Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

Key Questions and Answers

Summary Key Questions and Answers

12) What is entailment, and what role does it play in the novel?

Based on the evidence in the novel, entailment is a legal situation in which a property or estate automatically transfers to a predetermined heir regardless of how many children the property owner has. In the case of the Bennet family, their property will automatically be inherited by William Collins, not any of the Bennet daughters. This controversial reality is evoked many times by Mrs. Bennet and confirmed by her husband and children, and the situation provides the momentum for marrying off the five Bennet daughters to men of means since the family property can never become theirs. Mrs. Bennet reveals her feelings about entailment to Mr. Bennet when she says, “I never can be thankful, Mr. Bennet, for any thing about the entail. How any one could have the conscience to entail away an estate from one’s own daughters I cannot understand; and all for the sake of Mr. Collins too!—Why should he have it more than anybody else?”