Elizabeth Bennet

Outer characterisation

Elizabeth Bennet’s outer characterisation in Austen's Pride and Prejudice tells us that she is the second eldest of Mr and Mrs Bennet’s five daughters (p. 3). She is 20 years old (p. 117), unmarried, and is entitled to a relatively small dowry of £1,000 (p. 76) from her father when she marries. She is either referred to as Elizabeth, Lizzy, or Eliza.

She is considered beautiful (p. 187), and Darcy in particular is attracted by her dark eyes (p. 15). However, Darcy initially describes her as unattractive in the beginning of the novel: “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me...” (p. 7).

Mr Bingley's sister, Mrs Hurst, also tries to dismiss Elizabeth’s looks, after she has walked through muddy fields to visit Jane at Netherfield: “Why must she be scampering about the country, because her sister had a cold? Her hair, so untidy, so blowsy!” (p. 24). Bingley's other sister, Miss Bingley, also makes rather unkind comments about Elizabeth. She is motivated by jealousy when she describes Elizabeth as “one of those young ladies who seek to recommend themselves to the other sex by undervaluing their own; and with many men, I dare say, it succeeds. But, in my opinion, it is a paltry device, a very mean art” (p. 27). 

In this way, we are able to see what impression Elizabeth can make on some and how other women might feel threatened by her because she is beautiful and acts in an unusually confident way.

Finally, we get a glimpse of Elizabeth’s physical appearance when she goes to the Netherfield ball: “She had dressed with more than usual care, and prepared in the highest spirits for the conquest of all that remained unsubdued of his heart” (p. 63). This suggests that Elizabeth knows how to use clothes to highlight her beauty. Here, she does this because she wants to impress Wickham – who never shows up at the ball.

We also know that...

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