This could be one major character or one with a small part in the book but about whom you have interesting things to say. You should describe :-
– Why you find him/her an interesting character
– His/her importance to the themes of the novel
– His/her relationship with other characters
– His/her part in the plot
to help illustrate his/her character. Remember to support you argument with textual evidence.
Lyndsay Quinn 12C
Imagine having a completely ridiculous and utterly embarrassing mother, who has no shame in the things she says out loud. This is exactly fitting the description of Mrs Bennet who at first glance seems like a child with her silly, frivolous ways. She is the one we laugh at. A woman with little sense, who does not observe the rules of decorum very well. A woman in a marriage with less love than there was at the start with only a young, frivolous daughter to share her things in common with.
She is described in the first chapter to be a ‘ woman of mean understanding, little information and uncertain temper ‘, which throughout the novel becomes clearer to us. She has one mission in life, to marry all her daughters to rich young men.
‘ It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. ‘ This is an ironic comment made by Jane Austen, however on the part of Mrs Bennet this is taken literally. She plays the main part in the plot of the novel. So when Mr Bingley arrives at Netherfield you can imagine how hyped up Mrs Bennet must have been. ‘” A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls! “‘ Immediately she is fixated on the intention that Mr Bingley will marry one of her daughters. It must be explained now that because of the time period there was entailment, Longbourn was to be entailed to Mr Collins and they would have no were to live once Mr Bennet dies. So she must marry off her daughters. We have sympathy for her in this perspective however she is also doing this out of selfishness. She only wants her daughters to marry wealthy men so she will have a place to live when Mr Bennet dies and is turned out of her home.
She ‘ planned the courses that were to do credit to her housekeeping ‘. This shows that she wants everything to be perfect for when Mr Bingley comes to dinner. She was ‘ disconcerted ‘ when the invitation was declined. From this we can see she wishes to secure Mr Bingley as soon as possible. She does not like to waste time.
At the ball Mrs Bennet was ecstatic that Mr Bingley danced with Jane twice. When they came home it was shown that she tended to ramble on about petty details of the dance. ‘” I dare say the lace upon Mrs Hurst’s gown -. ‘” This also brings about the point that Mrs Bennet judged the new arrivals by their clothes, as they were ‘ elegant ‘. She called the Bingley sisters ‘ charming women ‘. She had not spoken with them yet this shows her to be judgmental.
A most comical scene indeed must be chapter 5. At the Lucas Lodge Mrs Bennet exposes herself to be rather ridiculous.
‘” Oh! You mean Jane, I suppose because he danced with her twice. ‘” She is rubbing it into Charlotte that Mr Bingley prefers Jane.
‘” But however it may all come out to nothing you know. ‘” She pretends that nothing will come out of it and pretends she does not want to gossip. This is extremely funny because we know she wants to proclaim it to the world and she will do everything in her power to make something of it.
She also continued to argue with a young Lucas until she left which shows that she just does not know when to give up.
So when a letter arrives from Netherfield you can imagine how Mrs Bennet felt. Her ‘ eyes sparkled with pleasure. ‘ She was eager to know what it said and was utterly delighted by the request. So far her plan was working well. We can see that she can get excited over any small thing, which concerns Mr Bingley or Netherfield. She tells Jane to go on horseback as it was to rain and she would have to stay in Netherfield that night.
This shows her to be cunning however her plan backfires when Jane becomes ill. Mr Bennet tries to make her feel guilty yet her reply was ‘” Oh! I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. ‘” She does not show the concern a mother ought to show for her daughter, she is too wrapped up with the idea of Mr Bingley marrying her daughter.
She was not alarmed by Jane’s situation, when she went to visit, as it was not dangerous. ‘ She had no wish of removing her from Netherfield ‘. Again she lacks concern for her daughter. Mrs Bennet’s selfishness comes back into play yet again.
While she lacks concern, she tries to impress Mr Bingley by speaking well of Jane. She says, ‘” I often tell my other girls they are nothing to her ‘”. This is not something a mother should be saying about her own daughters. She lacks sophistication in her manner, when she puts down her other daughters.
‘” Lizzy, remember where you are, and do not run on in the wild manner that you are suffered to do at home. ‘” This is extremely ironic and very funny because it is Mrs Bennet who does not know where she is sometimes. She does not obey the rules of decorum.
She begins to argue with Mr Darcy, which is another comical scene. She had not liked Mr Darcy before. She talked about him ‘ with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr Darcy ‘. She thinks of him as rude and has thus declared she detests him. She misunderstands Mr Darcy yet she continues to argue with him even after she has made her point. ‘” But that gentleman (Mr Darcy) seemed to think the country nothing at all “‘.
She tries to show that she knows more than she actually does. She causes embarrassment for Elizabeth. She exposes herself to have bad manners and that she is not sociably accepted among them. ‘” I know we dine with four and twenty families “‘. This is extremely funny because Mrs Bennet thinks she is wonderful with having dined with twenty-four families. She is trying to show up Darcy even though he would have dined with far more people. She is only making a fool of herself.
When she hears that a visitor would be staying at Longbourn she automatically believes it to be Mr Bingley. This shows that Mr Bingley is always on her mind. However it is Mr Collins. She cannot bear to hear of the word ‘ entailment ‘. ‘” I do think it is the hardest thing in the world, that your estate should be entailed away from your own children. “‘
When Mr Collins arrives he compliments on the furnishings however Mrs Bennet thinks he is eyeing up her home as his own soon, ‘his commendation of everything would have touched Mrs Bennet’s heart, but for the mortifying supposition of his viewing all as his own future property ‘”.
In any case she warns Mr Collins off Jane because she wants Mr Bingley to marry her. However she steers him towards Elizabeth. She was delighted at the thought of two daughters being married. Again this shows her selfishness because she only wants Mr Collins to marry one of her daughters so Longbourn estate will remain in the family. She does not care for her own daughters’ happiness and so she consents Mr Collins to marry Elizabeth.
The ball at Netherfield was one of great embarrassment. This scene highlights how well she obeys the rules of decorum. She speaks very loudly and out of order. She is making presumptions that Jane and Mr Bingley shall marry and soon. Everyone could hear her saying this. ‘ Her mother was talking to that one person freely, openly and of nothing else but of her expectation that Jane would soon be married to Mr Bingley ‘. She does not know when to be quiet and is therefore an absolute embarrassment to her family, as she has no manners. Indeed this shows how well decorum is suited into her life.
It is her behaviour – her vulgarity – that is the main obstacle to Mr Darcy developing an interest in Elizabeth and his reason for persuading Mr Bingley to leave Netherfield and ignore Jane. ‘The situation of your mother’s family, though objectionable, was nothing in comparison of that total want of propriety so frequently, so almost uniformly betrayed by herself ‘.
She was delighted when Mr Collins wished to speak with Elizabeth. We know a little too well what she is thinking. She is deeply disappointed and surprised by Elizabeth’s refusal. She realises that she cannot make Elizabeth do anything, so she wants Mr Bennet to force Elizabeth to marry Mr Collins, though she becomes terribly annoyed with him when he does not take her side. This shows that she wishes to be in control of the situation and everything is directed towards Mrs Bennet as she is only thinking of herself and what she wants and not of her own daughters. She tries to threaten Elizabeth by saying, ‘” Yes, or I will never see her again ‘”. As this is Mrs Bennet no one takes her seriously.
When Charlotte comes round she tries to make her sympathises for her. ‘” I am cruelly used as nobody feels for my poor nerves ‘”.
‘ When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. ‘ Throughout the novel we see evidence of this. ‘” You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves. ‘” This is quite funny because Mrs Bennet refers to her nerves many times. If something disappoints her, she blames everyone for upsetting her and her nerves.
When she hears of Mr Collins marrying Miss Lucas she was outraged and even angrier with Elizabeth. She was not happy with Lady Lucas rubbing it in which is very ironic, as not too long ago she was doing the exact same thing.
Her stupidity is on display here. She shows an incapacity to argue rationally rather than simply give way to her feelings and this leads her to contradict herself in a comical rush of attitudes, which are nonsense. When she hears of the engagement, her reaction demonstrates her inability to disguise her malice and her inability to think rationally.
She was ‘ distressed ‘ because of Mr Bingley’s absence. She becomes unhappy and paranoid. ‘ She was convinced that they were talking of the Longbourn estate and resolving to turn herself and her daughters out of the house as soon as Mr Bennet were dead ‘.
She cannot accept the fact Mr Bingley will not return yet her vapid nature is conveyed perfectly by her switch from discussing her daughter’s aborted engagements with the latest fashions. ‘” I am glad to hear what you tell us of long sleeves ‘”. When talking to Mrs Gardiner.
She later presses Mr Bennet to let them go to Brighton and is upset when he refuses.
Mrs Bennet describes Mrs Long as a ‘ selfish, hypocritical woman ‘ when referring to Mr Bingley. This is highly ironic as she is just the same. She only wants Mr Bingley for Jane and her gain of wealth.
She does not like the way Mr Bennet favours Elizabeth. ‘” Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good humoured as Lydia ‘”. She contradicts herself here along with favouring Lydia, which is rather ironic.
She defends Lydia and Kitty when Mr Bennet offends them. She says that she always like officers. ‘” I do remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well – and indeed so I do still at my
heart. “‘ We can see now where Lydia and Kitty get their silliness.
She goes on to remember when the regiment left her. ‘” I cried for two days together when the regiment went away. I thought I should have broke my heart ‘”. We can still see she tends to exaggerate. She still wishes to go to Brighton and is absolutely delighted when Lydia gets to go.
When Lydia elopes Mrs Bennet does not leave her room. She blames her husband for not letting her accompany Lydia to Brighton and is worried about the prospect of Mr Bennet fighting with Wickham. ‘” And now here’s Mr Bennet gone away, and I know he will fight Wickham, wherever he meets and then he will be killed ‘”. She is exaggerating greatly yet again. She blames everyone but herself and is hysterically torn between worrying about what clothes Lydia will buy in London and fantasising about her husband fighting. This is extremely funny as she worries about clothes and her husband fighting than her own daughter.
‘” Tell my dear Lydia, not to give any directions about her clothes, til she has seen me, for she does not know which are the best warehouses ‘”.
We can see she tends to let her imagination get to the better of herself and for it to run a little wild. ‘” And, above all things, keep Mr Bennet from fighting ‘”.
After talking so little about her husband and her daughter she immediately begins to talk of herself. ‘” That I am frightened out of my wits; and have such tremblings, such flutterings, such spasms in my side, and pains in my head, and such beatings at heart ‘”. She has yet proven once again that she wishes to be centre of attention and also that she likes to talk of herself.
However when Mr Bennet was to return she was not in so much a satisfaction, which would have been expected considering her behaviour of him getting killed. This just goes to prove that she likes to talk and exaggerate so people will feel sorry for her.
She is overjoyed when she hears of Lydia’s marriage. She shows unreflecting delight in Lydia’s marriage. Mrs Bennet is linked to Lydia by their lack of moral reflections and their shared obsession with clothes. She was proud of Lydia marrying Wickham. She does not seem to realise how much of a scandal it has brought upon the family and how everyone is affected even though Mrs Bennet does that herself. She
‘ Was more alive to the disgrace, which the want of new clothes must reflect on her daughters nuptials, than to any sense of shame at her eloping and living with Wickham ‘”.
The superficiality of Mrs Bennet’s response is compounded by her thoughtless and selfish lack of concern for her brother’s generosity, which she simply dismisses as what is due from him. ‘” If he had not had a family of his own, I and my children must have had all his money you know, and it is the first time we have ever had anything from him, except a few presents ‘”.
She was shocked and amazed at Mr Bennet not allowing Lydia and Wickham to Longbourn. ‘ A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr Bennet was firm; it soon led to another; and Mrs Bennet found with amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter ‘. Mr Bennet realises the shame that Lydia has brought on the family but Mrs Bennet does not.
In defiance of their true financial situation, she starts thinking of the various properties in the surrounding area where the couple might live. ‘” Haye-Park might do,” said she, ” if the Gouldings would quit it or the great house at Stoke, if the drawing room were larger; but Ashworth is too far off! ‘”.
She shows an alarming blindness to financial and moral property.
We can see Mrs Bennet does not look at things realistically. She tends to live in her own little fantasy world where everything revolves around her.
She is dull when Lydia leaves but soon becomes happy again when news arrives that Mr Bingley is due back at Netherfield.
‘ Mrs Bennet was quite in the fidgets ‘. We can at this moment see her plan coming back into action. She invites him to dinner. She is extremely civil to Mr Bingley, as her hopes of him marrying Jane have now returned. She gives him considerable admiration. However she is still cold towards Mr Darcy.
When Mr Bingley comes round once again she is quite funny when she begins to wink at her daughters for them to leave as if they were supposed to know what she meant.
‘” What is the matter, mamma? What do you keep winking at me for? What am I to do? ‘” The embarrassment for Mrs Bennet causes her to deny it all. ‘” Nothing child, nothing. I did not wink at you. ‘” This is ironic because for once Mrs Bennet is embarrassed when usually she is the one embarrassing everyone else.
Jane is now her favourite daughter by marrying Mr Bingley.
‘ Wickham, Lydia, were all forgotten. Jane was beyond competition her favourite child. ‘ It was like a contest for Mrs Bennet to see which daughter she can marry to the richest man. This is appalling behaviour for a mother.
When Lady Catherine comes Mrs Bennet receives her with the utmost politeness, as she was amazed to have someone of high importance in her home.
Mrs Bennet always thought of Mr Darcy as ‘ disagreeable ‘. When hearing of Elizabeth marrying him she was lost for words, which must be the first. However when she recovers she can only think about his wealth and not her won daughter’s happiness. It soon changed her attitude towards Mr Darcy and she was very amiable towards him.
‘” Oh! My sweetest Lizzy! How rich and how great you will be! What pin-money, what jewels, what carriages you will have! Such a charming man! -so handsome! So tall! ‘”
Not only did her attitude towards Mr Darcy change but also her attitude towards Elizabeth. It is amazing what money can do to a person especially when the man of large fortune is in want of your daughter as a wife.
Mrs Bennet is also quite vain upon many other things. Mr Bennet says, ‘” which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr Bingley might like you the best of the party. ‘” To which Mrs Bennet replies, ‘” My dear, you flatter me. ‘” This is funny because we the readers know Mr Bennet is teasing her but she does not even realise this and takes it as a compliment.
Now that all her daughters are married Mrs Bennet likes to boast. However her behaviour caused Mr Bingley and Jane to move away from Netherfield, which is quite funny because her annoyance as herself has caused them to move.
Overall Mrs Bennet is portrayed as superficial in her understanding, trivial in her interests and mistaken in her judgements. Though funny, sometimes it is sad that she is incapable of responding to situations with more good sense and less nagging complaint and hysterical silliness.