Jane Bennet. Of all the characters in Pride and Prejudice, I think she is the one most underestimated. Everyone remembers her because she’s beautiful and kind, and everyone dismisses her because she’s beautiful and kind. She’s not as exciting as her younger sister Elizabeth, who we remember because she got to marry the brooding Mr. Darcy. She’s just the nice girl who married Darcy’s nice best friend.
But I think kindness shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.
In the book, Jane only has good things to say about Darcy and the Bingleys. She’s heartbroken when Bingley leaves, but she continues to assume the best. While Elizabeth is quick to condemn Darcy, Jane is quick to give him the benefit of the doubt. When Bingley returns, Jane easily forgives him and his family. Throughout the story, we see why she has a reputation for being nice to people.
Other characters barely know how to criticize her. Darcy? “Pretty, but she smiled too much.” Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst? “A sweet girl, and one whom they would not object to know more of.” Charlotte, Lizzy’s best friend, thinks that Jane hides too much affection.
Of course, Jane has faults. She is so kind and trusting that she’s blind to other people’s faults. The thought that Miss Bingley could want to hide her presence in London from Mr. Bingley doesn’t even occur to her. When Lydia runs off with Wickham, Jane persists in her belief in his goodness, despite evidence to the contrary.
If anything, I think Jane lacks wisdom. She sincerely believes that everyone she meets is good at heart, which is great when you’re talking about proud Mr. Darcy, but is a horrible idea when you think about Wickham’s deceptions. Even Bingley, who has a great heart but is a bit too weak willed, is forgiven and accepted perhaps too easily for modern readers.
I love the character growth in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Jane is just as sweet as in the book. She greets everyone in the same way: “Hi, it’s so good to see you!” and she tries to rein in Lizzie’s criticism of Darcy.
Jane grows over the rest of the series. She understands her own hurt from Bing Lee’s abrupt departure. She finally sees the wolf in sheep’s clothing (if you haven’t seen LBD, I won’t spoil the surprise of how Lydia’s scandal was adapted/updated). She continues to see the good in people, but she finally understands how to use caution. Bing returns, but she gives their new relationship some healthy boundaries in Episodes 90-92.
This is a Jane Bennet that I love. Goodness is good. Kindness is good. Caution is good. She’s a genuinely nice person who pushes others towards goodness, while allowing trust to grow with her relationships. If the world were filled with more Jane Bennets, I think we would be in a better place.
Affection of candour is common enough – one meets with it everywhere. But to be candid without ostentation or design – to take the good of everyone’s character and make it still better, and say nothing of the bad – belongs to you alone.