The younger of Bingley's two sisters, Miss Bingley is rich, attractive, elegant, snobbish, and conniving. She is determined to marry Darcy, flattering him constantly -- though in vain -- and disparaging Lizzy at every opportunity. She treats Jane like a dear friend while secretly undermining her relationship with Bingley, who she hopes will marry Darcy's little sister.
Bingley is half as rich as Darcy, meaning very rich indeed, and he has just begun renting a manor house near the Bennets'. He is outgoing, affable, good-looking, charming, and so open and artless that everyone can tell almost immediately that he is in love with Jane. But he is also somewhat flighty -- boasting to Mrs. Bennet that "whatever I do is done in a hurry" -- and thus susceptible to the persuasions of Darcy and his sisters, who oppose his marrying into the Bennet family.
The second of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's five daughters, who has inherited her mother's beauty and her father's intelligence. At 20, Lizzy has perfect manners, but she is as witty and independent-minded as the period's strict social code will allow. She finds her mother's vulgarity humiliating, but reproaching her for it, even in private, would be a breach of decorum. On the other hand, she publicly teases Mr. Darcy for his lack of chivalry, and her willingness to assert her own opinions shocks Lady Catherine, who is used to the deference and even the awe of those around her.
As attractive as they are to modern readers, however, Lizzy's independence and willfulness are the chief obstacles in the book's romantic plot, for they lead her to the prejudice of the title. The night she meets Mr. Darcy, he shows obvious contempt for her family, friends and neighbors, and she accidentally overhears him making some belittling remarks about her. That is enough to convince her to dislike him on principle. Though Wickham later misrepresents Darcy's character to her, she is too eager to believe him, and too willing to ignore the inconsistencies in his story, because of her determination to think badly of Darcy.
Otherwise, however, she is a model of late-18th-century upper-class feminine virtue: like her father, she reads a great deal; she both plays the piano and sings well; she is clever of speech; and she is a devoted and affectionate friend and sister. When Jane falls ill during her visit to Netherfield, Lizzy hikes three miles across country to take care of her -- climbing over fences and muddying her petticoats -- rather than recall any of her father's horses from their vital farm work. Bingley's sisters deride such unladylike exertion, but it speaks volumes about Lizzy's sensibility, self-reliance, and compassion.
Mr. Darcy supplies the pride of the title, and he has good reason for it: he is not only tall, handsome, and clever, but filthy rich. At 28, he is the sole owner of the Pemberley estate in Derbyshire, which generates an annual revenue of 10,000 pounds, making him one of England's 400 richest people.
Darcy is well bred -- he attends to all the formalities that civility demands of him -- but he does not go out of his way to make others feel comfortable. He has no patience for frivolousness: he would rather sit silent than engage in vacuous small talk, and he doesn't like to dance, which is counted a serious fault in an eligible bachelor. Because of his natural dignity and contempt for vulgarity, his reticence makes him appear haughty -- though that appearance is heightened by his arrogant conviction that, in accompanying his friend Bingley to Hertfordshire, he has slipped several rungs down the social ladder. None of the locals likes him.
But after Lizzy refuses his (first) offer of marriage, he proves himself, in an attempt to "obtain [her] forgiveness" and "lessen [her] ill opinion," capable of great charm and generosity. He even ignores the difference in rank between himself and Lizzy's uncle...
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