Elizabeth Bennet is presented as a vivacious young woman who is placed at the centre of the novel. Her spirited wit and good sense causes her to be noticed by all around her. Her self-assurance comes from a keen critical mind and is expressed through her quick-witted dialogue. In spite of her mistake in misjudging Wickham and Darcy, and her more blameable fault of sticking stubbornly to that judgement until forced to see her error, Elizabeth is usually right about people. However, this ability to determine the character of people leads her too far at times. She proceeds from reasonable first impressions of Darcy and Wickham to definite and wrong conclusions about their characters. Her confidence is her own discernment.
Elizabeth is shown to be an intelligent young woman who is independent and not afraid to show her opinions, even if they may upset or embarrass others. Elizabeth’s reaction to Darcy’s offer to dance illustrates her independent nature. She is taken aback by his request (surprising, given his general distaste for the practice) and is ‘determined’ to decline his offer, believing him to be acting only out of normal politeness and due to the encouragement of Sir William Lucas. Austen’s use of dramatic irony in this chapter, due to Darcy’s confession of having an interest in Elizabeth, creates tension and is extremely engaging as it builds anticipation for the moment that Darcy and Elizabeth both realised that they, in fact, do love each other. Elizabeth’s independent personality is also presented when she goes on foot to visit her sickly sister Jane. “Elizabeth continued her walk alone.” The use of the words ‘continued’ and ‘alone’ shows that she has no problem with being in solitude and is not affected by it.
Elizabeth also gives the impression of being an extremely quick-witted and sensible young woman who differs from most of the woman at that time. Because of her dissimilar traits compared to her sisters, she is presented as her father’s favourite, and is described by him as having “something more of a quickness than her sisters.” The fact that he compares her to his other daughters highlights Elizabeth’s good features whilst comparing them with her sisters’ flaws. It is also her speeches, crackling with irony and displaying vibrant humour that exert a magnetic pull on Darcy. He recognises that she is a woman endowed with sense and sensibility, radically different from most young women that he knows. Elizabeth is different to other women in Pride and Prejudice because she cannot abide small talk, this is affirmed in the line ‘their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game.’ The use of ‘superlatively’ shows Lizzy’s strong dislike for their conversation. The use of sibilance evokes images of ‘speaking through gritted teeth’ as to also emphasis her distain for their tedious discussions. Elizabeth’s characterisation seems to represent a departure from the conventional image of woman at the time.
Elizabeth Bennet also gives the impression of a compassionate and caring sister, which is interesting as it contrasts her more fiery and dynamic traits that is seen throughout the novel. Her benevolent interactions with her sister is consistent and unwavering, unlike other relationships in this novel. Her…