Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Iconic romantic heroine. Elegant Regency lady with a rebellious streak. Probably one of the most imitated and influential fictional characters in literature.
Complete and total badass.
She may not be Katniss Everdeen, but that doesn’t mean Elizabeth Bennet doesn’t have something to teach us about being an awesome, strong-willed person. Don’t believe me? Well, then, reader, keep scrolling.
10. That time Elizabeth Bennet called Mr. Darcy and Caroline out on their list.
It’s normal to have a couple things you’re looking for in a significant other. A good sense of humor, a good job (or, these days, having a job at all), a nice smile… those are perfectly reasonable expectations. But Mr. Darcy’s requirements for what he considers an “accomplished” woman are a bit… lengthy. With a bit of help from the spawn of Satan (i.e., Caroline Bingley), we get a comprehensive checklist, whether we want one or not.
“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, all the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”
On behalf of less-than-accomplished women everywhere, Lizzy quickly gives them both a reality check.
“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”
9. That time she told Darcy how to flirt with her… in her own fashion.
Okay, so this one is on the lower end of the list because it’s not in the book. Instead, this awesome moment comes from the 2005 adaptation, where Elizabeth Bennet was played to perfection by Keira Knightley. I’ve always loved this brief-yet-hilarious exchange between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy after Darcy expresses his distaste for dancing.
ELIZABETH BENNET: I wonder who first discovered the power of poetry in driving away love?
MR. DARCY: I thought that poetry was the food of love.
ELIZABETH BENNET: Of a fine stout love, it may. But if it is only a vague inclination I’m convinced one poor sonnet will kill it stone dead.
MR. DARCY: So, what do you recommend to encourage affection?
ELIZABETH BENNET: Dancing. Even if one’s partner is barely tolerable.
Not only does it sound like it could actually be in the original novel (to the point where I sometimes forget Jane Austen didn’t actually write it), it’s also a hilarious dig at Darcy’s snobbiness. And, when you realize Darcy is trying to figure out how to go about wooing her, it’s pretty sweet… especially when he gets his dance later on. We’ll talk more about that dance below.
8. That time she walked three miles for her sister.
This is one of those awesome moments that I mostly just find really funny. When Jane gets sick and has to stay at Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet, rather than, you know, be concerned that her daughter is ill, is delighted. After all, this means Jane will spend more time with Mr. Bingley!
Elizabeth, who is sane, worries about her sister. So she decides to walk on over to Netherfield to check on her. Alone. For three miles.
It’s a sweet gesture on Lizzy’s part, as well as a great display of her stubbornness. Because, let’s be honest — while it was mostly because she wanted to see Jane, it was probably a little bit to annoy Mrs. Bennet. Which is a cause we can all get behind.
7. That time she admitted she was wrong.
The “pride” in Pride and Prejudice primarily refers to Darcy, but let’s be real; Lizzy’s got her fair share of it, too. So, it’s really satisfying when he can swallow that pride and admit she judged Darcy too harshly. (Albeit, after he takes steps to improve his behavior and prove to her that he really isn’t the utter jerk she was convinced he was.)
It’s easy to condemn someone, but it’s much, much harder to admit you were wrong about them. But Lizzy does, which makes her more mature than a lot of us.
6. That time she had the highest standards.
This is a small moment, but it’s one of the most-quoted lines from the book, as well as my favorite. Probably because it sums up my attitude towards marriage pretty well.
“I am determined that only the deepest love will induce me into matrimony. So, I shall end an old maid, and teach your ten children to embroider cushions and play their instruments very ill.”
This is basically the Regency version of saying, “I’ll never find someone who meets my standards, so I’ll just be your kids’ Cool Aunt instead. It’ll be fun!”
Lizzy’s making a joke about her prospects, but it’s still great to watch her poke fun at the difference between her own expectations for marriage, and what society says will probably happen.
5. That time she turned a dance into an opportunity.
In Regency England, balls were the primary way women would meet and socialize with men. It was a nice, socially acceptable way to spend time together, and maybe get to know each other. So, when she gets stuck dancing with Mr. Darcy (who is, at this point, still in jerk mode), Lizzy tries to be nice and make conversation, leading to this exchange:
“Do you talk by rule then, while you are dancing?”
“Sometimes. One must speak a little, you know. It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought to be so arranged as that they may have the trouble of saying as little as as possible.”
Personally, though, I’m partial to Lizzy’s response in the 2005 movie:
“No. No, I prefer to be unsociable and taciturn. Makes it all so much more enjoyable, don’t you think?”
Either way, it’s hilarious, and doubly so when you remember that back then, dances weren’t just two or three moments of awkwardness. We’re talking twenty, thirty minutes of being stuck with someone who, in this case, you can’t stand, and won’t even try to make polite small talk.
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So, Lizzy, naturally, takes the opportunity to just roast him the entire time. What a legend.
4. That time she put Mr. Collins in his place.
They say the third time’s the charm, and that proves to be the case, at least where marriage proposals are concerned in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet gets proposed to three times over the course of the story — and the first two times are total disasters. The first one comes from the boring, brainless Mr. Collins:
“My situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take it into further consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.”
Oh, the romantic passion.
Naturally, Lizzy rejects his proposal… more than once, since “no means no” is apparently a lesson that can’t be learned from the great Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Finally, Lizzy has to get forceful, in the ever-polite, Regency sort of way.
“I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart.”
And then, when her mother tries to force her to accept, Lizzy point-blank refuses. Mr. Collins thinks she’s made a huge mistake, figuring he’s the best she’ll ever get, but as we all know, Lizzy gets a much, much better offer later on.
3. That time she wasn’t having any of Wickham’s crap.
You find out that the guy you liked is actually a total sleaze. Not only is he going around spreading malicious rumors about another man — which, since this is Regency-era England, is Serious Busines — but he also attempted to take advantage of a wealthy, naive young lady, and was only just stopped from completely destroying her reputation. Naturally, you’re glad this creep is out of your life…
…And then he runs off with your little sister, which could totally wreck any chances you and your other sisters have at finding decent husbands. (And, yeah, your sister is annoying, but you still love her.) Luckily, he’s found and “persuaded” into marrying her, which salvages everyone’s reputations and saves the family from scandal, but now that means this guy is married to your sister and is now at your house.
And then, he tries to fish for sympathy.
Yeah, Elizabeth has exactly none of that crap.
“I have heard, from authority which I thought as good, that it was left you conditionally only, and at the will of the present patron.”
“You have! — Yes, there was something in that; I told you so from the first, you may remember.”
“I did hear, too, that there was a time when sermon-making was not so palatable to you as it seems to be at present — that you actually declared your resolution of never taking orders, and that the business had been compromised accordingly.”
“You did! — and it was not wholly without foundation. You may remember what I told you on that point, when first we talked of it.”
They were now almost at the door of the house, for she had walked fast to get rid of him, and, unwilling for her sister’s sake to provoke him, she only said in reply, with a good-humoured smile–
“Come, Mr. Wickham, we are brother and sister, you know. Do not let us quarrel about the past. In future, I hope we shall be always of one mind.”
And it works! In the next chapter’s opening lines, we find out that Wickham has officially decided to shut the hell up, at least around Lizzy.
2. That time she destroyed Lady Catherine.
You’d think people would learn that trying to order Lizzy Bennet around doesn’t go well. So when Lady Catherine de Bourgh comes knocking and tries to order her to not marry Darcy, Lizzy tolerates that for exactly zero seconds.
“He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman’s daughter. So far, we are equals.”
Let’s be real; Lady Catherine is ridiculous, but she’s also intimidating. She has what in modern currency would be, approximately, a crapload of money, and she does not take well to anyone crossing her will. To the extent that she shows up at Elizabeth’s house to yell at her for, essentially, being in love with Darcy. Lady Catherine sees Elizabeth as being completely and totally beneath her.
But, come on. This is Elizabeth Bennet, who won’t let anyone condescend to her.
Oh, and the best part? The fact that Elizabeth takes the time to shut Catherine down like this is what gives Darcy hope that she may love him, and prompts him to propose again. Which means, we get our happy-ever-after as a direct result of Catherine trying to prevent it. Oops!
1. That time Elizabeth Bennet rejected Darcy into oblivion.
I love Fitzwilliam Darcy more than is probably reasonable. I’ve said I probably won’t marry unless Darcy himself falls out of the sky. (Reasonable expectations? What’s that?)
But sometimes, he can be a total idiot. And there is a very, very good reason his first proposal to Elizabeth is known as the Worst Proposal Ever in the Pride and Prejudice fandom on Tumblr. I mean, the man begins his declaration of love with, essentially, “I like you but your family is embarrassing and you’re poor and so obviously beneath me, so I’m really lowering my standards here.”
And then he’s surprised when Lizzy gets, shall we say, a tad offended.
Look, as much as we all love Darcy, we have to remember, at the start, he wasn’t the man millions of readers have been swooning over for over two hundred years. He was a pompous jerk. Granted, he wasn’t quite as bad as Lizzy thought he was, but the fact is, she had good reason to dislike him at first. But it’s her rejection of his first proposal — in which she calls him out for being a stuck-up, judgy, stick in the mud, as well as his actions towards Jane — that prompts Darcy to change. He goes from a guy who thinks this is an acceptable thing to say in a marriage proposal….
“Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”
…to a guy who’s willing to track Wickham down, force him to marry Lydia, and single-handedly save Lizzy and her sisters from ruin. And it all starts when Lizzy verbally decimates him.
“From the very beginning, from the first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”
Rest in pieces, Mr. Darcy.
Those are just my favorite Elizabeth Bennet moments, but I know there are more. Tell me about your favorite Elizabeth Bennet moments in the comments! I’d love to hear them.
Photos: Pride and Prejudice (2005). Credit – Focus FeaturesWant to help us spread the popularity of Romance in Entertainment? Share this article with your friends!