Elizabeth Bennet

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Elizabeth Bennet
Elisabeth Bennet (détail).jpg
Elizabeth Bennet, a fictional character appearing in the novel Pride and Prejudice, depicted by C. E. Brock
Full name

Elizabeth, Mrs Fitzwilliam Darcy

Miss Elizabeth Bennet, formerly
Gender Female
Age 20
Income £50 per annum (Interest on £1,000 from her mother's fortune by settlement upon her death.)
Primary residence Longbourn, near Meryton, Hertfordshire
Family
Spouse(s) Fitzwilliam Darcy
Romantic interest(s) Mr. William Collins
Lt. George Wickham
Col. Fitzwilliam
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Parents Mr. and Mrs. Bennet
Sibling(s) Jane Bennet
Mary Bennet
Catherine "Kitty" Bennet
Lydia Bennet
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy by Hugh Thomson, 1894

Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist in the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She is often referred to as Eliza or Lizzy by her friends and family. Elizabeth is the second child in a family of five daughters. Though the circumstances of the time and environment push her to seek a marriage of convenience for economic security, Elizabeth wishes to marry for love.

Elizabeth is regarded as the most admirable and endearing of Austen's heroines,[1] she is considered one of the most beloved characters in British literature[2] because of her complexity. Austen herself described Elizabeth as "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print."[3]

Background[edit]

Elizabeth is the second eldest of the five Bennet sisters of the Longbourn estate, situated near the fictional market village of Meryton in Hertfordshire, England, she is 20 years old at the beginning of the novel.[4] Elizabeth is described as an intelligent young woman, with "a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in anything ridiculous", she often presents a playful good-natured impertinence that does not offend. Early in the novel she is depicted as being personally proud of her wit and her accuracy in judging the social behaviour and intentions of others.

Her father is a landowner, but his daughters cannot inherit because the estate is entailed upon the male line (it can only be inherited by male relatives). Upon his death, Longbourn will therefore be inherited by his cousin and nearest male relation, Mr. William Collins, a clergyman for the Rosings Estate in Kent owned by Lady Catherine de Bourgh. This future provides the cause of Mrs. Bennet's eagerness to have her daughters married off to wealthy men.

Elizabeth is her father's favourite, described by him as having "something more of quickness than her sisters"; in contrast, she is the least dear to her mother, especially after Elizabeth refuses a marriage proposal from Mr Collins. Her mother tends to contrast her negatively with her sisters Jane and Lydia, whom she considers superior in beauty and disposition, respectively, and does not understand her father's preference. Elizabeth is often upset and embarrassed by the impropriety and silliness of her mother and three younger sisters.

Within her neighbourhood Elizabeth is considered a beauty and a charming young woman with "fine eyes", to which Mr. Darcy is first drawn. Darcy is later attracted more particularly to her "light and pleasing" figure, the "easy playfulness" of her manners, her mind and personality, and eventually considers her "one of the handsomest women" in his acquaintance.

Analysis[edit]

From the beginning, opinions have been divided on the character, Anne Isabella Milbanke gave a glowing review of the novel, while Mary Russell Mitford criticizes Elizabeth's lack of taste,[5] the modern exegetes are torn between admiration for the vitality of the character and the disappointment of seeing Elizabeth intentionally suppress her verve[6] and submit, at least outwardly, to male authority.[7] In Susan Fraiman's essay 'The Humiliation of Elizabeth Bennett', the author criticises the fact that Elizabeth must forgo her development as a woman in order to ensure the success of "ties among men [such as her father and Darcy] with agendas of their own."[8] The British literacy critic Robert Irvine stated that the reference in the novel to the militia being mobilised and lacking sufficient barracks, requiring them to set up camps in the countryside dates the settling of the novel to the years 1793-1795 as the militia was moblised in 1793 after France declared war on the United Kingdom and the last of the barracks for the militia were completed by 1796.[9] Irvine argued that a central concern in Britain in the 1790s, when Austen wrote the first draft of Pride and Prejudice under the title First Impressions was the need for British elites, both national and regional to rally around the flag in face of the challenge from revolutionary France.[10] It is known that Austen was working on First Impressions by 1796 (it is not clear when she began working on the book) and finished off First Impressions in 1797.[11] Irvine states while the character of Elizabeth is a clearly middle-class while Mr. Darcy is part of the aristocracy.[12] Irvine wrote "Elizabeth, in the end, is awed by Pemberly, and her story ends with her delighted submission to Darcy in marriage, it is gratitude that forms the foundation of Elizabeth Bennet's love for Fitzwilliam Darcy: caught in a reciprocal gaze with Darcy's portrait at Pemberly, impressed with the evidence of his social power that surrounds her, Elizabeth 'thought of his regard with a deeper sentiment of gratitude than it had ever raised before'...Elizabeth's desire for Darcy does not happen despite the difference in their social situation: it is produced by that difference, and can be read as a vindication of the hierarchy which constructs that difference in the first place".[13] Irvine observes that Darcy spends about half his time in London while for people in Meryton London is a stylish place that is very far away, observing that a key difference is when one of the Bennett family is ill, they use the services of a local apothecary while Mr. Darcy calls upon a surgeon from London;[14] in this regard, Irvine argued that the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy stands for the union of local and national elites in Britain implicitly against the challenge to the status quo represented by the French republic.[15]

By contrast, the American scholar Rachel Brownstein argued that Elizabeth rejects two offers of marriage by the time she arrives at Pemberley, and notes in rejecting Mr. Collins that the narrator of the novel paraphrases the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft that Elizabeth cannot love him because she is "a rational creature speaking the truth from her heart".[16] Brownstein notes that it after she reads Darcy's letter following her first rejection of him that leads her to say "Till this moment, I never knew myself".[17] Brownstein further states that Austen has it both ways in depicting Elizabeth as she uses much irony, after Elizabeth rejects Darcy and then realizes she loves him, she comments "no such happy marriage could now teach the admiring multitude what connubial felicity really was" as if she herself is aware that she is a character in a romance novel.[18] Later, she tells Darcy in thanking him for paying off Wickham's debts and ensuring Lydia's marriage might be wrong "for what become of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise, for I ought not to have mentioned the subject?".[19] Brownstein argues that Austen's ironical way of depicting Elizabeth allows her to present her heroine as both a "proto-feminist" and a "fairy-tale heroine".[20]

Susan Morgan regards Elizabeth's major flaw to be that she is "morally disengaged" - taking much of her philosophy from her father, Elizabeth observes her neighbours, never becoming morally obligated to make a stand.[21] Bennett's self-destination is one of skepticism and opposition to the world around her, and much of the novel concerns Bennett's struggle to find her own place in a world she rejects.[22] Gary Kelly argued that Austen as the daughter of a Church of England minister would have been very familiar with the Anglican view of life as a "romantic journey" in which God watches over stories of human pride, folly, fall and redemption by free will and the ability to learn from one's mistakes.[23] Kelly argued that aspects of the Anglican understanding of life and the universe can be seen in Elizabeth who after rejecting Darcy and then receives his letter explaining his actions rethinks her view of him, and comes to understand that her pride and prejudice had blinded her to who he really was, marking the beginning of her romantic journey of "suffering and endurance" that ends happily for her.[24]

In the early 19th century, there was a genre of "conduct books" settling out what were the rules for "propriety" for young women, and the scholar Mary Poovey argued in her 1984 book The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer examining the "conduct books" noted one of the main messages was that a "proper young lady" never expresses any sexual desire for a man.[25] Poovey argued that in this context that Elizabeth's wit is a merely her ways of defending herself from the rules of "propriety" set out by the conduct books as opposed of being a subversive force;[26] in this regard, Poovey argued that Austen played it safe by having Elizabeth abandon her wit when she falls in love with Darcy, taking her struggle into effort to mortify Darcy's pride instead of seeking him out because she loves him.[27] The conduct books had a double meaning of the word modesty, which meant both to be outwardly polite in one's conduct and to be ignorant of one's sexuality,[28] this double meaning of modesty placed women in a bind, since any young woman who outwardly conformed to expectations of modesty was not really modest at all, as she was attempting to hide her awareness of sexuality.[29] In the novel, when Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins's marriage proposal, she explains she is being modest in rejecting an offer from a man she cannot love, which leads her to be condemned for not really being modest.[30]

An unconventional character[edit]

In her letter to Cassandra dated 29 January 1813, Jane Austen wrote: "I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know".[31] Austen herself wrote to Cassandra about one fan of her books that "Her liking Darcy & Elizth is enough".[32] The book notes that "Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies" are what delight Elizabeth, which Brownstein noted also applied to Austen as well,[33] this mix of energy and intelligence, and her gaiety and resilience make Elizabeth a true Stendhal heroine according to Tony Tanner, and he adds that there are not many English heroines that we can say that of.[34] Elizabeth Bowen, however, found her charmless, whilst to Gervase Fen she and her sisters were “intolerable...those husband-hunting minxes in Pride and Prejudice”.[35]

In popular culture[edit]

The character of Elizabeth Bennet, marked by intelligence and independent thinking, and her romance with the proud Mr Darcy have carried over into various theatrical retellings. Helen Fielding's novel Bridget Jones's Diary, as well as the film series of the same name, is a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, with Elizabeth as Renée Zellweger's title character. In Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood adaptation, Bride and Prejudice, Aishwarya Rai plays the Elizabeth character, Lalita Bakshi. In the 2008 television film Lost in Austen, actress Gemma Arterton plays a version of Lizzy who switches places with a modern-day young woman. Lily James starred as the zombie-slaying Elizabeth Bennet in the film version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a popular novel by Seth Grahame-Smith.[36]

One of the most notable portrayals of the character has been that of Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright. Knightley received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance.

The character has most recently been used in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a project which is partly headed by YouTube vlogger Hank Green, and depicts Elizabeth (played by Ashley Clements) as a modern-day woman in America posting video blogs about her life along with her friend 'Charlotte Lu' a character based on Charlotte Lucas.

Depictions in film and television[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Actress Role Film Notes
1940 Greer Garson Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice
2003 Kam Heskin Elizabeth Bennet Pride & Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy A Modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
2004 Aishwarya Rai Lalita Bakshi Bride and Prejudice A Bollywood adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
2005 Keira Knightley Elizabeth Bennet Pride & Prejudice Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated — Empire Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated — London Film Critics' Circle Award for British Actress of the Year
Nominated — Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
2016 Lily James Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Based on the parody novel by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Television[edit]

Year Actress Role Television programme Notes
1938 Curigwen Lewis Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice Television film
1949 Madge Evans Elizabeth Bennet The Philco Television Playhouse Season 1, episode 17: "Pride and Prejudice"
1952 Daphne Slater Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice TV mini-series
1957 Virna Lisi Elisabeth Bennet Orgoglio e pregiudizio An adaptation in Italian.
1958 Jane Downs Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice TV mini-series
Kay Hawtrey Elizabeth Bennet General Motors Theatre Episode: "Pride and Prejudice". Originally aired 21 December.
1961 Lies Franken Elizabeth Bennet De vier dochters Bennet An adaptation in Dutch.
1967 Celia Bannerman Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice 6-episode television series.
1980 Elizabeth Garvie Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice 5-episode television series.
1995 Jennifer Ehle Elizabeth Bennet Pride and Prejudice Six-episode television series. Won - British Academy Television Award for Best Actress
Dee Hannigan Elizabeth Bennet Wishbone Season 1, episode 25: "Furst Impressions"
1997 Julia Lloyd Elizabeth Bennet Red Dwarf Season 7, episode 6: "Beyond a Joke"
2001 Lauren Tom Elizabeth Bennet Futurama Season 3, episode 10: "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid"
2008 Gemma Arterton Elizabeth Bennet Lost in Austen A fantasy adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in which modern woman trades places with Elizabeth Bennet.
2012–2013 Ashley Clements Lizzie Bennet The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Web series. A modern adaptation in which the main character tells the story of Pride and Prejudice through video blogs.
2013 Anna Maxwell Martin Elizabeth Darcy/Mrs Darcy Death Comes to Pemberley Three-part series based on P.D. James's novel about events after Pride and Prejudice.

References[edit]

  1. ^ William Dean Howells 2009, p. 48
  2. ^ "SparkNotes: Pride and Prejudice: Analysis of Major Characters". sparknotes.com. Retrieved 19 September 2010. [unreliable source?]
  3. ^ Wright, Andrew H. "Elizabeth Bennet." Elizabeth Bennet (introduction by Harold Bloom). Broomall: Chelsea House Publishers , 2004. 37–38 . Google Book Search. Web. 22 October 2011.
  4. ^ Pride and Prejudice. Chapter 29.
  5. ^ In a letter to Sir William Elford dated December 20, 1814.
  6. ^ Morrison, Robert, ed. (2005). Jane Austen's Pride and prejudice : a sourcebook. New York, NY [u.a.]: Routledge. p. 83. ISBN 9780415268493. 
  7. ^ Lydia Martin 2007 , p. 201.
  8. ^ Fraiman, Susan (1993). Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development. Columbia University Press. p. 73. 
  9. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 pages 56-57.
  10. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 58.
  11. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 pages 56.
  12. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 pages 57 & 59.
  13. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 59.
  14. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 60.
  15. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 pages 60-61.
  16. ^ Brownstein, Rachel "Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice" pages 32-57 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 53.
  17. ^ Brownstein, Rachel "Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice" pages 32-57 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 54.
  18. ^ Brownstein, Rachel "Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice" pages 32-57 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 54.
  19. ^ Brownstein, Rachel "Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice" pages 32-57 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 54.
  20. ^ Brownstein, Rachel "Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice" pages 32-57 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 54.
  21. ^ Morgan, Susan (August 1975). "Intelligence in "Pride and Prejudice"". Modern Philology. 73 (1): 54–68. JSTOR 436104. 
  22. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005, page 102.
  23. ^ Kelly, Gary "Religion and Politics" pages 149-169 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austenedited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 165.
  24. ^ Kelly, Gary "Religion and Politics" pages 149-169 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austenedited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 166.
  25. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 126.
  26. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 126.
  27. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 126.
  28. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 126.
  29. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 126.
  30. ^ Irvine, Robert Jane Austen, London: Routledge, 2005 page 126.
  31. ^ "Jane Austen -- Letters -- Other excerpts from letters in Austen-Leigh's "Memoir"". pemberley.com. 
  32. ^ Brownstein, Rachel "Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice" pages 32-57 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 51.
  33. ^ Brownstein, Rachel "Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice" pages 32-57 from The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 page 55.
  34. ^ Tanner, Tony (1986). Jane Austen. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University press. p. 105. ISBN 9780674471740. 
  35. ^ Quoted in R.Jenkyns, A Fine Brush on Ivory (Oxford 2007) p. 85
  36. ^ Dave McNary. "'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' Casts Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote". Variety. 

Bibliography[edit]