Elizabeth is the second oldest of the Bennet daughters. She is highly intelligent and witty. Elizabeth is the protagonist of the novel, and many of the observations captured in the book are from her point of view. She has many positive qualities, including her bright intellect and poise in social interactions. Much of the novel is presented through her witty and insightful dialogue with other characters. Elizabeth's honest reflection on the society she inhabits enables her to see through the silly and sometimes cruel behavior of the people around her. However, she sometimes makes snap judgments about the people and situations she encounters. Because she is the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice, the story follows the changes in her feelings and attitudes on her road to romantic happiness.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is a member of an aristocratic family and the master of the Pemberley estate. Like Elizabeth, Darcy is intelligent, though judgmental and proud. Also like Elizabeth, he proves himself able and willing to change. Initially, his snobbishness leads him to awkwardly propose to Elizabeth; he tells her he is doing so against his better judgment. Her rejection of his first proposal leads to a series of events that help him reevaluate the situation and become more humble.
Darcy has to overcome the negative attitude of his snobbish aunt, Lady Catherine, in pursuing a marriage with Elizabeth, whose means are substantially less than his own. He also finds himself in the role of protector and hero when Lydia, the youngest Bennet sister, gets into trouble. As the novel progresses and Darcy becomes more self-aware, he also becomes more likable and sympathetic. This mirrors the change in heart demonstrated by Elizabeth as their relationship deepens and they become more open with each other.
Jane is the eldest of the five sisters. Considered the prettiest, she is also a kind and gentle person. She and Elizabeth are very close and complement each other in certain ways. Elizabeth tends to be judgmental and analytical, while Jane is more trusting and less critical of others. It takes her time to accept that people are not always as sincere as they appear. For example, it takes her most of the novel to realize that Caroline Bingley, the sister of the man Jane loves, behaves falsely toward Jane.
Jane and Charles Bingley (who is the wealthy best friend of Mr. Darcy) first meet early in the novel at the ball in Meryton, and there is an immediate attraction. Jane and Charles are similar in their cheerful, optimistic, and pleasant natures. In comparison to their best friends (Elizabeth and Darcy), Jane and Charles have a less complex relationship. Jane ultimately forms a simple and happy marriage with Charles and is satisfied with their relationship.
Mr. Bennet, the father of five daughters, is a rather passive presence throughout the novel. He seems to be disengaged from his immediate family and prefers to amuse himself by reading and making fun of the absurdity of others. He is frequently sarcastic to his wife, for whom he appears to have little love or respect, but is genuinely fond of Elizabeth.
Mr. Bennet's estate is "entailed" to his relative, Mr. Collins. This arrangement was made because the custom of the time usually required land to pass to a male heir, and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet did not produce one. Mr. Bennet has mismanaged the income, and the family's precarious financial situation puts his five daughters in the position of needing to marry well. Nonetheless, Mr. Bennet doesn't seem interested in the details of these arrangements.
In his passivity, Mr. Bennet is happy to accept help from others, including his brother-in-law and Mr. Darcy, who remedy the crisis that Lydia created by eloping with Wickham. He is glad to have others intervene and not to have to deal directly with the messy business.
Charles Bingley is affable, attractive, and wealthy. His good manners make him attractive to Jane Bennet, who is equally well-mannered. However, he is easily swayed by others, especially Darcy, which leads to complications in his courtship of Jane.
Lydia is the most undisciplined of the Bennet daughters. She is impulsive and immature. Her main interests seem to be flirtations and frivolous pursuits.
Her parents do not seem interested in or inclined to discipline, and she is ever eager to find adventure and attention.
She occupies as much time as possible flirting with the men of the local militia. Kitty, her sister, is happy to accompany Lydia, but it is Lydia who leads the way. Her impulsiveness leads her ultimately into an improper relationship with George Wickham. It takes the intervention of Mr. Darcy to rescue Lydia's reputation—and that of her family.
George Wickham is a lieutenant in the local militia, newly arrived in Meryton. Initially, his good looks and charming personality attract Elizabeth. Early on, Wickham tells Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy is a cruel and unfair man who has taken advantage of him. He claims that Mr. Darcy's father was kind to him, but the son has cheated him out of his inheritance. This account fits in nicely with Elizabeth's initial inclination to dislike Darcy.
In the course of the novel, Elizabeth learns that Wickham has misrepresented both himself and Mr. Darcy. Indeed, Wickham is the one who has taken advantage of others, acquiring a great deal of debt. Despite his attempt to climb socially, he ends up being forced into marrying Lydia Bennet in order to prevent her social disgrace.