Jennifer Ehle as Eliza Bennett in the BBC's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Jennifer Ehle as Eliza Bennett in the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

The title of this blog should really be something like ‚ÄòSix Amazing Things about Elizabeth Bennett,’ because there are so many others I could probably add here. This post stems from a recent re-watching of the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (i.e. the best TV adaptation of a Jane Austen novel ever!) where Jennifer Ehle plays the wise and witty Eliza who elegantly graces Longbourn with beautiful dresses and persistently rosy cheeks. She is a wise champion of her times and excellent role model.

1. She is smart (if occasionally naïve). Elizabeth is the master of witty exchanges in all situations – especially in contrast to her “silly” younger sisters and embarrassing relatives. She is intelligent in many ways, as a moral judge, in her quick-wittedness and possibly most importantly she is emotionally intelligent.

2. Remarks about her appearance don’t bother her in the slightest. On the first occasion of her meeting Mr. Darcy at a local dance, he absolutely refuses to dance with Elizabeth in addition to commenting, “She is tolerable I suppose. But she is not handsome enough to tempt me”, within her earshot. And yet, disheartened she is not. She waits a few moments and walks over to her friend Charlotte to have a good laugh about it.

3. She defies societal pressure. Despite the constraints of her time, she flatly turns down two marriage proposals, one each from Mr. Collins and Darcy. There is a huge expectation on Elizabeth that she would accept either of these proposals because of the income they offer her. Additionally, both suitors make it quite difficult for her to turn down the proposals but she stands up for her decision eloquently on both occasions. The bumbling Mr. Collins is extremely insistent on his proposal even after Elizabeth has politely refused, and Darcy’s insulting offer is prolonged in a debate over his flaws and actions.

4. Other people’s wealth doesn’t affect her behaviour. Both of the declined proposals from Mr. Collins and Darcy came from about as wealthy a source as she could possibly hope for given the social status of her own family. However, wealth does not factor in her decision so much as her judgement of good character and her own personal feelings. She also demonstrates this when in contrast to the other guests she is not afraid of speaking up in front of the extravagantly rich (and slightly terrifying!) Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

5. She is a great friend and sister. Elizabeth and her sister Jane are adorable best friends throughout and support each other while endless boy dramas are happening in the background. She also forms a great friendship with Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana, acting as a mentor to her, and continues to be close with her friend Charlotte Lucas who has the misfortune of marrying Mr. Collins.

6. She can change her mind. Despite her absolute determination to abhor Darcy and her naivety in completely believing Wickham’s judgement of his bad character, she is willing to be persuaded and accept Darcy’s second marriage proposal.

-Emily Lawry
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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