Mrs. Bennet (née Gardiner) is a main character in Pride and Prejudice. Together with her husband, Mr. Bennet, she has five daughters: Jane Bennet Bingley, Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, Mary Bennet, Catherine Bennet, and Lydia Bennet Wickham. She has two siblings, Mrs. Philips and Mr. Gardiner, and is the sister-in-law of Mrs. Gardiner and the paternal aunt of their children. She is related to William Collins through marriage.
Her father left her a settlement and dowry of £4,000, which, although a good sum, would not be enough to ameliorate the deficiency of her husband's fortune.
She is never given a name in the novel beyond that of "Mrs. Bennet," but many readers assume her maiden name was Jane Gardiner. Jane Austen frequently named the eldest daughters in families after their mothers (cf. Elizabeth Stevenson and Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion, Fanny Ward and Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, etc.). Her surname comes from her brother's name, "Edward Gardiner," as they seem to share the same father and therefore would also share his surname. The 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries gave her the first name "Fanny," which is commonly used in fanfiction.
Marriage and MotherhoodEdit
Twenty-three years before the events of the novel, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet married. Mr. Bennet had been captivated by his wife's youth and beauty, and the appearance of good humor. Yet he soon realized he had married of weak understanding, and his affection for her ended.
Mrs. Bennet and her husband were incautious with money. They always believed that they would have a son who would, when he came of age, break the entail on Longbourn, allowing them to sell off portions of their lands to generate more income. Instead they had five daughters, and Longbourn would pass to Mr. Bennet's cousin Mr. Collins upon his death.
Without a son to inherit Longbourn, Mrs. Bennet is obsessed with marrying off her daughters as means of providing support for herself—and them—following her husband's death.
During the Novel Edit
Mrs. Bennet learns that Netherfield is let at last from her neighbor Mrs. Long.
After the Novel Edit
Mrs. Bennet was not much improved by the marriages of three of her daughters. She continued to be silly, which continued to entertain her husband.
Mrs. Bennet often visited Mrs. Bingley and talked of Mrs. Darcy after her eldest daughters' weddings. Her vicinity to Netherfield was part of the reason why the Bingleys moved from Netherfield and bought a house in a county neighboring Derbyshire.
Her daughter Mary later married one of her uncle Mr. Phillips's law clerks and moved to Meryton, and her daughter Catherine later married a clergyman near Pemberley.
Appearance and PersonalityEdit
Mrs. Bennet's age is unknown, but at the beginning of the novel she is old enough to have been married 23 years. Her excitement at having her youngest married at sixteen indicates she was probably older than that when she married, but she cannot be too much older because her youth was what attracted Mr. Bennet to her once upon a time.She was quite beautiful in her youth and possibly still is as in Volume 1 Chapter 1 Mr. Bennet says she is as beautiful as any of her daughters, while Mr. Bennet is teasing her in the exchange, but the comment seems unlikely if she had not retained at least some of her looks.
Mrs. Bennet is described as "a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper" who fancies herself nervous when she is discontented. She openly favors Jane and Lydia over her other daughters because of their beauty and Lydia's high spirits. Her sole purpose appears to be to marry off her daughters to well-to-do men.
- Mr. Bennet & Mrs. Bennet
- William Collins (cousin through marriage)
- Mr. & Mrs. Gardiner (brother and sister-in-law)
- The Gardiner Children (nieces and nephews)
- Mrs. Philips (sister)