Pride And Prejudice (1188 words) Essay

Pride And Prejudice
Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice is a lighthearted tale of love and
marriage in eighteenth-century England. It centers on the elder sisters of the
Bennet family, Jane and Elizabeth. Their personalities, misunderstandings and
the roles of pride and prejudice play a large part in the development of their
individual relationships. The spirited Elizabeth and softhearted Jane have to
deal with not only their own feelings but also the status of their family, both
of which affect the outcomes of their prospective marriages. Pride and Prejudice
is an apt name for the book. These notions permeate the novel thoroughly,
especially in the views of Elizabeth and Darcy. Jane’s temperance does not
allow for these qualities to exist in her personality. Our first introduction to
pride and prejudice is at a ball Mr.Bingley throws. His sisters and a dear
friend of his, Mr.Darcy, accompany him. Mr. Darcy is characterized as a proud,
haughty, arrogant man and ends up almost immediately alienating himself from the
townspeople. This opinion arises after he refuses to dance with the young ladies
who have attended the ball and his obvious reluctance to talk to anyone. His
pride was said to come from his extreme wealth. Eighteenth-century England was
quite preoccupied with status, especially concerning wealth and reputation.


Darcy’s reluctance to speak with anyone stemmed from his lack of respect for
anyone outside his close knit circle. His good breeding was obvious only to
those whom he knew well. Elizabeth is prejudiced against Darcy for entirely
different reasons. She received information that was one-sided and made unfair
assumptions on Darcy’s character. She prejudged him; combining the superficial
view she had of him and some rumors. The roles of pride and prejudice can be
summed up in the exchange between Darcy and Elizabeth, after he proposed. Darcy
clearly defines the reasons for his prejudice: “Could you expect me to rejoice
in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of
relations whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?” (Pg.164)
Elizabeth’s prejudice against him withstood even as her pride did not, under
his assault on her family. Her opinion of him from the very beginning impressed
her with ” the fullest belief of (his) arrogance, (his) conceit, and (his)
selfish disdain of the feelings of others”. (Pg. 164) Elizabeth Bennet is a
spirited character. She has a playful and lighthearted disposition. She is
confident, loyal, clever and funny. She found delight ” in anything
ridiculous”, which included an insult to her beauty. (Pg. 12) Her loyalty and
devotion to her sister was shown in her three-mile trek to Bingley’s house “
so early in the day” and “in such dirty weather”, to visit her while she
was ill. (Pg. 30) Elizabeth is also more a skeptic. This particular quality in
evident in the surprise she expresses in her sister’s tendency to look at
people through rose colored glasses. She is quite frank and very honest even
though she occasionally professed “opinions which in fact are not (her)
own”. (Pg.149) She expresses her feeling regardless of the commotion that it
may cause and more often than not, for the shock it will cause. She has a clear
understanding of who she is and what will make her happy. This is most obvious
when she refuses to marry Mr.Collins. And when she refuses to marry Mr.Darcy
when he initially proposes. Even her shock at the mercenary actions of her best
friend proves Elizabeth’s understanding of what is right and what the
ingredients of happiness are. Later, her playfulness can be seen in the way she
endeavors to find out the moment Darcy fell in love with her. She declares that
he fell in love with her impertinence, mainly because he was tired of all the
women who fawned over him. Elizabeth’s pride and other failings were all ones
she eventually overcame. At one point in the novel, the readers are taken aback
by a comment that Elizabeth makes. She tells her sister, she fell in love with
Darcy after seeing his estate at Pemberly. At first glance the comment makes her
seem as mercenary as her friend, Mrs. Collins but the reader realizes the real
meaning behind the comment. Her love began not with sight of the estate, per se,
but rather the taste and refinement that is expressed in the beauty of the
estate. The fine taste of the estate reflects the taste of the owner. Elizabeth
also first as hears stories of Darcy’s generosity when she visits Pemberly.

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Elizabeth’s overall character is one defined by intelligence, wit, confidence
and amiability. “Pride is a very common failing, I believe. . .human nature is
particularly prone to it and, there are very few of us who do not cherish a
feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other. . .”.

(Pg.19) This observation by Mary is an accurate account of a characteristic
found in most people. The human condition allows for the faults of vanity, pride
and prejudice. Austen presents these qualities as normal. She understands how
they can arise and presents circumstances in the novel, which promote the
development of these characteristics. “Pride relates more to the opinion of
ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us”. (Pg.19) Pride, as
in the case of Darcy, occurred because his family allowed him to follow his
principles ” in pride and conceit”. (Pg.310) He was taught to care and
respect only his family and himself. Darcy had no vanity because he didn’t
care for other people’s opinions. The eighteenth century promoted a prideful
and prejudiced mentality. Pride and prejudice were the products of wealth,
power, and influence. The lack thereof was labeled as inferior. Marriages in the
eighteenth century were ones of convenience. They were more similar to business
arrangements than the union of two inseparable souls. Women and men were sought
after according to their wealth and eligibility. Women’s property became her
husband’s when she finally married. Of course all marriages, of all young
women, had to be approved of by the family. The young women were introduced into
society at an early age. The introduction was an indication of their
availability. Young girls spent their entire lives preparing for marriage. They
learned to read, play the piano, sing and developed other talents in order to
increase their desirability as a potential wife. There were many different types
of marriages in the eighteenth century. Some marriages were based on love but
most were based on the financial security that could be provided. In many
marriages, paramours were acceptable as long as they were discreet. The elder
Bennet’s marriage was a marriage of security. Mrs.Bennet had a small fortune
of her own, as did Mr.Bennet. They did not love each other but stayed together,
proving to an extent the family values of the time. Mrs.Collins married for the
sake of getting married and settling down. Her desire to have a family of her
own overrode the many failings of the man she married. Fortunately some
marriages were based on love. Jane and Elizabeth found the perfect matches.


Their beaus were good, principled, financially secure men. Austen presents the
two major contrasting types of marriages. Both kinds reflect the mentality of
that time period. I enjoyed this book immensely. Jane Austen’s style of
writing delights me. Her work may not be profound but it is insightful, and
lighthearted. Her characters are distinct and universal. Elizabeth is one of my
favorite literary characters. Her confidence, wit and spirit can only be
enjoyed.

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