Finally! A book where family plays an important role! Gulliver was continually going off and leaving his family (even when his wife was “great with child”), Christian left his constraining wife to journey to the Celestial City, and Don Quixote didn’t even have any immediate family. It’s nice to see a family working together, playing together…um, well in this case, maybe it is more like dancing together, gossiping together and arguing together, but HEY, it’s a family. All families have their “issues,” right?! Let’s talk about the Bennets.
First we have dear old dad. Mr. Bennet, the only male member of the household, seems to spend most of his time in the library for peace and quiet, often “fatigued with the raptures of his wife.” He doesn’t seem overly worried about the fact that “the women” will be homeless upon his death, as the estate will apparently pass on to his cousin, a Mr. Collins (more on this lovely character in another post). He is extremely witty, especially in his come-backs to his wife, although it doesn’t seem to quiet her at all. He has a soft spot for daughter #2 (Elizabeth) and considers the youngest three quite silly. He is the only character so far whose comments have made me laugh out loud, something which I am not wont to do while reading. (See chapter 20 for a particularly amusing one.)
Mrs. Bennet is quite the foil to her husband. Not only is she NOT witty, she tends to run off at the mouth about everything to the amusement of family, neighbors and the general public. Basically, she is an embarrassment. When it comes to her daughters, she is worried to distraction about their futures and seems inclined to do whatever is necessary to secure their marriages, including forcing her daughter Jane to ride a horse to the (eligible) neighbor’s estate instead of taking the carriage because it would probably rain necessitating extending her stay. She favors (spoils?) her youngest daughter and rather dislikes Elizabeth, probably because Elizabeth’s intelligence far surpasses her own.
Jane, the eldest daughter, is the one you’d like to hate, but just can’t. She is not only beautiful, but also kind and good. I liken her to Mary from the Little House books. She’s the golden girl. Jane always thinks the best of people, making her a natural peacemaker in the family, but also making her a tad gullible. She and Elizabeth (#2) are very close confidants. Jane attracts the attention of the “guy next door” right away, and the two of them seem to make quite a pair, to the excitement of Mother Bennet, as he is a VERY good “catch.”
Elizabeth, next in line, is smart, sassy (for the time period, anyway), and also beautiful. Jane apparently has the more traditional good looks, but Elizabeth (Lizzy) has a more natural beauty. To quote the novel, she “has more quickness of observation and less pliancy of temper than her sister, and with a judgment too unassailed by any attention to herself.” In the society of the day, this might render her rather difficult to marry off. She tends to speak her mind often enough to get her in trouble with her mother and with others of polite society and seems inclined to form rash character judgments (prejudicial?!) – at least in regards to Mr. Darcy! (More on him later as well.)
Mary, the middle child, is plain but “accomplished.” She spends hours practicing music and reading, but then tries entirely too hard to entertain company to the point of embarrassment, and is cut off by her father in order to rescue the listeners. Mary must consider herself more accomplished than she really is. She seems to be less interested in men or gossip than her younger siblings.
Kitty and Lydia, the youngest daughters, seem to be often paired up in the novel. They are often together, going into town to ogle the soldiers or shop for a new piece of “frippery.” They lack maturity and good sense and seem to spend way too much time giggling. For some reason, their mother approves of them and even favors them over the older two. Perhaps she sees herself in these two, or at least her younger self.
Well, maybe this family isn’t one I would choose to emulate in any way, but they are certainly interesting to follow! Which members of the family are most interesting to you, fellow readers? Do you empathize with any in particular? Please add to my assessments – or take away from them – as you will. After all, Susan Wise Bauer would say that this character analysis will help you in your ultimate understanding of the author’s writing.