled. He is the perfect foil to Elizabeth Bennett, and seems to be her male equivalent. She matches his wit and pride almost perfectly. The reader begins to realize that a man like Darcy is perfect for a woman like Elizabeth, and vice-versa. Though Darcy's initial spurning of Elizabeth make him seem proud and disagreeable, he is eventually revealed as an intelligent and forthright man when he writes to Elizabeth and explains his actions. It is also through Darcy's altruistic and good-hearted behavior in the face of the Bennett family crisis that makes him likable in the end. When Darcy negotiates the marriage between Wickham and Lydia, the reader understands that it is his love for Elizabeth that drives him to do so. Darcy has a tendency to judge a person's character too harshly, just as Elizabeth. His wealth and social connections make him seem proud and haughty. Mr. Darcy's lowest point in the novel comes when he proposes marriage to Elizabeth, and does so with against his better judgment. Throughout the proposal he reminds Elizabeth of her inferior social station in life, however he delivers his address with such passion that it seems almost logical that he should have such doubts. Darcy is at once likable for loving Elizabeth in spite of her low connections and pride, and despicable for fighting his feelings for her. However, Darcy proves his worth when he negotiates the marriage of Elizabeth's sister Lydia to Mr. Wickham. It is Mr. Darcy's tenacity, and his desire to help Elizabeth, by helping her family, that he redeems himself both in the eyes of the reader and of Elizabeth.

Mr. Wickham

Mr. Wickham is the rival to Mr. Darcy, and a minor love interest of Elizabeth Bennett. He is contemptible in every way but at first seems a charming and sensible man, as his offenses are hidden by his attractiveness. It is through Wickham that Elizabeth learns that a person's manners can be hidden behind a facade of good looks and charm. It is also through Wickham that Elizabeth learns that what is spoken by a friend is not always the truth. It is through Elizabeth's proud nature, and unwillingness to forgive Mr. Darcy's initial pride, that Wickham gains a trust with the Bennett family. Though Wickham rebuffs Elizabeth for a rich young woman named Miss King, it is not until he eventually runs away with Elizabeth's younger sister, Lydia that his true character comes to light. Mr. Wickham is a man of low character and morals, and only marries Lydia after negotiating with Mr. Darcy for the payment of his debts and a dowry. It was his intention from the start to extract a price for the marriage proposal. Mr. Wickham's presence in the novel shows the reader how easily a person's character can be misjudged.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennett

Mr. and Mrs. Bennett seem to be the novel's example of a bad marriage. Mrs. Bennett is a feeble, often stupid woman who complains about her nerves to Mr. Bennett, who then seeks relief from her complaining by escaping to his library to read. Mr. Bennett is a weak man, the head of the Bennett estate and the husband of Mrs. Bennett, he is the father of the five Bennett daughters, and is exasperated by their behavior. The Bennet's is a perfect opposite to the relationship of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. The marriage seems to be a warning against marrying for the wrong reason, such as money, something Mrs. Bennett seems intent on making happen for her daughters. Where Mr. Darcy seems strong in the moment of family crisis, Mr. Bennett seems week. Where Elizabeth seems independent, Mrs. Bennett seems shallow and dependent on her husband. Mr. Bennet prefers to stay hidden in his library, away from his family and the rest of the world, which only serves to infuriate Mrs. Bennett.

Jane Bennett and Mr. Bingley

Where as Mr. and Mrs. Bennett seem to be the example of a bad marriage, Jane and Mr. Bingley seem to be the example of a good one in the making. Both agreeable and likable in every way, Jane and Mr. Bingley's only faults seem to be their reliance on the opinions of the people around them. Though the marriage between the two seems perfect from the outside, the union still seems to be an example to be compared against that of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Jane and Bingley seem always affectionate, always overjoyed; both handsome and agreeable, Mr. Bennett jokes that they will be taken advantage of by their servants after they marry. It seems that the union of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy seems that much more practical and right when compared against the two extremes.

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