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The Character of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice
"Pride and Prejudice" the novel by Jane Austin has a main theme of romance, but many other sub themes are present. I intend to demonstrate that Elizabeth Bennet is an interesting character in the book.
The man plot of the story revolves around Elizabeth (or Eliza) Bennet, who belongs to a family of five sisters, and her relationship with eligible bachelor Mr Darcy. However, "Pride and Prejudice" is a very complex novel, with many different subplots going on. One of these is the relationship between Eliza's older sister Jane, and Bingley, Darcy's friend. There are many misunderstandings within their courtship which have an important role in the plot. Elizabeth's father and mother play a part, as do her relations, friends and acquaintances. In the story, Eliza hates Darcy at first, thinking him proud, but overcomes her prejudice and comes round to loving him in the end, and the two marry, as do Jane and Bingley. Another marriage is between Lydia, Elizabeth's younger sister, and Wickham, a man who Eliza was initially interested in. However, his true character comes to light, and his marriage proves to be far from uneventful.
One reason why Elizabeth proves to be a very interesting character is her close friendship with her older sister Jane. The pair know each other very well, and they both feel a need to confide in one another due to the less that charming personality traits of the rest of their family. They are the only sensible ones if the household. Due to their constant contact, that are able to tell each other's moods with great ease, Eliza especially. When Jane returns from seeing Bingley "Elizabeth instantly read her feelings", so we know that they spend a lot of time in each other's company.
Elizabeth obviously cares deeply about Jane, because when the later becomes ill while at Netherfield, Darcy's home, Eliza takes it upon herself to walk three miles through the mud to visit her. This greatly surprises the Netherfield party, but Eliza appears unconcerned. She mostly stays by Jane's bedside during the visit, preferring her company to the superciliousness of Miss Bingley and Hurst.
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"Elizabeth looked at her sister with incredulous solicitude, but said nothing.
"You doubt me," cried Jane, slightly colouring"
Whilst visiting Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Elizabeth learns that Darcy discouraged Bingley from continuing his relationship with Jane, and this sets Elizabeth in a flurry of emotions. She feels a mixture of hatred for Darcy and anxiety and pity for her sister, "The agitation and tears which the subject occasioned...". When later, Darcy confesses his love for her, she holds no bars in expressing her opinion of his interference, "do you think consideration would tempt me to accept the man who has been the means of ruining, perhaps forever, the happiness of a beloved sister?" When Darcy explains his actions, Elizabeth can't bring herself to tell Jane about it, and so feels "anxiety on Jane's behalf". She "dared not relate" the information.
When she hears news of the family crisis (Lydia's elopement with Wickham) while visiting Pemberly, Darcy's residence, Elizabeth is desperate to return home, and the two have a tearful reunion., "she affectionately embraced her, whilst tears filled the eyes of both...". The conversations between the them greatly help to ease each other's fears over the elopement, and, as always, they are there for each other. When Bingley returns, Elizabeth is ecstatic for Jane, and when their engagement is announced "Elizabeth's congratulations were given with a sincerity, a warmth, a delight, which words could poorly express".
When Elizabeth herself becomes engaged to Darcy, Jane is the first person she tells. "My sole dependence was on you; I am sure nobody else will believe me if you do not". Jane is, of course, happy for Elizabeth, yet wonders on her change of opinion on Darcy. Here follows a touching a humorous scene in which Eliza and Darcy's relationship is discussed openly. Elizabeth and Jane share a very close friendship, and the way that Elizabeth gently teases Jane, and her huge affection for her sister make Elizabeth seem fascinating and adds great value to the character.
Other than Elizabeth, Darcy is probably the most crucial character, and their changing relationship is another interesting aspect of the novel. When the pair first meet, they do not get on well. Elizabeth takes a particular disliking to him after his haughty dismissal of her when they both attended a ball at Netherfield. "She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me". He is considered in low regard by all who attended, "Everybody is disgusted by his pride". From this point on, she finds several more reasons to dislike him, including her belief that he treated Wickham badly, and that he successfully discouraged his friend Bingley from continuing his relationship with Jane. Darcy shocks her by proposing, and despite her flat refusal, "she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection". When Darcy offers an explanation and an apology for all his actions via a letter, it is initially rejected. However she later begins to feel guilty over her harsh treatment of him, and regrets her rashness. "She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. "How despicably i have acted! How humiliating is this discovery! Till this moment i never knew myself"".
She now feels nervous about seeing Darcy again, and only agrees to visit his estate when it is confirmed that he will not be there. While touring the house she is surprised to hear that the housekeeper believes Darcy to be a fine master, and has "never had a cross work from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was four years old". Much to Elizabeth's horror, she encounters Darcy whilst walking in the grounds, and discovers he arrived home early. When he requests that she might meet his sister she is "flattered and pleased", and greatly surprised by his sudden kindness. "Never in her life had she seen his manners so dignified...". Darcy lovingly defends her from abuse from Miss Bingley, who hasn't given up hope of winning Darcy's affection, showing that he isn't ashamed of his feelings for her, and no longer makes an attempt to hide them. Soon after, Darcy turns up at Loungbourne, where the Bennet family live. After a lot of awkwardness, he proposes again, and this time she accepts. They talk over their past relationship, clearing many misunderstandings. Darcy also tells Elizabeth that he has appologised to Bingley for his unhelpful advice, and that he is now much better informed.
Elizabeth initially feels prejudice against Darcy because of his "abominable pride". However, she gradually overcomes her preconceptions, and comes to realise that he isn't what she imagined him to be. He becomes the perfect gentlemen in her estimation and their solid relationship looks a promising base for marriage.
The character of Elizabeth is an fascinating one, and her personality only adds to the reader's interest in her, because she has many different sides and constantly changes opinions and ideas. Towards the beginning of the book we are given many different descriptions of Elizabeth, ranging from "She had a lively, cheerful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous", to "hardly a good feature in her face...". We can see that different people has varying views on her. However, through the course of the book we come to make our own opinion, and I came to know her as being spontaneous, high-spirited, intelligent and above all a complex young woman.
Eliza tends to be a better judge of character than her sister Jane, who sees the good in everybody. However, she can be blinded by prejudice, as her encounters with Darcy and Wickham prove. She is very determined, shown by the way she walks through the mud to see Jane, and in her treatment of Darcy when she believes him to have done wrong. She is greatly embarrassed by her family, and sees both the "impropriety" of her father's behavior, and the less than perfect social habits of her mother. She is often the voice of reason in her family, and feels responsible for seeing that her family don't show themselves up in public, often fighting a losing battle.
Another intriguing aspect of Elizabeth's personality is her talent for observing people. Throughout the novel she watches people in order to find out more about their personality, and this is obviously something that she enjoys. She is describes as having a "quickness of observation", and she finds that "intricate characters are the most interesting". While staying at Netherfield she is "amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion". She tells Darcy whilst dancing with him at the ball that she wishes to discover more about his personality. "The illustration of your character ...I am trying to make it out...". She proves to be genuinely intuitive, but in Mr Darcy's case seems at first to have a blind spot. For all these reasons the personality of Elizabeth greatly adds to the reader's understanding and enjoyment of the novel.
In conclusion, Elizabeth makes the story what it is. Without such an intriguing main character, the novel would be nowhere near as interesting. She constantly develops, and this means out interest in her is held. Her misfortune in terms of family and relationships induces pity, as well as making her seem more true to life. Her observations lead us through the story, meaning that we see everything through her eyes, and her intelligence and wit mean we enjoy her commentary. She is by far the most fascinating character in the book, and I believe all the reasons mentioned make her a first rate main character.