Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, is a remarkable novel depicting the complications between a man and a woman before and as they fall in love. Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist, is a twenty-year old lady who is an active member in the simple country society in rural England. She lives with her parents and four other sisters. Elizabeth, or ‘Lizzy’ is an original, differing from the other girls in her town because she is sharp-witted and quick, and she has fiery spirit although she is only moderately pretty.
The antecedent action occurs when a wealthy, handsome newcomer to the neighborhood, Mr. Bingley, falls in love with Elizabeth’s older sister Jane. Bingley brings one of his friends out visiting to the country with him. This handsome, wealthy man’s
name is Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. However, the society soon discovers that Mr. Darcy is a disparate, solitary man, disliking most social frivolities. Lizzy’s first impression of him is undoubtedly negative, and Darcy shows no special feelings toward her, so their first meeting and their mutual indifference provides the initial incident.
Elizabeth is a round and dynamic character. She changes her way of judging people, after a long interval of knowing Mr. Darcy. First she considered him unworthy of her company, he was so rude upon first acquaintance, and she was shocked and quite rude when he proposed to her and she declined. An example is found in the text:
“It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot-I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly.” Austen: 175 (244)
However, after beginning to know his personality throughout the rising action, and having him prove his love for her eventually, she allows herself to fall for him. This causes her to realize she should not finalize her opinion of people with no solid proof of their character.
A great amount of the story occurs throughout the rising action. Lizzy’s cousin proposes to her and she declines but her best friend Charlotte accepts him. Mr. Darcy separates Bingley and Jane, so Jane goes to London. Lizzy travels to visit Charlotte and her new husband Mr. Collins. Lizzy runs into Mr. Darcy and finds he is visiting his aunt very nearby. They become well acquainted during few visits then. Soon after that, he proposes to Lizzy, but she is very angry with him for breaking up Jane and Bingley so she declines.
The only virtual ‘antagonist’ of this story is Elizabeth’s family. Not her father, or her eldest sister, but her other sisters and, especially, her mother. Her mother is an extremely embarrassing and unsalutary factor in Elizabeth’s life, and she is so shallow and finicky, she can only be described as a flat and static character. Mrs. Bennet boorishly announces her dislike for Mr. Darcy often in front of him. All she cares about are money, jewels, and status, -the common precepts of that era and location- but not at all for goodness of character, or the happiness of her children. Other antagonists include Elizabeth’s sisters, Kitty and Lydia. They are extremely petty, fractious, and they waste away their days flirting outrageously with the officers stationed in their area. The disgrace the teenage girls bring unto their elder sisters is devastating, as because of Kitty and Lydia’s lack of class, the older Bennet girls are not considered a good enough match for Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. When Lydia elopes with a more or less ‘ex-beau’ of Elizabeth’s, she causes great shame and worry without even realizing or regretting it. However, it provides Darcy with the opportunity to prove his love to Elizabeth by paying ludicrous amounts of money to force the wicked man to marry her sister. This tragic event is the climax of the story. The falling action transpires rapidly. First, Mr. Bingley and Jane become engaged, then that night Darcy’s aunt visits Lizzy. The mean lady tells Elizabeth to stay away from Darcy and decline any offers of marriage from him because she wants him to marry her own daughter. This results in Darcy coming to find Elizabeth the next morning to renew his proposal of marriage, which she unequivocally accepts, knowing she really does love him. The denouement occurs as Jane and Elizabeth are happily, lovingly wed with rich, high-class men.
The conflicts that the protagonists overcome are mainly man vs. himself and man vs. man. Elizabeth prevailing over her first impression of Darcy is an example of a man vs. himself conflict. Also, Darcy surmounting his disapproval of Elizabeth’s family and upbringing issues is a good example of this kind of conflict. A model of a man vs. man conflict in this book is when Elizabeth stands up to Darcy’s aunt’s wishes and marries Darcy.
Pride and Prejudice is, in fact, a very significant title. The word pride can be defined as ‘justifiable self-respect.’ The dictionary definition for prejudice is ‘an opinion for or against something without adequate basis.’ The whole novel revolves around these two simple nouns. When Darcy first comes to Lizzy’s small countrified town, he is considered ‘too proud’ because he haughtily avoided talking to the town’s inhabitants and only danced and spoke with his own party. What Lizzy discovers later is simply a form of shyness and uncomfortable unease, Darcy is judged negatively because of it. This causes Elizabeth to hold off admitting that she loved him for a long time, especially to herself, because she assumed he was a ‘proud’ man and not worth her time. General observations on pride can be found in several quotes:
“ Pride is a very common failing I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of the sore of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used simultaneously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” (Austen: ch 5, pg 33)
“His pride does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything so in his favor, should think highly of himself. He has a right to be proud.” (Austen: ch 5, pg 31)
Prejudice is also a hugely important word in this story. When Lizzy condemns Darcy as not worth her while, she is acting on a prejudice rooting from other people’s personal anecdotes regarding him. When Darcy resists falling in love with Elizabeth, he is acting on a very strong prejudice against her unorthodox family, her country upbringing, her unworthy bloodlines and fortune. After a while, he finds he cannot repress his feelings despite all of his prejudices toward Elizabeth herself and admits that he loves her.
The book’s name, Pride and Prejudice, is important because basically it is because of these two words that there is such a story of Elizabeth and Darcy. Without pride, another woman may have fallen in love with Darcy earlier. Without prejudice based on pride, Elizabeth would have loved Darcy sooner. Without pride and prejudice, Darcy would have realized he loved Elizabeth sooner and therefore there wouldn’t have been a cause for a book on Pride and Prejudice and the story of Lizzy and Darcy to be told.
In fact, this book’s original title was First Impressions, and that title would have been just as suitable. It is Lizzy’s first impression of Darcy that depicts him as prideful, creating an obstacle, and it is Darcy’s first impression of Lizzy that deems her linage and upbringing as unworthy, which was a prejudice of his. First Impressions would have been a title fitting for this book, but not as catchy or revealing as the title Pride and Prejudice.
One of the themes that may be suggested by Jane Austen is not to judge on first impressions. As mentioned earlier, had Elizabeth and Darcy not wrongfully judged each other on their first meeting, they would have been happily wed much sooner.
Another theme suggested is to not let family disgrace drag one down. Elizabeth had a less than exemplary family, with her fickle, obnoxious mother, a sharply satirical father, two sisters who are as shameful and simpleminded as their mother, and one sister who would rather be withdrawn from social gatherings, play music, and read to herself. However, she and Jane both managed to rise above these dead weights and attract wonderful, honorable men for husbands, even improve their family in others’ eyes by wedding these men.
One more theme Austen might be implying is one should not let themselves be influenced by outside sources. An example of this is Darcy’s aunt. Elizabeth, thankfully, did not let herself be scared off from Darcy’s next proposal just because his aunt threatened her and ordered her not to marry him. Likewise, Darcy ignored his aunt’s ambitions and proposed to Elizabeth against her opposition.
It was very difficult to choose a thematic question to write about. Almost every question ‘slightly’ pertained to the book and Austen’s theme, but none of them really stood out as ‘the theme that Austen wrote about.’ However, question four is probably the best question relating to this book because it is, in a way, opposite of the main characters. The idea that we are influenced most by the approval or disapproval of others is a very common situation. Most people will go so far as to change their own opinion of something according to their peers’ approval or disapproval of the said ‘thing.’ This is not the case with Darcy and Lizzy’s love. In the beginning of the book, Lizzy dislikes Darcy, with good reason. She is not a petty girl, susceptible to being swayed by others’ agreement. In fact, Lizzy most definitely has a mind of her own. Not caring about others’ opinion of her propriety, she walks a long distance to Netherfield to visit Jane when she is sick. Although Bingley’s sister is disgusted and Darcy is enraptured, Lizzy brushes off their opinions and goes about her way. She is not alone in thinking poorly of Darcy upon first meeting him, but she is not convinced to do so by other people’s judgments. She chose her side all by herself.
The same goes for Darcy. The whole social group disapproved of his prideful and haughty behavior, but he did not change for them. He remained as solitary and arrogant as ever. Also, when his aunt seriously disapproved of Elizabeth, he heartily ignored her wishes and went straight to propose to Lizzy.
I think that no author could create two such characters so perfectly opposing of others’ approval and disapproval than Elizabeth and Darcy. Therefore, I think that Austen’s theme is exactly contradictory to the thought that people are most influenced by the approval or disapproval of others than by what they think of themselves.
The storyline of Pride and Prejudice is easy to connect personally to because its theme is a very common, everyday thing. All the time people are judging too hastily and going back on their decisions later. A few months ago, I met a girl from another town through a friend. It was the very first time I met her at a party and she drove home drunk that night. I immediately judged her as a stupid girl, not thinking smartly and endangering herself. After that night, I never really thought of her any more because I did not know her, but when her name came up in conversations I just brushed her off as brainless and ‘no friend of mine.’ Then one day I saw her in a mall and we started talking, and though I had not spent very much time with her I found she was a lot of fun to hang out with, and really nice to talk to. We decided to get together again that weekend. I found that the more time I spent with her, the more fun she was and she turned out to be a really pleasant girl. We are now very good friends, and I kind of had to go back on my earlier decision that I did not like her. I just did not know her very well and she really is a great friend, I just know not to depend on her for a designated driver!
My personal anecdote is very similar to Elizabeth and Darcy’s story. They first judged each other unfavorably without getting to know each other. They were kept from falling in love a long time just because of their first impression of one another, and when they finally overcame that they fell madly in love. This slight mistake happens to many people in the world, myself included because of my poor decision on the girl who turned out to be a great friend.
Pride and Prejudice is still universally acknowledged as a classic novel because it portrays the truth of human behavior, which basically has not changed since those times. A good example is the very first sentence in this book:
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ (Austen: ch 1, pg 11)
This idea has not changed over the years. When a new young man moves to anyone’s neighborhood, even in this 21st century, he is likely to be the talk of the town for quite a while, and very many young eligible ladies will fancy that he will choose them. Another part of human behavior that has not changed is dysfunctional families. Family rivalries and disagreements cannot be avoided, in any area or time period. Lydia disgracing her family by running away with a man to be married is similar to anything that could happen today. Also, Darcy’s opposing to Elizabeth’s family is just a part of bourgeois behavior that is still found today.
Money and wealth being coveted is a human instinct that will not change, and perhaps has even gotten worse since Pride and Prejudice was written. Mrs. Bennet was absolutely giddy with delight that her Jane was marrying into great wealth, and she threw her disputes with Darcy out the window when she heard that Lizzy would marry him, because he was unbelievably rich. Basically, that was all that Mrs. Bennet cared about. She just wanted all of her daughters to marry rich men and she would be content;
‘ “If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield,” said Mrs. Bennet to her husband, “and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for.”’ (Austen: ch, 3 pg 19)
I thought that a gavel represents the theme of Pride and Prejudice quite well because the whole book is centered on people making judgments of each other. The gavel, used by a judge in a courtroom, is used to signify the final decision of something. Many judgments are made in this book. First of all, Elizabeth and her whole community decided that Mr. Darcy is a proud, disagreeable man. Darcy deems that Jane does not love Bingley as much as Bingley loves her, and he also decides that the Bennet family is unworthy of marrying into. This book is full of people assessing others and judging them commendable or not. I think that the gavel represents all of the verdicts that are reached in Pride and Prejudice.
I choose a picture of a crow on a plate for the second visual text. There is an old saying about ‘eating crow’ that basically means to eat your words. People joke about ‘eating crow’ when they make a solid decision about something, go out of their way to back it up, and end up being wrong and being humiliated. In this novel, many people make publicized judgments and end up eating their words. Lizzy makes no secret about her dislike for Mr. Darcy all throughout the book. When she does fall in love with him, it is against her will and it surprises everyone, especially her. She then had to explain to her friends and family that she changed her opinion of him and she really did love him now, but it was embarrassing to her to have to go back on her words, or ‘eat crow.’ The case is essentially the same for Mr. Darcy. He went out of his way to keep his friend away from the Bennets, not wanting to get involved with their family because he deemed them unsuitable. He was impartial to Lizzy for quite a while, and then when he realized he was in love with her he had to eat his words and explain to her and admit to himself that his earlier opinion was changed and he really did love her. Therefore, the proverb ‘eating crow’ can be applied to this novel in a few instances.
1) Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London, England: CRW Publishing Company, 1813-2003.
2) Peter Davies. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc, 1976.