Elizabeth Bennet

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Character
Name: Elizabeth Bennet
Occupation:
Title/Rank:
Location: Pemberley
Status: married
Relationships: Fitzwilliam Darcy (husband), Jane Bennet, Mary Bennet, Kitty, and Lydia Bennet (sisters), Mr and Mrs Bennet (parents), William Collins (cousin), Mr and Mrs Gardiner (uncle & aunt), Charlotte Lucas (friend)
Fandom: Pride and Prejudice
Other: Over the years notably played by Greer Garson, Curigwen Lewis, Madge Evans, Elizabeth Garvie, Jennifer Ehle, Keira Knightley, Ashley Clements and many more.
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Elizabeth Bennet is the female lead in Pride and Prejudice. Representing the 'prejudice' aspect of the title, she overhears Darcy snub her on first meeting and forms a passionate dislike for him, only to learn the assessment she made of him at their first meeting was incorrect and that her pride in her judgment was misplaced.

Canon

Elizabeth Bennet is the second of five born to a country gentleman, who owns the estate Longbourn, near the town of Meryton, and his wife, an attorney's daughter, and she is particularly close to her older sister Jane, her father, her aunt and uncle the Gardiners, and her friend Charlotte Lucas. She is twenty years old.

Her family calls her "Lizzy," and her friends call her "Eliza." Darcy and the narrator call her "Elizabeth."

Elizabeth attends an assembly at the beginning of the novel where she first meets her new neighbor Mr. Bingley, his sisters and the elder's husband, and his friend Mr. Darcy. Darcy refuses to dance with her and insults her appearance, and that combined with his overall behavior convinces Elizabeth that he is proud and disagreeable. Their later meetings only increase her dislike, and she does not realize that he is growing attracted to her.

Elizabeth's dislike grows into a hatred after she meets George Wickham and he tells her his tale of woe, in which he casts Darcy as the villain, and after the Netherfield Ball,

Elizabeth rejects a proposal from her distant cousin William Collins, who is the heir to Longbourn, because she cannot respect or love him, and Mr. Collins turns around and proposes to her friend Charlotte Lucas, who does accept him, thinking she can't do better at her age and with her small dowry. Elizabeth is shocked and upset by Charlotte's mercenary behavior.

Elizabeth and Darcy meet again while she is visiting her friend Mrs. Collins and he is visiting his aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Still in love with her, Darcy begins to pursue her, but Elizabeth doesn't understand why he is seeking her out because she believes he hates her too. Her hatred grows when his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam tells her that Darcy acted to separate her sister Jane from his friend Bingley because he thought Jane didn't love Bingley and he wanted Bingley to marry his own sister Georgiana.

Darcy proposes marriage with one of the worst proposals in the history of literature. She rejects him, and they argue as she confronts him over his pride and high-handed behavior.

The next day, he delivers her a letter which explains his point of view, and she is forced to concede that she misjudged him and she was wrong to place so much pride in her summary judgment of strangers. While she still thinks Darcy is proud, she admits that he was right in his judgment of her parents and younger sisters and that his inability to recognize Jane was in love with Bingley was shared by even their good friend Charlotte Collins. Darcy also explains Wickham's history with his father and his sister Georgiana, who was only fifteen when Wickham seduced her, which enlightens her to the true characters of the parties involved.

Elizabeth returns to Longbourn for a while before taking a trip to Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle the Gardiners. Elizabeth agrees to visit Darcy's estate Pemberley only after she is assured that he is not at home, and during their tour, she is impressed by the good taste and elegance of the house and the many signs of Darcy's better nature, including hanging his sister's childhood drawings in the gallery and having a room redone to suit Georgiana's tastes.

The sudden appearance of Darcy alarms her, but they maintain their equanimity as he becomes acquainted with her aunt and uncle, who is a tradesman. Darcy is friendly even though the Gardiners are far beneath him socially, which impresses and confuses Elizabeth, and the two become better acquainted as Elizabeth and the Gardiners stay in the area. They grow so close, in fact, that the Gardiners assume that there is already a secret understanding between them.

Darcy comes by their inn just after Elizabeth receives news from Jane that their youngest sister Lydia has eloped with Wickham. He comforts her, and he blames himself for not alerting the neighborhood to Wickham's true character. Elizabeth blames herself for not acting on the information he gave her.

Elizabeth and the Gardiners cut their trip short, and she returns to Longbourn, realizing that she loves Darcy just when it becomes impossible for them to marry.

Fortunately for her sisters' reputations and prospects, Lydia and Wickham are soon married and packed off to a regiment in Newcastle. Elizabeth initially believes that her uncle Gardiner paid Wickham to marry Lydia, but Lydia's off-hand revelation that Mr. Darcy was at her wedding (and a letter from her aunt) make her realize that he paid for everything.

Darcy and Bingley return to Netherfield, and Bingley quickly resumes his courtship of Jane, resulting in their engagement. People in Meryton begin to speculate that her sister Elizabeth will become engaged to his friend Darcy, and the gossip finds its way to Darcy's aunt Lady Catherine. She is enraged, and she comes to Longbourn to confront Elizabeth, who counters her insults and refuses to swear that she will not become engaged to Darcy.

Lady Catherine goes to London, where Darcy is staying, and reports their conversation to him, hoping that he will promise what Elizabeth would not. He refuses, and he returns to Netherfield where, believing his suit not hopeless, he proposes again to Elizabeth. She accepts.

Elizabeth and Darcy marry in a double ceremony with Jane and Bingley. Elizabeth becomes close to her sister-in-law Georgiana, and she encourages Darcy to reconcile with Lady Catherine. Her younger sister Kitty often visits her and is much improved by Lydia's absence, and Jane and Bingley buy an estate within thirty miles of Pemberley.

Fandom

Austen called her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print[1] and fans seem to agree: Elizabeth is one of the more popular female characters in literature.

Common Pairings

Elizabeth/Darcy is by far the dominant pairing, though occasional stories include past relationships with other characters. Other common partners including Colonel Fitzwilliam, George Wickham, William Collins, and Charles Bingley in het and Charlotte Lucas in femslash.

Fanon

Fanon makes Elizabeth dark-haired and voluptuous in appearance; nothing is known of her coloring from the novel other than that she has dark eyes and she tans, while her figure is described as "light."

In personality, fanon-Elizabeth is often book-Elizabeth but more so, for example more lively than would be tolerated in polite Regency society. She is often portrayed as a skilled pianist; in the novel, Mary is more technically proficient, though Elizabeth has superior taste. The difference in class and income between Elizabeth's family and Darcy is sometimes exaggerated.

Common Tropes in Fanworks

Elizabeth is almost ubiquitous in P&P fanfiction and so the tropes in Elizabeth-centric stories are similar to those found in P&P fanfiction overall (see that article). In canon-divergent AUs, she is sometimes posited to be an illegitimate or lost offspring of the Darcy or de Bourgh families. The death of Mr Bennet, either before canon or early during the novel, is often a precipitating event for her entering an arranged marriage with Darcy, usually to stave off her family's poverty. Aside from the usual Regency mishaps, rape by Wickham is a cause for her entering into a forced marriage with Darcy. Moderns often make her artistic or musical.

Example Fanworks

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

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References

  1. Quoted at The Republic of Pemberley: Index of Characters (accessed 8 September 2015)