I am not what most English majors might consider well-read. There is a long list of books that I’m ashamed to admit I have not finished, and an even longer list of ones I have not started. That being said, I can with a great amount of certainty say that Pride and Prejudice‘s Elizabeth Bennet is the single most exquisite character I have ever encountered in literature.
I’m not talking about the Lizzy from the Keira Knightley movie or the BBC miniseries (though I do love both and that’s okay…*cough* Jane Austen snobs). I’m saying that in reading this book for the second time, Elizabeth Bennet, with all of her flaws and impertinence and, well…prejudice, managed to inspire me through her brilliance, not through her beautiful face or even her “fine eyes,” as Darcy observes. Sometimes I would read passages again, simply to luxuriate in the intellectual power she commands.
In fact, she is not supposed to be a great beauty, yet she captivates those around her with wit and humor and the ability to be completely herself even amongst the uppermost social strata. She challenges nearly everyone she comes across, including the snobbiest character I’ve ever found–Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Seriously, going toe to toe with this woman would be frightening, and Elizabeth tells her to step off. *girl crush swoon*
This is the beauty that wins Darcy over. Sure, her eyes are lovely, and he even admits later that she is one of the most beautiful women he knows, but that admission only comes after having tennis matches of conversation and discovering the loveliness of a woman with a beautiful mind.
I realize I’m not saying anything new, but I think it’s worth stating that Elizabeth Bennet is not overrated. If you’ve never read the book, go read it. Now. Please.
On a personal note, my great-grandmother’s name was Elizabeth, and my middle name comes from her. She was a pie-baking, animal-loving, farm-tending, proud German woman who I often wish I had known. To me, the name Elizabeth is not only beautiful–it’s powerful. Strong. Lovely, yet full of passion.
One day, I hope to pass this family name on to my daughter, and teach her that beauty is more than fine eyes.
It’s a fine spirit.