Life lessons for students from Elizabeth Bennett


Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is celebrating its 200-year anniversary this year, and is still regarded as one of the country's favourite novels, coming second place in the BBC’s Big Read mission to find the nation’s best-loved book.

To mark this occasion, students at Durham University have dramatized the text, clearly implying that the story of Elizabeth Bennett is just as relevant for the modern day student as it was for the Georgians. Perhaps if we allow Austen’s novel to be didactic, we might learn much from her heroine.

Leo Mylonadis, the director of the new play, believes that we should aspire to be like Elizabeth because of her keenness to learn: "Education more often in our society comes from taking the initiative to learn more or go beyond, instead of being taught the whole of the material, which is mirrored in how Lizzie grew more knowledgeable than her contemporaries due to her thirst for knowledge." Lizzie inspires students to look beyond the boundaries of what must be learnt, and to explore the realms of the unknown.

As well as this, students can take a leaf out of Lizzie’s book when it comes to social occasions; she is always polite, respectably dressed and incredibly diplomatic, despite having to contend with embarrassing friends and family members. In this way, she is able to master the art of social climbing, and is accepted into social circles beyond her status.


It is no secret that students are used to a little scrimping and saving, and Elizabeth Bennett proves that the challenge of a frugal lifestyle needn’t hold you back. Despite her shortage of funds in comparison to the likes of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, she adapts to her surroundings by choosing charm over chequebook, allowing her wit and vivacity to serve as payment for the hospitality of others.

Miss Bennett should be the student’s first liaison for relationship advice. Emily Beech, who plays Lizzie’s Aunt Gardiner in the student adaptation, states that ‘although the modern student may be thinking of careers rather than cake tiers, Elizabeth’s character remains translatable to our lives’. Not only is she able to escape the creepy clutches of Mr. Collins, but also her measured feelings towards Mr. Wycombe mean that she does not become imprudently attached to the wrong man. Lizzie might tell the lovesick that it is worth persevering if at first your advances are spurned: even Mr. Darcy was rejected initially!

However, Elizabeth is such a rounded and engaging character due to the way in which her virtuous qualities are inextricable from her flaws. Lizzie battles with her prejudice of Mr. Darcy throughout the novel. Her ultimate acceptance of him is a lesson to all that first impressions may not be accurate, particularly when there is huge pressure to meet new people in an alien environment, as is the case when beginning university.

As well as this, the cunning George Wycombe fools Lizzie into believing lies about Mr. Darcy. Although her trust can be seen as an endearing quality, this also acts as a warning against gossip and reminds us that we should wait for evidence before condemning the accused. As an intense social environment, university is the ideal breeding ground for gossip, but Lizzie’s experiences teach us to avoid such profitless pastimes.

Stunned as Elizabeth Bennett might be, were we to drop her into university in 2013, she would have the correct qualities to adapt to the environment, once she had recovered from the shock of discovering women in tertiary education. Austen’s character is so beloved because of her timelessness of heart and it seems only natural that her life lessons are applicable to students today.

If you haven’t read Pride and Prejudice, do so immediately. Rush out to the bookshop, order it on Amazon, download it to your kindle, or all of the aforementioned. Elizabeth Bennett is a character who stays with you beyond the realms of the literary.

Durham students can see the play from 24 – 26 February 2013 performed in The Great Hall of the Castle, produced by Castle Theatre Company. To book, click here.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas