The Jane Austen Wiki

Mary in the 2005 movie

Mary (Lucy Briers) in 1995 BBC Mini-Series.

Mary Bennet is the third and the middle child of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. She has four sisters, Jane Bingley, Elizabeth Darcy, Kitty Bennet, and Lydia Wickham. She is sister-in-law to Charles Bingley, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and George Wickham. She is a niece of Edward Gardiner and Mrs. Phillips, and a first cousin of The Gardiner Children. She is the distant cousin of William Collins and his wife Mrs. Collins.

She is eighteen or nineteen years old during the events of the novel, younger than twenty-year-old Elizabeth and older than seventeen-year-old Kitty.

Traits and characteristics

"Mary had neither genius nor taste; and though vanity had given her application, it had given her likewise a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached."
—Narration about Mary Bennet's pianoforte playing[1]
"Far be it from me, my dear sister, to depreciate such pleasures. They would doubtless be congenial with the generality of female minds. But I confess they would have no charms for me. I should infinitely prefer a book."
—Mary to her sister Lydia[2]

Mary is regarded as the only plain-looking Bennet sister, and though much more sensible than Kitty and Lydia, she is still considered to be very silly by her father. Despite the fact that she is studious and was once described as the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood, she lacks genius and taste, and is also pedantic and conceited. These unpleasant characteristics become especially evident during the Netherfield Ball, where she (unknowingly to herself) embarrassed her family by singing and playing badly.

However, it must be noted that Mary is still a sympathetic character: her parents are biased and ineffective, her two older and younger sisters have neatly paired-off together, which leaves her alone, and she is probably the Bennet daughter who is most ignored, which might be why she puts so much effort in trying to impress people.

After her older sisters were married and went away, Mary improved somewhat as she was finally given a consistent amount of her mother's attention, and no longer had to suffer the frequent comparison between her sisters' beauty and her own.

According to James Edward Austen-Leigh's A Memoir of Jane Austen, Jane Austen later told her nephews and nieces that "Mary obtained nothing higher than one of her uncle Phillips's clerks, and was content to be considered a star in the society of Meryton."

Bennet Family





Notes and references

  1. Pride and Prejudice, Vol. I, Ch. 6 (pg. 29; First Folio Society ed. 1996 reprint)
  2. Pride and Prejudice, Vol. II, Ch. 16 (pg. 130; First Folio Society ed. 1996 reprint)