Austen’s writing is almost constantly persuading the reader that Elizabeth is the heroine of the novel; from the opening pages it is clear by Austen’s brave statement that the matrimonial prospects of the Bennet daughters will dominate the novel: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’ yet the reader is still unaware which daughter it is.
Since it cannot be Mary (described as a pedantic, book educated bore), nor Kitty or Lydia (both critically depicted by the narrator as flirtatious and idle girls) the reader is left to decide between Jane and Elizabeth.
Austen at first hints that it may be Jane, with her perfect charm and character yet soon it is apparent that Austen prefers a less conventional heroine whose lack of extraordinary physical beauty makes her both an inspirational character and also a kind of girl with whom everyone can identify.
Elizabeth is also admirable to the reader as she is independent of thought and stands up for herself, even to those far above her in social standing (Darcy, Lady Catherine) which Austen fully supports.
Austen’s writing partly reveals this simply by the large amount of attention paid to the events that happen to Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s opinion about every event and the way in which the narrator seems to second all of Elizabeth’s opinions, mimicking Elizabeth’s language and style by Austen’s use of free indirect speech for example ‘it was impossible not to long to know’ when Elizabeth is curious about the strange greeting between Wickham and Darcy. This allows the reader to sympathize with Elizabeth and to understand Elizabeth’s feelings without her having to say them out loud. Austen’s writing style is also mimicked in Elizabeth’s tone (witty, intelligent and funny): ‘I believe, he is very much what he ever was’ when describing Darcy, hinting at Wickham’s false character.
Another reason for which the reader may think of Elizabeth as the heroine is because the reader sees the unfolding plot and the other characters mostly from Elizabeth’s viewpoint for example when Miss Bingley is trying to win over Darcy’s affections: ‘Miss Bingley’s attention was quite as much engaged in watching Mr Darcy’s progress through his book’. This provides the reader the viewpoint from someone in the room, who is mocking Miss Bingley light-heartedly, likely to be Elizabeth.
However, Austen’s writing may discourage the reader that Elizabeth is in fact the heroine when her faults are evident yet she has not accepted them yet, for example Elizabeth’s feeling of embarrassment about her own family and her impulsiveness and tendency to make assumptions of character too hastily. The reader may especially disapprove of Elizabeth in Chapter IX of Volume I, where Elizabeth is clearly deeply embarrassed by her mother’s untactful rudeness: ‘said Elizabeth, blushing for her mother’, yet does not notice her own rudeness: It does not necessarily follow that a deep, intricate character is more or less estimable than such a one as yours’.
Yet another way in which Austen suggests that Elizabeth is the heroine, is by showing that Darcy is the hero, since both have a constant connection to each other, whether it is the hatred of the other, or the heated discussions between the two, or the uncontrollable affection to the other. One way which Austen shows us that Darcy is the hero is by agreeing with his statements: ‘I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished’.
Darcy is especially noticeable as the hero of the novel when the plot surrounds him more, after his proposal to Elizabeth. Darcy and Elizabeth also mirror each other in the way that both are intelligent and show opinions similar to Austen’s, and both overcome their own faults (Darcy: pride, Elizabeth: prejudice). It is this self-discovery and realization of faults that convinces us that Elizabeth is the heroine, as her character develops since her introduction with Darcy. It is the fact that Elizabeth realizes her faults,that makes it easy for a reader to relate to her.
In conclusion, in my opinion Austen’s writing greatly persuades the reader that without a doubt, Elizabeth is the heroine of the novel, going through character development and self-realisation, aswell as Austen’s use of mimicking her own style in Elizabet’s tone and language.