Why Lizzie Bennet Taught Me Everything I Need To Know About Love

When I learned we were going to read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in my Literature Humanities class, I let out a sigh of relief—not because it’s one of the few women-centered works in the class, or because it was definitely the only one I’ve read before. Through the love interests of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, Austen offers all of us some valuable romantic lessons:

George Wickham: Appearances Can Be Deceiving

When Lizzie first meets Wickham, she’s understandably enamored by his Zac Efron-esque appearance and scintillating conversation. However, she takes care not to be too charmed by his smooth talking. Though her attraction to him initially clouds her judgment, when she learns of Wickham’s true character—a compulsive liar, gambler, and a bad friend—she isn’t afraid to change her opinion. Lizzie learns, as should we, that when it comes to romance, we have to judge others based on what they actually do rather than what they say. Props to her—Wickham is so hot, I don’t know if I would have been able to do the same.

William Collins: Don’t Say Yes Just Because You Think You ‘Should’

Lizzie meets Collins when he comes over for a family dinner. That’s right, they’re first cousins. But their genetic connection isn’t even the worst of it. Collins feels obligated to marry one of the Bennet sisters, and Lizzie is his target. When he proposes to Lizzie, he lists all of the reasons they “should” get married: it’s a good economic and social decision for them both. However, Lizzie knows that her and Collins together would be a Level 5 natural disaster. With his ridiculous formality and poor listening skills, he’s everything Lizzie likes to make fun of, and she knows this would make them both miserable. So despite enormous pressure from Collins and her mother, Lizzie holds her ground, rejecting Collins again and again until he finally realizes she’s not interested. The lesson here? Don’t say yes to a relationship just because you feel like you should, or because you “owe” the person. The right person will both seem right and feel right.

Also, don’t date your cousin. Please.

Fitzwilliam Darcy: The Unlikely Romantic Ideal

It’s safe to say that Lizzie’s first impression of Darcy is less than favorable.she thinks he acts like he’s too good for everyone (and frankly, he does). He also insults her appearance when he thinks she can’t hear him, which of course doesn’t help. Little does Lizzie know, however, that Darcy is actually deeply attracted to her, and when he proposes, he catches her entirely off guard. Though Darcy is my dream man, I have to admit, he goes about this all wrong: he insults her family, her status, and worst of all, assumes she will say yes. Couple this with Lizzie’s beliefs that he broke up her sister’s relationship and ruined Wickham’s career,  you get the showdown of the century—Lizzie rejects Darcy in the most savage way possible, telling him exactly why she can’t accept his proposal. Later, Lizzie learns that Darcy isn’t actually a terrible person, after all, and she begins to feel sorry for him. When he proposes again, she says yes.

However, the most important factor in their relationship’s success wasn’t that Lizzie realized how “misunderstood” Darcy was all along. Rather, it’s because he actually listened to what she said to him,he got nicer and more respectful toward her family, and proposed again only after she made it clear that she had developed feelings. Darcy isn’t hot because he’s broody and misunderstood (okay, maybe not only hot because of that), but because he cares deeply about Lizzie and is willing to change the behavior that makes her uncomfortable. He proposes to her when he believes she wants him to, rather than when’s best for him. Darcy’s transition from rude to thoughtful and caring is one of the most satisfying in literature,and it proves that listening and genuine care is the sexiest attribute any romantic interest can have.

Whether you prefer to read the book, binge the BBC miniseries, watch the Keira Knightley movie, or like me, would consume all three within a day, Lizzie’s exploits make it clear that Pride and Prejudice offers some pretty great romantic advice.