The novel “Pride and Prejudice” is set in the Georgian period in a rural English town. There are many different characters in “Pride and Prejudice” but the most important characters in the novel are usually the women. Austen gives the reader a variety of female characters so as to show the diversity of women and how differently they can all think and act.
The first woman you come across in the book is the mother of the heroine, Mrs Bennet. The opening chapter sums her up quite clearly that she has ‘mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper’ as it says in Chapter One. You immediately assume that she is a shrill and very superficial woman who only cares about marrying off her daughters. Of course this view of her does not differ throughout the rest of the book but stays as much the same as the attitude of her youngest daughter, and most likely her favourite, Lydia. Lydia is like the replica of Mrs Bennet; she is also shrill and superficial and appears to care only about herself and men in regimentals. Austen definitely gives the impression of dislike of these two characters, especially Lydia seeing as Austen uses Mrs Bennet as more of a comedic figure than a person to dislike tremendously. Although both Mrs Bennet and Lydia are extremely similar characters Austen only punishes one of them for their behaviour at the end of the book. Lydia is left stuck with Wickham who, although she seems delighted at first, she will grow to detest his deceiving ways. However one could argue that Mrs Bennet is also being punished for having to spend all her life with a cynical man.
Mr Bennet does not hold a lot of respect to his daughters and calls them ‘silly and ignorant, like other girls’ except for his second daughter and the main protagonist of the novel, Elizabeth, who he commends for her ‘quickness’. Both she and her sister Jane are given the best endings in the novel; they both marry the man of their dreams and obtain wealth as well as love. Unlike Jane though, who fell in love with Mr Bingley almost straight away, Elizabeth starts off loathing Mr Darcy because of his extreme pride. The main reasons Austen chose Elizabeth to be the heroine of the novel is because she is not perfect (probably why Jane is not the protagonist, many of her critics believe she is too perfect to be real although I think of Jane as a quite interesting character) and she has set principles such as marrying only for love and not for money though at the end of the novel get receives both. Elizabeth is what Austen believes to be a perfect balance of personalities and a woman with her own views who is not afraid to express them. Perhaps Elizabeth is what Austen believes herself to be, a feminist as well as a romantic.
Out of the five Bennet sisters Jane is the eldest and thought of as the most beautiful. At the start of the novel she was Mrs Bennet’s pride and joy, the daughter that had the highest chance of being married off into a respectable family. Many people think of Jane to be too dull and too nice. It is true that Jane does think the best of everyone but this is not necessarily a bad thing however it does leave her open and easy to manipulate. There is not much to say about Catherine, the second youngest, except that she tries to be as much like Lydia as she can. Catherine, also known of as Kitty, is hardly mentioned in the novel and is not thought of as an important character. Kitty is mainly described as a mild form of Lydia although just as fond of men in regimentals.
The middle child in the Bennet family is Mary the complete opposite of Lydia. She is ignored most of the time in family discussions and is thought of as the least talented of them all. Mary does try to hide her fault by becoming a bookworm; she is usually found in the novel burying herself in mountains of book or playing quite lifelessly on the piano. Mary did embarrass both Elizabeth and Jane during the ball at Netherfeild with her lack of regards for the actual hostess, Miss Bingley. This is however the one of the only things that seems to be frowned upon by Austen and later on as the novel progresses Mary appears to think deeper although it is not exactly pointed out seeing as Mary is only a minor character and is not integral to the plot.
One of the female characters that I find rather interesting is Charlotte Lucas who is the best friend of Elizabeth. They both differ tremendously in their views on marriage and other issues that can make the reader wonder what made them best friends in the first place however I believe that Austen placed Charlotte in the novel for a reason. Charlotte Lucas is an example of what numerous women are like in the times of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. They believe that one should get married before finding the faults of their husbands and that they should marry for convenience instead of love. Obviously Elizabeth’s views are completely contradicting Charlotte’s opinions and Austen shows this many times in the novel especially when Charlotte accepts the proposal of Mr Collins. Elizabeth believes that her friend could find someone a lot better than the pompous Mr Collins and her respect for Charlotte diminishes slightly after hearing the news of the engagement. Mr Bennet also gives some criticism to Charlotte ‘whom he had been used to think tolerably sensible, was as foolish as his wife, and more foolish than his daughters’ upon hearing that she was to wed Mr Collins. However Charlotte does not marry for love or for even a lot of money, instead Charlotte marries for convenience which is what makes her such a great example of many of the women in those times.
Although there are not actually any specific enemies in the novel two female characters come very close. Miss Bingley, who is Elizabeth’s rival for Mr Darcy’s affection, and Lady Catherine DeBourgh, an extremely pretentious woman who believes Mr Darcy should marry her daughter. I believe Miss Bingley and Lady Catherine are extremely alike; they both are hypocritical and represent the ill manner of the high society. Lady Catherine’s character is not given a lot of detail but it is obvious how much aristocratic pride she possesses and even though she appears to dislike Mrs Bennet I find that they are rather alike, they both are domineering and self-centred though many would probably prefer Mrs Bennet to Lady Catherine whose ‘dignified impertinence’ is thought of as exceedingly rude throughout the novel. Miss Bingley is a complete contrast to Elizabeth that, unfortunately for her, helped bring Elizabeth to Darcy’s notice.
Austen provides the reader with a range different characteristics and views of women in the novel. Even the characters that she does not go into detail with still seem real and believable by not overly exaggerating them. Austen gives in depth insight to the lifestyle of the people in the 17th Century and how many of them think which is one of the reasons why “Pride and Prejudice” is such a great novel.