In the opening scene of the novel, Mrs. Bennet asks Mr. Bennet to visit Bingley to put in a good word about their daughters, but he refuses, mocking her in the process. In an exchange near the end of their conversation, he uses personification to joke about her anxious temperament:
“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.”
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.”
By personifying Mrs. Bennet’s nerves as “old friends” whom he has known for twenty years, Mr. Bennet shows that he is a playful sort of man who feels comfortable teasing his wife. In this novel of manners, the members within a family are allowed to poke fun at each other, though they would never dream of doing so to people outside the family.
This moment also highlights Mrs. Bennet's tendency to worry, ultimately suggesting that her nerves are quite prevalent when it comes to making sure her daughters marry well—so prevalent, in fact, that Mr. Bennet feels as if he knows her nerves on a personal level. This passage indicates that Mrs. Bennet is easy to mock for her obsession with marriage, but it also subtly implies that she is, in some ways, acting quite sensibly—she knows that her daughters will be left with no money or property when Mr. Bennet dies, and she is therefore committed to finding them husbands before such an event comes to pass.