Gifted English 1
November 4, 2011
Locked in the Library The ideal father figure is many things. Often, he is intelligent, caring, thoughtful, and possesses a keen sense of humor. Though Mr. Bennet of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice appears to be just this, Austen actually created a character that would prove to be far more important than many static members of the story’s cast. Not only does Mr. Bennet and his quick wit serve as a source of comedic relief in the novel, but his character also functions as a symbol of consequence and a strong supporter of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet. While his character may seem at first glance to be insignificant, these functions allow him to be integrated into the story in a way that both demonstrates the realities of and greatly advances the plot. Perhaps the most notable quality of Mr. Bennet is his sarcastic and witty sense of humor, which is demonstrated from the first chapter onward. When Mr. and Mrs. Bennet discuss the arrival of Mr. Bingley - a suitable bachelor for any one of their young daughters - at Netherfield Hall, he finds much enjoyment in mocking her and her “poor nerves” (4). Scenes such as this in the novel add bursts of lighthearted humor that interrupt more serious sequences in the story, permitting Austen to keep the tone of the novel from becoming too heavy. From the beginning, Mr. Bennet endears himself to the reader, acting as such a sharp contrast with his theatrical wife that he gains respect as a character, which is crucial to his role in the story. His clever sense of humor does, in fact, serve more than one purpose, as its origins are likely from his rash decision to marry Mrs. Bennet and the aftermath of the marriage. While his unhappiness caused the development of his dry, mocking tone in the first place, his humor acts as both a symbol of the consequences he’s endured and a trigger for further problems down the line.
Because of this, Mr. Bennet is nothing other than a symbol of consequences, a prevalent theme in Pride and Prejudice. His choices have caused him to be involved with a family of what he deems to be his intellectual inferiors. However, withdrawn from his family and their lives, he demonstrates a severe lack of interest in their general wellbeing, choosing instead to keep to his study (168). This library may very well be a symbol of his detachment from the family, as he is constantly locked inside his own little world. His reclusive behavior, in turn, causes him to act as an irresponsible father and husband in more cases than one. Mr. Bennet’s neglect, for example, to set aside an annual sum in savings for his children and wife is caused by this disinterest in family matters (199). It also leads to further consequences, such as the display of poor judgment shown when allowing his daughter to go to Brighton. “We shall have no peace at Longbourn if Lydia does not go,” he states (152), showing that he values his peace and solitude over the welfare of his daughter.
While being such a distant father actually caused many of the conflicts in Pride and