Charles Bingley: Character Analysis in Pride and Prejudice

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      Among the many points for which Jane Austen deserves admiration as a novelist, is her ability to ‘pair off’ her characters. She is a remarkable match-maker. The woman and the man are suited to each other exactly, either for promoting each other’s happiness or to plague each other. We can not think of a better pair than Lydia and Wickham meant for the ruin of each other and the very manner in which their marriage is brought about shows this. Darcy could have been happy only with Elizabeth and Elizabeth could not be the wife of anyone but him. In a similar manner, we feel that Jane and Bingley too are formed for each other. Their characters are remarkably alike and the sweet-natured and gentle Jane does not exaggerate in the least when she exclaims that she has been made the happiest woman in the world by her engagement to Mr. Bingley.

      The sweetness of temper, amiability and a perfect gentlemanliness are the chief features in the character of Charles Bingley. He has the capacity of endearing himself to all the persons that he comes across. He becomes popular the moment he makes the acquaintance of the people of Mery ton. He has a handsome countenance and easy and unaffected manners. His pleasing qualities come out all the better by the vivid contrast between him and his intimate friend Darcy. The latter is difficult to please, and has a haughty and proud look indicating a sense of superiority. For all his ten thousand pounds per annum and his fine figure, he is not popular among the Meryton people. They cannot forgive him for dancing as little as possible, whereas Mr. Bingley is displeased when the ball is over. Thus while Darcy is continually giving offence, Mr. Bingley is sure of being liked by all.

      Though Charles Bingley is pleased with all and pleases all, Bingley has the sound judgment to understand that Jane is the woman suited to be his partner in life. He is instinctively attracted towards her because she is of the same disposition. There is no doubt that her beauty and manners captivate him; but, it is not these alone that are responsible for drawing him towards her. As Darcy tells Elizabeth later, he had been in love on many occasions before. But he had got over his passion when the object of it was away from him. But Jane, Bingley feels, is different. Hence he pays all his attention to her and decides to marry her if she is willing. This itself is a tribute to his perfect refinement in which there is not the least alloy of snobbery. He too knows as well as his friend Darcy, that the members of the Bennet family are wanting in manners, with the exception of Jane and Elizabeth. But whereas Darcy considers this a serious disqualification for his alliance with the family and has to struggle hard before deciding to propose to Elizabeth, Bingley does not take the relatives into consideration at all. This is a tribute to the simplicity of his heart. Though he is prevented for a brief interval from carrying out his intention of marrying Jane, he returns to her with a stronger love at a later stage.

      Though Charles Bingley's simplicity and amiability endear him to us, we cannot be blind to a few defects that exist in his character. The chief of them is his indecision and lack of full self-reliance. He is, in general, careless and there is a lack of method and decision in his actions. This is revealed even in trivial matters. In fact, he seems to be proud of himself for being unmethodical. Though it is his intention to buy a house for himself, he does not act quickly in the matter out of sheer indolence. As Darcy points out, he is a little vain of his careless handwriting, whereas the former himself takes great pains even in writing letters. Further, Mr. Bingley likes to be admired by others because his movements from one place to another are all uncertain. He almost boasts that he might go to London on the spur of the moment and stay there as long or as little as he has a fancy for. Darcy exposes his minor vanity in this respect in the presence of others.

      Charles Bingley's unsteadiness in such trivial matters is not a serious defect. But we find that Mr. Bingley is guilty of the same shortcoming in important matters too. His unsteadiness is combined with a lack of complete confidence in his own judgement. It is not that he is lacking in that faculty. But he relies on Darcy’s judgment more. It is this dependence that is responsible for the delay of the marriage of Jane and Bingley. Though he chooses a correct lover instinctively, he is swayed by the opinion of Darcy in the matter and is prevailed upon to stay away from Netherfield for months together. This defect arises because of his intimate friendship with Darcy, which is really touching. He has greater confidence in the judgment of the other, though it must not be concluded that he has absolutely no will of his own. Elizabeth understands this weakness of his and blames him for being led by the nose in such a purely personal matter as his own marriage. She cannot excuse him since his want of independence affects another person, and that too a tender-hearted girl like Jane. At a later stage, when all had ended happily and she is herself engaged to Darcy, she asks her lover whether he “had permitted his friend to visit Longbourn” again for courting her sister. Darcy tries to protest against placing such an interpretation on their relationship. But he recognizes that such is the fact. It is amply borne out when even at that stage, Bingley takes his seat by the side of Jane only after a half-laughing and half-nervous look at his friend. Altogether, Bingley does show a tendency to play second fiddle to his friend and follow “his master’s voice” implicitly. But when we realize that the object of his worship is fully deserving of such adoration, we are disposed to sympathize with him. Neither Jane nor Elizabeth thinks ill of him for his excessive reliance on Darcy. They realize that his very weakness shows the essential lovableness and simplicity of his heart. Hence we do not have cause to complain against him.

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