Jane Bennet (later Jane Bingley) is a main character in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She is the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet of Longbourn in Hertfordshire. She is the wife of Charles Bingley and sister of Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. She is the sister-in-law of Fitzwilliam Darcy, George Wickham, Caroline Bingley, and Louisa Hurst. She is twenty-two through most of the novel. In the second week of May, Lydia remarks that Jane is "almost three and twenty."
Jane is acknowledged to be the prettiest and most beautiful of the five Bennet sisters as well as the most beautiful woman in the local Meryton neighbourhood. She has long curly golden blonde hair that fall halfway to the middle of her back and blue eyes.
In May 24, 1813, Jane Austen wrote that she had recently attended a portrait exhibition where she had seen Mrs. Bingley's picture, and that "there never was a greater likeness".
Meeting Charles Bingley
At an assembly in Meryton, Jane meets Charles Bingley, the new wealthy tenant of the nearby estate of Netherfield. Mr. Bingley immediately takes a liking to Jane, dancing with her and spending more time talking with her than any of the other young ladies. She later confides to her sister, Elizabeth, how she is falling for Mr. Bingley and enjoying his company while they were together. She and Mr. Bingley continue to spend time together at other social engagements, and she also gets to know his sisters, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst.
Caroline eventually invites Jane over for dinner with Louisa, but when Mrs. Bennet finds out that Mr. Bingley is dining elsewhere, she purposely refuses to let Jane take the carriage, and insists she go on horseback instead. Mrs. Bennet's scheme works, and Jane becomes sick from riding through the storm, and is forced to stay at Netherfield while she recovers. Lizzy later comes to Netherfield, and tends to her sister until she gets better. When she eventually does, Mrs. Bennet tries to keep her there another day, but Lizzy borrows Mr. Bingley's carriage, and she and Jane leave Netherfield.
Mr. Collins visits
When William Collins, who is Mr. Bennet's cousin and heir to the Bennet estate, visits, he hopes to extend an olive branch by marrying one of the Bennet sisters. Initially, he prefers Jane, but Mrs. Bennet quickly pushes him to pursue Elizabeth instead. Lizzie confided to Jane about Bingley's friend, Mr. Darcy, supposedly having wronged an officer, Mr. Wickham. Jane does not believe it, trusting Mr. Bingley's judgment of friends. However, Lizzie chooses to believe Mr. Wickham, since Jane always thinks the best of others.
At the Netherfield ball, Jane is almost monopolized by Mr. Bingley, and many people notice, thinking they will be engaged soon. However, Mr. Bingley abruptly departs for London after the ball, and Jane later receives a letter from Caroline, stating that they will not be returning. Caroline also mentions in her letter that she perceives an attachment between Mr. Bingley and Georgiana, Mr. Darcy's sister. Jane is disheartened by this, believing Mr. Bingley no longer cares for her. Lizzy, though, tells Jane that Miss Bingley is intentionally separating the two of them.
When Jane's aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, visit from London, they offer Jane a chance to come back with them. Jane accepts, hoping for the opportunity to see Mr. Bingley again. She calls upon the Bingley residence in London, but only is able to see Caroline and Louisa. They promise to visit her in the next few days, but Jane gets a visit from Caroline three weeks later, and can see that Miss Bingley is not interested in being in the company of Jane or her family. Caroline also says that Mr. Bingley knows Jane is in town, but is too busy to see her. Jane writes to Lizzy, and says that she believes there is no longer any future for her and Mr. Bingley.
When Lizzy is on her way to Hunsford, she stops by London, and visits Jane briefly, who is still dealing with Mr. Bingley's rejection. In Hunsford, Lizzy finds out that Mr. Darcy also worked with Mr. Bingley's sisters to separate him from Jane. On the way back from Hunsford, Lizzy picks up Jane in London, and they return to Longbourn together with the rest of the party. After they return, Lizzy tells a shocked Jane how she rejected Mr. Darcy's proposal while at Hunsford, and also tells her of how Mr. Wickham was the one who wronged Mr. Darcy, and manipulated them. However, she leaves out how Mr. Darcy convinced Mr. Bingley not to marry Jane. Lizzy wonders if their family should know about Wickham, but both she and Jane agree not mention it, as he is leaving Meryton.
Jane looks after Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's children over the summer at Longbourn while their parents tour the countryside with Lizzy. She's not heard from until she writes a letter, informing Lizzy that their youngest sister, Lydia, has eloped with Wickham. She asks Lizzy to return, for both the family's sake and so that Mr. Gardiner can help their father with the search. Lizzy and the Gardiners return, where she and Jane commiserate over how the elopement might have been prevented if they had told their family the truth about Wickham's character. Jane spends most of the time taking care of her mother, who becomes too hysterical to function.
When Lydia and Wickham are found by Mr. Gardiner and plan to marry, Jane is relieved, though Lizzy is suspicious. While Jane believes Wickham loves Lydia, Lizzy and Mr. Bennet both believe that Wickham was bribed with a large amount of money to marry her. Still, the Bennet family is saved from disgrace. Lydia and Wickham return home after their marriage, and Jane is nearby when Lydia carelessly mentions that Mr. Darcy was at her wedding. Lizzy's curiosity is piqued, something Jane either thinks little of or does not notice.
After Lydia and Wickham depart Longbourn, the Bennets receive word that Mr. Bingley is returning to Netherfield. Jane, still believing that Mr. Bingley is indifferent to her, says that she would rather not see him again, as it will be a reminder of her painful heartbreak. However, Lizzy realizes that Jane is hiding some excitement over seeing Mr. Bingley again. Mr. Bingley eventually visits the Bennet family, and spends many days at Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet schemes to get the family away from Jane and Mr. Bingley, and during one of these times, Mr. Bingley finally proposes to Jane, professing his love and admitting that he was unaware of her being in London after he quit Netherfield. Jane happily accepted, and they were engaged.
Jane spent a majority of time afterwards with Mr. Bingley when he came to Longbourn, or confiding in Lizzy. When Lady Catherine de Bourgh unexpectedly dropped by Longbourn, Mr. Bingley was there, and he and Jane quickly escaped for a walk outside to avoid the need for hospitality. Mr. Bingley visited soon after with Mr. Darcy, and they went for a walk with Jane, Elizabeth, and their younger sister, Kitty. Mr. Bingley and Jane separated themselves from the group, and came back to Longbourn before Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, which surprised Jane. That evening, though, Lizzy confided to Jane that she and Mr. Darcy were engaged. Jane was shocked and skeptical, knowing Lizzy's sentiments on the man. Lizzy, though, assured Jane that it was true, and spent "half the night" explaining to Jane how her opinion of Mr. Darcy had changed, and how he had helped their family in more ways that anyone knew. Jane was thrilled for her sister, and also for Mr. Bingley, since the marriage would bring Mr. Darcy closer to the couple.
After Jane and Mr. Bingley were married, they stayed at Netherfield for only a year, finally unable to handle being in close vicinity to her family, especially her mother. Bingley purchased an estate said to be "within thirty miles" of Pemberley, the home of Darcy and Elizabeth. Jane was able to stay close to Lizzy, as a result.
Role in Pride and Prejudice
Jane is closest to her sister, Elizabeth, and the two sisters are each other's confidantes very often. While manners and decorum keep Jane from revealing her true feelings in public, she often reveals them to Lizzy while the two are alone. Lizzy, likewise, does the same, although she's not as reserved in her manner to society as Jane. Lizzy's fondness and loyalty to Jane is what makes her reject Mr. Darcy when he first proposes to her, as she finds out Mr. Darcy talked his friend, Mr. Bingley, out of a marriage with Jane. However, she chooses not to disclose this to Jane later, as her opinion of Mr. Darcy has begun to change. When Elizabeth finds out Mr. Darcy was responsible for finding Wickham and Lydia, and making them marry, she does not initially confide to Jane, showing how her feelings are starting to change for Mr. Darcy. Jane and Bingley's relationship, though also based on love, is different from that of Darcy and Elizabeth. Their romance is a more traditional one, where the two develop an attraction immediately, as opposed to Elizabeth initially disliking Darcy, while both couples also face obstacles. The two different paths of the couples' romances show the society decorum, as well as the challenges a love can face.
Through Jane Bennet, Jane Austen is able to satirise the role of women in courtship. During the early 19th century, late 18th century Regency England, women were expected to employ certain tactics cunningly in order to capture the eyes of rich, eligible men and as Charlotte Lucas says 'in nine cases out of ten, a women better shew more affection than she feels' to a young man whom she has her eyes on. Unfortunately for Jane, she is not able to achieve this ideal, her shy and generally docile nature leads Darcy to think her as indifferent to Mr. Bingley and therefore, he advises Bingley to not marry her. Luckily for Jane, later on in the novel, Darcy corrects his mistakes after being severely reprimanded by Elizabeth during his snobbish proposal to her. Perhaps, Jane's successful marriage to Bingley by the end of the novel may be Austen's way of suggesting that only those who do not behave overly superficial and do not have utilitarian motives in mind when searching for marriage partners, but rather only marry a person with the pure desire of leading a content and loving marriage with them, will truly be able to achieve any happiness at all.
Jane Bennet can also be seen as a character foil in this novel, next to her, Elizabeth's headstrong and critical nature seems to be all the more apparent, Jane serves to highlight her sister's admirable and unique qualities which are the reason for which Elizabeth is the heroine of the novel.
Appearance and Personality
Jane is the prettiest and most beautiful of the Bennet sisters, though she is never given a physical description in the text beyond that and Lydia's statement that Lydia herself is the tallest of their sisters.
In 1813, Jane Austen reported in a letter to her sister Cassandra that she had seen a portrait very like Jane Bennet, writing "Mrs. Bingley’s is exactly herself-size, shaped face, features, and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her." Many have identified the portrait of Mrs. Quentin by Jean François-Marie Huet-Villiers as that painting.
Jane is described by many as a "sweet girl." In contrast to her sister Lizzy, she is docile, soft-spoken and in every way lovely. She is considered the perfect woman by her society, and when her separation from Bingley begins, no one blames her in the least. She is unknowingly popular, and she is every bit as sensible as her sister Elizabeth (if not as clever, as Mr. Bennet believes). She is kind, considerate, intelligent, beautiful, good with children, and, apparently, each parent's second favourite. (Mr. Bennet's because she has uncommon good sense, and her mother's due to her docility and beauty).
Jane sees the world through rose-coloured glasses. She sees the best in everybody and assumes that everyone is acting out of the best motives. Even after Wickham elopes with her youngest sister, she assumes that it was done out of love and with every intention of getting married. She does change before the end of the novel, as she no longer considers Caroline Bingley a friend for trying to separate Jane and Charles, and though she continues to treat Caroline respectfully, she is not fooled by her behaviour.
Although she feels things deeply, her manners are described as shy and reserved.
Charles is Jane's love interest and later became her husband. They met the first time in the Netherfield ball (Meryton ball) and fell in love instantly. After Charles left for London indefinitely under the manipulations of his sisters and Darcy, she grows depressed thinking that Charles didn't have feelings for her. It was later revealed that Charles still harboured feelings for her after he learned what Darcy did. He later proposed to her and she later accepted.
Jane is close to her parents. Unlike Elizabeth who has no patience for her mother's silliness, she tries to see the best of her parents and helped her mother "nurse her nerves". It is implied that she is close to her father and loves his company when her mother's silliness becomes too much.
Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia are Jane's sisters. Jane is closest to Elizabeth and would always confide to her the troubles she is facing. When Jane got sick due to her mother's scheme, Elizabeth cared for her sister to nurse her back to health. Mary is more reserved and shows more interest in books than in men demonstrates that she respects her. Jane tries to be a good example to Kitty and Lydia but Lydia is always immature and childish and ignores Jane which causes Kitty to follow into Lydia's footsteps. When Lydia disgraces her family, Kitty becomes more close to Jane.
Louisa Hurst and Caroline Bingley become Jane's sisters-in-law after marrying their brother. Jane always tries to see the best in the sisters but decides like Charles, but they decided to move near Pemberley near Elizabeth to avoid Jane's family and the sisters yet be close to Elizabeth and Darcy.
- Mr. Bennet & Mrs. Bennet
- Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 4
- Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 7
- Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 15
- Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 17
- Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 23
- Volume II, Chapter 3
- Volume II, Chapter 4
- Volume II, Chapter 14
- Volume II, Chapter 17
- Volume II, Chapter 19
- Volume III, Chapter 4
- Volume III, Chapter 5
- Volume III, Chapter 6
- Volume III, Chapter 7
- Volume III, Chapter 9
- Volume III, Chapter 11
- Volume III, Chapter 12
- Volume III, Chapter 13
- Volume III, Chapter 14
- Volume III, Chapter 17
- Volume III, Chapter 18
- Volume III, Epilogue
- Volume II, Chapter 17
- Volume III, Chapter 9
- Volume III, Chapter 19