Elizabeth Bennet's Fame and Legacy Shown Through a Portrait Miniature


Elizabeth Bennet, the quick-witted, charming, and beautiful protagonist of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, has captured the hearts of many readers from the release of the novel in 1813 to this day. She is arguably the most famous and adored of the Austen heroines and one of the most iconic female characters in English literature. Her silhouette, though not as famous as that of Austen herself, is based off of the novel's description of her and what historians and fans believe she may have looked like. Silhouettes and portrait miniatures were popular during this time period as a way to keep a memento of a loved one, especially a romantic partner. In the present day, these silhouettes are a dramatic memento of the 19th century and a way to immortalize iconic figures such as Elizabeth. For this project, I was inspired by a silhouette sticker of Elizabeth Bennet that I saw on the website Redbubble. It is extremely popular on the site and has sold many copies, demonstrating the extent of Elizabeth's popularity to this day. I aimed to celebrate Elizabeth's legacy and long-standing fame amongst Austen fans and consumers of literature through a silhouette of my own based on the one I saw on Redbubble. For many, Elizabeth represents powerful femininity, grace, romance, and humility. The silhouette's dramatic lines and curves emphasize Elizabeth's headstrong yet lovely disposition and complex character traits, which is why I decided to paint her. Her character and her story in Pride and Prejudice will likely continue to live on for years to come through rereading the novel, the creation and selling of merchandise, and film adaptations.

A Famous Austen Heroine and a Unity Between Classes, Crafted by Helen Hornor, 2023. I attempted to capture Elizabeth's delicate features (as depicted in my reference photo and as described by Austen) in my recreation of her silhouette. Portrait miniatures, though a symbol of romantic love and matrimony during the early 19th century, also somewhat represent a unity between classes. The wealthy and the poor alike kept portrait miniatures as a token or memento of their loved ones, as these silohuettes were cheap. Similarly, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy's romance became in a unity between the upper class and the middle class at the end of the novel. The Bennet family is well-off, but not wealthy, and Mr. Darcy is uncommonly rich. At first, he is apprehensive about his love for Elizabeth due to her family's financial status, but eventually overcomes his pride against her and asks for her hand in marraige.

The Making Process of the Silhouette in Our "Jane Austen" Class, Photographed by Catherine Golden, 2023. Our class went to the Idea Lab to craft our various silhouettes of either Jane Austen characters or Austen herself. To create my silhouette of Elizabeth, I used a reference photo I found online (see above) and copied it as best I could onto a piece of paper. Once I had the outline, I cut it out and traced it onto one of the oval-shaped wooden canvases that was provided for us, which I had painted light blue. I then carefully filled in the outline with black paint (the most difficult part), and added a border that resembles that of the reference photo. At first, I did not paint a border, but I decided that the portrait needed a bit more excitement (even though Elizabeth is exciting on her own!). After letting it dry, I touched up the paint, then had my finished product.

Kiera Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice (the film), Directed by Joe Wright, 2005. Kiera Knightley portrays Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. It is the general consensus that she portrayed her successfully, displaying beauty, playfulness, and wit in her interactions with her family, friends, and Mr. Darcy. As shown in the portrait miniature, the value of women -- especially young women -- was determined in a large part by their physical beauty rather than their other traits. Both in the book and the film adaptation, Elizabeth is a somewhat radical character because, though she is beautiful, her other character traits such as her humor, wit, adventurousness, and loyalty towards her sisters shine through even more. Some of these traits are not considered proper for a lady to have, which makes her quiet insistence upon displaying them anyway all the more satisfying. Thought the silhouette of Elizabeth is beautiful, it does not quite capture these admirable aspects of her personality.

 Elizabeth Bennet Silohuette Reference Photo and Other Merchandise, Designed by Various Artists on Redbubble, 2023. I used a reference photo from the website Redbubble, which supports small artists looking to sell their work. Many creators on the site design Jane Austen fan art, with this silhouette sticker of Elizabeth Bennet being among the most popular. The fact that artists today are still inspired by Austen's characters and that people are still buying Austen-inspired art speaks to the timelessness of her novels, especially Pride and Prejudice. Though the story is set in the early 19th century, love, prejudice, pride, and longing do not belong to a specific time period. Mr. Darcy's and Elizabeth's romance begins with feelings of animosity that are not uncommon today between people of different classes or backgrounds, or even between people with the same background and means. We are naturally inclined, in many ways, to be wary of one another, making Pride and Prejudice somewhat universal.


Associated Place(s)