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Pride And Prejudice Essay, Research Paper

`Any man

who tries to argue Jane Austen’s ability to draw characters would be

undoubtedly a fool, for the author’s talent in that area of prose is hard to

match. However even the most ardent fans of Austen will have to agree with the

fact that the personages she creates are not appealing to every man. An

exception to that trend in this reader’s opinion would be the character of Mr.

Bennet, who by his sharp wit and stark realism alone redeems Pride and

Prejudice for any audience who under other circumstances would take no joy in

reading any novel by Austen, this one included. In many ways Mr. Bennet stands

as a literary monument to the writer’s amazing storytelling ability. While his

personality sticks out among others in the novel like a sore thumb, his place

in the plot has monumental importance not only to the task of saving an

unappreciative reader from boredom but also to the movement and the development

of the work as a whole.One of his

most meaningful contributions to the plot is the influence he exerts on

Elizabeth. She is obviously his favorite, and probably the only one in his

family that he feels real fatherly love for. This is seen from the fact that

even though he is often very reserved and distant, the one time he shows emotion

it is directed towards her. The act takes place towards the end of the novel,

after Darcy announces to him his intention of marriage. The reader first

notices that he is not his usual self when Lizzy walks into the library. He is

not cool and composed as in other times he is present, but instead is

"walking around the room, looking grave and anxious." (Austen, 334)

As he starts to speak it becomes clear just how much Darcy’s announcement

affected Mr. Bennet. "My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you

unable to respect your partner in life" (Austen, 335) he exclaims, not

only admitting the mistake of his marriage but also showing enough love to

admit that he doesn’t want the same fate to befall Elizabeth. This is very

important, as a man who is as cynical as Mr. Bennet would not usually own up to

any folly this directly and easily, and although he makes several blunders in

the course of the plot this is one of only two he acknowledges. Such a

self-infraction of his character could only be explained by the fact that he

cares for Elizabeth more than he ever shows, more even than the reader ever

realizes. Taking

into consideration Elizabeth’s perceptive nature the reader is made to

understand the true depth of the relationship between her and her father. It

would be impossible for her to grow up without noticing the affection that he

felt, and not to benefit from it. Because she is the only child he really cares

for, she truly becomes her father’s daughter – smart, witty and realistic. Even

as she develops as a person during the progress of the events, the qualities

Elizabeth obviously inherited from Mr. Bennet allow her for a better perception

of what is really going on inside her. It is true that she dares to do

something her father doesn’t, which is to put the same method of analysis that

she uses on other people to herself, but without that skill of interpretation

she would not be able to grow and that skill was acquired from none other than

her Mr. Bennet. She is, in other words, a direct derivation of her parental

genes – the next improved and more modern step up in the evolution of character

and abilities exemplified by her father. As

mentioned above, Mr. Bennet admits to two mistakes in the course of the novel.

The first one he avows to is his marriage. The second, of course, is his

failure in fatherly duties to which he confesses in Chapter VI of Volume III.

This instance is different from the other, simply because he really does not

loose his composure as he discusses the subject with Elizabeth. The way he

chastises Kitty is vintage Mr. Bennet, full of sarcasm and hyperbole to the

extent that makes his youngest daughter cry. It is obvious to the reader that

he is not really going to prohibit all balls or not allow her to leave the

house, and yet at the same time there is a feeling that he really has learned

his lesson. He realizes that there is still time to change Kitty for the

better, and though his methods might not be as severe as he threatens, his

fifth daughter will still benefit from them. Although

all throughout this scene Mr. Bennet shows very few chinks in his armor, his

admission is very profound. Not only does he display the guilt he feels for

being an irresponsible and distant father but also assumes a part of the blame

for the way his family has become. This is the most evident display of this

character’s importance to the plot by far. All through the novel the Bennet

family is in an unfavorable way, the mother and the three insensible daughters

making continuous fools of themselves. This behavior is generally blamed on the

mother being a poor example for her offspring, but with Mr. Bennet’s

acknowledgment of poor fathering the condition takes on a new light. Perhaps if

he has shown more love and more guidance to his three youngest children they

would not be so infected with their mother’s character traits and act more

amiably like their older sisters. Perhaps had he have been more caring he would

have taken Elizabeth’s advice and prohibited Lydia’s going to Brighton, thereby

destroying the whole eloping scheme at the root. Truly, had he been a better

father most of the unfortunate predicaments faced by his family could have been

prevented, an inference which reveals the true depth of his importance in Pride

and Prejudice. Put quite simply, without a character of Mr. Bennet the

irresponsible father, Austen would have no plot.Vital to

the plot, Mr. Bennet is also crucial to the reader’s perception of the world

that Austen is describing. Most members of this society are greedy and mercenary,

and those who are not are so entangled in their own passions that they almost

never see the absurdity of the world around them. Mr. Bennet is different

however. While being realistic, he also takes great pleasure of observing the

sad silliness of the world around him, and poking fun at it on many occasions.

"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at

them in our turn." (Austen, 75) is an expression that could be his life’s

motto, as he spends most of his time in his library reading and reflecting on

the failures of the realm he lives in. In those rear moments that the audience

is allowed to see through Mr. Bennet’s eyes the reader begins to comprehend how

truly unbearable and disgusting the society around him is to man like himself -

a strong, intelligent, independent man. One almost begins to wonder if he would

not react similarly had he been placed in a similar situation as Mr. Bennet,

and in some ways to understand the reason for his failings as a father.While if

judged purely by his actions the character may be seen as somewhat of a

submissive coward, his words show him to be a man of great ability placed in a

losing position. Austen has a purpose behind this set up, which goes hand in

hand with this character’s importance as discussed earlier. The purpose is such

that in order for Elizabeth to possess the personality that she has in the

novel there had to be an influence on her that’s counteractive to the society

in which she is raised. This influence had to come from someone who is

sufficiently close to her to make a difference, and at the same time old enough

to have experience to draw on. The person also had to be positive and strong

and at the same time flawed enough as to not be domineering. All these

requirements are fulfilled in Mr. Bennet – he’s an intelligent man,

disillusioned with the world he lives in and his marriage and driven into

retreat by the sheer absurdity of the same. Thus Austen allows Elizabeth to be

sufficiently affected by him and yet have room to develop and grow as a person

on her own accord. This of course is crucial to the plot, as Elizabeth would

not have been able to fall in love with Darcy had it not been for her change as

a person.Though Mr.

Bennet is a character who possesses many faults by design of the author, he is

also likable by that same design. While he is often very mean to his wife in

his direct making fun of her, the reader feels no pity for Mrs. Bennet because

she is so fickle and shallow. Instead of feeling sorry, the reader almost feels

glad that her constant stream of meaningless and some times embarrassing

phrases is checked by her husband’s witty remarks and one liners. A similar

situation is created with Mr. Collins, whom Mr. Bennet is unashamedly amused by

during his first call to Longbourn despite the seriousness that the visit

carries. Mr. Bennet is glad that "his cousin was as absurd as he

hoped" (Austen, 60), and the audience delights with him through that whole

scene as he cleverly sets up Collins to make a complete fool out of himself. It

is a cruel endeavor, and yet still the reader stay’s on Mr. Bennet’s side

readily partaking in his little sin.These

little details and plot points are what make Mr. Bennet appealing to not only

Austen fans but to any reader of Pride and Prejudice. While having an immense

weight in the plot he also has a large part in the character structure of the

novel, a part that is equally if not more important. He has the role that in

the old fairy tales would be the role of a wise jester, a comic relief with

kernels of truth hidden between the lines of jokes. Without him those who do

not appreciate the author’s prose and plot are in danger of boredom as well as

missing or misinterpreting some major themes of the book. Mr. Bennet enriches

this literary work like no other character, and in this reader’s humble opinion

Pride and Prejudice would lose most of its entertainment value without him.?

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