Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a novel that centers around five sisters, namely Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Bennet, Catherine- Kitty Bennet, Mary Bennet, and Lydia.
The story focuses on the Bennets and their quest to get married to secure a future. While the character development in Pride and Prejudice is perhaps one of the best in any book ever written, it is not without its share of flaws. There are many characters in this book who are shallow and underdeveloped. Many authors have criticized Austen for her portrayal of women in this book. Still, it cannot be denied that her characters are some of the most memorable literary figures of all time.
In this article, we will look at how each character influences the plot of the book and what their individual personalities tell us about them. We will also touch upon how their traits affect their relationships with other characters.
Character analysis of Elizabeth Bennet
Elizabeth Bennet is the main character of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She is a young woman of middling social status who is devoted to her family, friends, and country. She begins the novel as a proud young lady who dotes on her inheritance, but develops into a more open-minded and intelligent woman with a good understanding of the world around her. Her intelligence and wit attract the attention of many suitors, but she picks only one to pursue. Her character arc encompasses her maturation from a sheltered young lady to an independent and empowered woman.
Elizabeth grows up under two doting parents who instilled in her high moral values and belief in God. As she grows older, Elizabeth becomes more aware of the social gap between her family’s wealth and position and those of commoners, like Mr. Darcy or George Wickham, whom they consider inferior. This motivates her to develop and become more independent as she recognizes that money cannot buy happiness. Her intelligence helps her analyze situations more clearly and make better decisions than others. Besides being witty and intelligent, Elizabeth is also humble, compassionate, honest, loyal, dutiful, generous, principled, respectful of authority, self-disciplined ,and responsible. She shows tremendous courage in defending the rights of other women like Jane Austen before she becomes an equal partner with Mr. Darcy in marriage proposal talks even though it means walking away from her family’s wealth which wasn't received well by them.
Character analysis of Mr. Darcy
We first encounter Mr. Darcy as an arrogant, prideful young man who is quick to jump to conclusions and judgmental of others. Pride and prejudice, his initial mindset towards the Bennet family, are evident in his initial interactions with them. He is quick to assume that Elizabeth Bennet is unappreciative of his family's money, and he criticizes her for not caring about her sisters' welfare as well. He remains aloof even as Elizabeth repeatedly tries to connect with him, remaining distant and reserved.
His admiration for her grows as time goes by, and he realizes her value, eventually coming to acknowledge her worthiness. His loyalty to family, friends, and his principles is seen through his support of Darcy sisters' decisions regarding their lives. His transformation from a proud aristocrat to a humble man of understanding is seen in the end of the novel when he accepts Jane’s proposal of marriage despite being elated by Bingley’s proposal earlier.
Jane Bennet is the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice. She is presented as a strong-willed and independent woman with a good moral compass. Her strength comes from her unhampered self-expression and her willingness to take on challenges regardless of the odds against her. This trait endears her to readers and makes them root for her no matter what happens in the story.
Jane is also kind and loyal to her friends, especially sisters Kitty and Lydia. This loyalty helps shape their character positively and provides them with the strength to persevere through difficult times. However, Jane struggles against constraints of her society’s expectations for young women, such as dutifully following societal norms, getting married at an early age, and bearing children quickly. This can be seen in how she rebels against these principles repeatedly in the story. Despite Darcy’s initial prejudice against her because of these differences, she ultimately proves her worth and wins his admiration by standing up for herself, caring for others selflessly, and being honest about her opinions without fear of judgment.
Character analysis of Mr. Charles Bingley
Mr. Bingley is a dashing, amiable young man who has a charmed existence due to the kindness of those around him. He is charismatic and well-liked for his sunny nature and optimistic outlook on life. He can be naive, though, to the selfishness of others and lacks the ability to discern between right and wrong. Mr. Bingley also serves as a submissive foil to Darcy's dominant personality in the novel, and this relationship helps develop Elizabeth's own character in a positive way. As the novel progresses, Mr. Bingley grows into his own person and learns to make better decisions based on his own convictions rather than others' opinions.
Character analysis of Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a wealthy landowner and an arrogant woman who believes she is always right and expects others to do as she says. She is very confident in her social standing, but her pride often gets in the way of her better judgment. Her clear vision of the social world often leads her to make assumptions about others' motives and actions that aren't always accurate. For example, Lady Catherine often makes inappropriate comments toward Elizabeth Bennet and other females of lesser means than her own. This shows that even though she has a high opinion of herself, she can be condescending and intolerant of others.
Even with her flaws, Lady Catherine still provides an important contrast between Elizabeth and the other female characters in Pride and Prejudice. By setting her as a foil for the other women, we see that no woman has a complete picture of society or herself. That is why it's important to look at all sides of a story rather than just one character's perspective.
Character analysis of Mr. Collins
Mr. Collins is portrayed as a foolish and arrogant character in the novel. His fawning behavior towards Lady Catherine de Bourgh conveys his obsequiousness, as he appears to be cowed by her authority. This is seen when he mocks Elizabeth's family for their modest income and only considers marrying a lady of high standing such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who has more means.
Mr. Collins is also portrayed as comic, adding humor to the novel with his absurd mannerisms such as dashing about and jingling his pocket-lint for no reason at all. His attempts at courtship towards Elizabeth Bennet demonstrate his arrogance, as he continually oversteps his boundaries and mocks her feelings towards him.
This leads to the reader sympathizing with her and connecting with the story rather than Mr. Collins, highlighting his unsuitability as a romantic lead.
How do the characters' traits affect the plot?
The characters of Pride and Prejudice have a major impact on the plot of the novel. Each character's personality, traits, and actions affect the outcome of the story in different ways. The protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, is witty and stubborn. Her wit helps her navigate difficult situations and her stubbornness cements her convictions. Mr. Darcy's pride serves as a major obstacle in his relationship with Elizabeth, as it makes him unwilling to compromise or acknowledge her feelings.
Mr. Collins' vanity and self-importance create comedic moments in the story as he bumbles through important decisions and events. Finally, Lady Catherine de Bourgh's arrogance and interference disrupts the romantic relations of the characters, creating tension between Lizzy and Darcy and pitting Mr. Collins against Lady Catherine for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage.