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Mr. Bennet is a major character in Pride and Prejudice. He is married to Mrs. Bennet and they have five daughters, Jane Bingley, Elizabeth Darcy, Mary Bennet, Catherine Bennet, and Lydia Wickham. Mr. Bennet is father-in-law to Charles Bingley, Fitzwilliam Darcy, and George Wickham. He is also a cousin of William Collins, who is heir presumptive of Longbourn because Mr Bennet has no closer male heir and because the estate is entailed upon his next closest male-line male relative.

Background informationEdit

Mr. Bennet is the patriarch of the Bennet family and the owner of Longbourn. His name is never mentioned in the novel, nor is his age but it's safe to say that he is older than his wife (as her youth is what attracted him to her) and is old enough to be married 23 years. He lives at Longbourn, located in Hertfordshire near the imaginary town of Meryton.

His education specifics are unknown, but he is fond of books and is known for his sarcastic wit. His strongest relationship is with Elizabeth, as she is the most level-headed and observant of his daughters. He has a hard time letting her go when he agrees to her marriage with Mr. Darcy.

Mr. Bennet's estate, Longbourn, is entailed to a male member of the family, in this case Mr. Collins. Since the cousin is so far removed from the family, they cannot rely on him to care for the wife and daughters upon Mr. Bennet's passing like they would if the heir was a son. This forces Mrs. Bennet to be incredibly anxious about marrying off her daughters, and their lack of success at first, as they would be truly destitute if Mr. Bennet died before any of the girls were to marry. Due to two of his daughters marrying extremely wealthy gentlemen, this is not a worry by the end of the book, as all female members of the Bennet family would be well cared for upon Mr. Bennet's passing.

As an aside, the terms of the Longbourn entail do not allow the Bennet daughters to inherit the estate under any circumstance whatsoever (even if they bore sons!) as long as Mr. Bennet possesses a legitimate male-line male relative. Entails in Austen’s time were specifically intended to prevent inheritance through the female line; that is literally the only reason they existed. Jane Austen appears to possibly represent in the book that the only way the daughters could inherit Longbourn is if the entail were to be broken, and that could only be done if a) the owner and his heir agreed to break it or b) if there were no more male-line male relatives left.

This, however, was not the case in 19th century England. Entailments could be fairly easily (and were routinely) barred, and it did not require the agreement of any heir; a strict settlement is a single-generation entailment alternative that would require an heir to break, but it would have required Mr. Bennet himself to make an agreement explicitly to leave his own lands to some distant cousin if he failed to produce a son at the time of its signing, which is absurdly unlikely. Strict settlements were used instead to disinherit other sons and daughters where there were multiple children and never to send the property away from the nuclear family. Jane Austen may have simply not known the law and confused terms of strict settlement (which couldn't be barred but must be rewritten each generation) and entails (which could be barred, or completely broken, but couldn't be rewritten), even though this was a routine legal action--or if she did, and she assumed her readers also did, there are only two possibilities. First, Mr. Bennet had some crippling legal or personal issue that prevented his barring of the entail without devastating consequences, or second, that he simply held his daughters in too much contempt to bar the entail. The second, though consistent with his earlier attitude (including his decision not to save anything for his daughters because he decided it was "too late"), seems unlikely to be tolerated by Wickham--but it could give an interesting ulterior motive to Wickham's dealings with Lydia, especially as Wickham studied to be a barrister for a time.

It seems on the face of it that Jane Austen would be more likely to simply be in ignorance (and her tradesman publishers equally ignorant), but given her very unsubtle hints about Wickham's parentage that both Lizzy and the narrator pretend to be oblivious to, it is quite possible that there is a whiff of greater scandal under it, especially since entails had been most common among the nouveau riche of the lawyerly and formerly tradesman classes in the early-to-mid 1700s and were being very commonly broken among just the kinds of families with which Jane Austen personally associated and wrote about.

Bennet FamilyEdit

PersonalityEdit

Mr. Bennet is best known for his sarcastic wit, often sharpened on his family members (particularly his wife). He appears happiest when left alone and will typically choose the path of least resistance, without consideration of the consequences. While his love of independence has kept his family out of debt, he has not bothered to make any plans or provisions for them after his death, at first this was because he intended to have a son who would take responsibility for Mrs. Bennet and any other children and later this was due to habit.

GalleryEdit

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Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet