Five Life Lessons We Can Learn from Elizabeth Bennet

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Need I say more? 

The rich and developed characters, the love story that defies cultural barriers, and the subtle humor Austen embeds throughout the story, all make for an unforgettable classic. One of the most important, if not the most important, element in the novel is the strong, female protagonist: Elizabeth Bennett. Even though her character has been a part of English literature for 204 years, she still provides lessons that we can learn from and apply as 21st-century college women.

1. She Learns from Her Mistakes.

When Elizabeth reads Darcy’s letter and finds out that she has misjudged Wickham and Darcy’s characters, she says to herself, “How despicably have I acted! I, who have prided myself on my discernment! … I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself!” Elizabeth could have justified her actions, but she recognizes that she was wrong. Even though – at the time – she hates Darcy, she acknowledges that he’s right in many respects; she acknowledges that she jumped to conclusions, and let prejudice cloud the truth. Elizabeth’s ability to recognize her faults and correct them requires a lot of humility and self-awareness we should all aspire to achieve.

2. She Does Not Settle.

Elizabeth turns down both Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy’s proposals without hesitation. She is open and honest in her refusals, and she does not care that her mother and society essentially demand her to accept them. She knows what she wants, and she knows what she doesn’t want. Only when Darcy actually gains some manners does she finally accept him.

3. She Boldly Voices Her Opinions.

Elizabeth is not afraid to state her opinions or contradict someone - regardless of who they may be. When Lady Catherine De Bourgh insults herself and her family, Elizabeth rebukes her. When Lady Catherine asks Elizabeth to promise to never become engaged to Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth refuses. When a man of Mr. Darcy’s standing states his opinion of her low rank and then proposes to her, she reprimands him. One classic example:  ``You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.'' Now if that’s not bold, I don’t know what is.


4. She Takes Care of Her Family.

Throughout the novel, Elizabeth repeatedly mentions her concern for her family’s welfare – especially Jane’s. Even though her mother has no filter, and her sister, Lydia, only lives and breathes to flirt with officers, Elizabeth still defends them to Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine. And who can forget how she walks from Longbourn to Netherfield in the mud and dirt just to take care of Jane?

5. She is Not Afraid to Defy Society’s Expectations.

Elizabeth does not care how Miss Bingley or Mr. Darcy perceive her after she comes to Netherfield with her skirt “six inches deep in mud.” She does not care that a man who has 10,000 pounds a year asks her to marry him. She is very forward thinking, she reads, and she doesn’t care much for the typical accomplishments that women of her day were supposed to have. Instead of sewing pin cushions or painting tables, she cultivates her mind through reading and engaging with others.

Elizabeth Bennett is a strong, independent woman who never changes who she is. Even though she’s a 19th-century fictional character, her character is a wonderful example of what a strong female is.