Comparison of Jane, Elizabeth and Bingley, Darcy

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      At first glance perhaps, it is Bingley and Jane who seem to be the central figures in the novel. When the novel opens it is Bingley who is the centre of attraction. It is for him that the ball is arranged and the Jane-Bingley affair starts at the beginning of the novel and holds our interest till the end.

      Jane, the eldest of the Bennet sisters is captivating in her physical appearance, sweet tempered in her demeanour, serene and generous, likely to think of everybody as good and both Elizabeth and Jane Austen are warm in their praise and approval of Jane. Elizabeth says of Jane, “You are too good. Your sweetness and disinterestedness are really angelic” and again: “You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes.” Her physical beauty is conceded even by the fastidious Mr. Darcy and there is no doubt about her sweet and gentle nature.

      Similarly, it is difficult to find fault with Bingley. He is a perfect gentleman, noble by birth, handsome in person, amiable by temperament, friendly, sociable and lovable in all respects.

The Central Figures: Darcy and Elizabeth

      Yet, Jane and Bingley are not the central figures in the story. The main theme is rather the story of the pride and prejudice of Darcy and Elizabeth. It is Elizabeth who thoroughly dominates the action and by comparison, Jane is a shadowy accessory. The relationship of Jane and Bingley parallels that of Elizabeth and Darcy and depends ultimately upon the change of heart in the Elizabeth-Darcy affair.

      In advancing the main theme of Pride and Prejudice in Elizabeth and Darcy, both Bingley and Jane contribute by acting as foils who throw into relief and comment on the characters of Elizabeth and Darcy. Jane and Bingley offer a contrast to Elizabeth and Darcy and highlight their pride and prejudice.

Jane: A Foil to Elizabeth

      There is no doubt that Jane enjoys the admiration of both Elizabeth and Jane Austen. Still, she pales into insignificance in comparison with Elizabeth. She is too simple, too inclined to think well of everybody and therefore, she frequently misjudges men and
things. Her benignity precludes her judgement and she keeps admiring Miss Bingley till her indifference, flaunted so rudely in her face, convinces her of her duplicity. Jane is inclined to think well of both Darcy and Wickham and takes a tolerable view of Charlotte’s marriage to Mr. Collins hoping they would be happy. In contrast Elizabeth symbolizes intricacy. She is able to discern immediately the conceit of the Bingley sisters and judges Collins rightly as a foolish conceited narrow minded man. Jane is too passive. She is undemonstrative in Bingley’s presence, too resigned in his absence and unobtrusive except for her physical beauty. Elizabeth on the other hand is brilliantly outstanding. Charming and witty she is able to hold her own against the haughty Darcy and the formidable Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Elizabeth sparkles with a vivacious personality while Jane’s simplicity lacks instinctive appeal.

Bingley: A Foil to Darcy

      Similarly, Bingley for all his amiability and friendliness is only a foil to the more forceful personality of Darcy. Bingley is easy going, open and friendly while Darcy is proud, reserved and fastidious. But Bingley is rather a little too easy-going, too pliant, too dependent upon Darcy’s opinion to win our admiration wholeheartedly. He allows himself to be persuaded that Jane’s love for him is only a fleeting passion and quits Netherfield, leaving behind the innocent Jane to pine and languish in her desolation. Mr. Bingley’s irresolution renders him almost contemptible in Elizabeth’s eyes. His pliability and lack of judgement contrast strongly with Darcy’s intelligence, better judgement and perception. His abandoning of Jane contrasts with Darcy’s continuing interest and love for Elizabeth in spite of Lady Catherine’s objections and her own rejection of his first proposal.

The Bingley-Jane Romance

      The Bingley-Jane romance also present a contrast to the turbulent relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth. The Bingley-Jane relationship is based upon harmony arising out of a similarity of nature. Bingley loves Jane instinctively, sincerely, but his love lacks strength. Jane is sincere in her love but not demonstrative. On the other hand, Elizabeth and Darcy start with an initial prejudice and dislike of each other but gradually move to an understanding love for each other in spite of some differences in temperament.


      Jane and Bingley are both simple characters — not intricate or complex and therefore, they do not captivate us. Both Jane and Bingley are foils to Elizabeth and Darcy. Jane’s simplicity and lack of judgement by contrast throw in to relief Elizabeth’s intelligent and vivacious personality. Similarly, Bingley’s easy going charm and pliability highlight through contrast Darcy’s fastidiousness and intellectual superiority. The Jane-Bingley relationship is intended as a comment on the Elizabeth-Darcy affair and one of the obstacles in the Elizabeth-Darcy relationship is definitely Darcy’s role in having separated Bingley and Jane. It is indeed the intricate characters — Elizabeth and Darcy who captivate us. Bingley and Jane act by contrast, as foils to Elizabeth and Darcy.

University Questions

How far would you agree with the view that Jane and Bingley are foils to Elizabeth and Darcy?
Compare and contrast the characters of Jane and Elizabeth and Bingley and Darcy.

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