To better appreciate Pride and Prejudice, the reader should consider some of the themes and motifs that run through the book:
All characters, even minor ones, are susceptible to both pride and prejudice, and these two traits greatly influence the development of the plot.
Both pride and prejudice allow money and status to interfere with personal relationships and the desires of the heart.
One's family background and the source of wealth are almost more important than the amount of one's wealth:
- Lady Catherine de Bourge is the daughter of a nobleman while Lady Lucas is merely the wife of a knight (and, therefore, cannot attach her first name to her title).
- Darcy has an income of £10,000 a year, but he also owns the vast estate, Pemberly, and is related by blood to Lady Cathering de Bourge.
- Mr. Bingley has a fortune of £100,000 but does not own an estate, hence he must rent Netherfield.
- Mr. Collins has the income of the rector of Hunsford but will inherit the Bennet's home upon the death of Mr. Bennet, thus becoming a landowner.
- Mr. Bennet has an income of £2,000 a year with a set amount of £5,000 established for his wife and daughters, but his estate is “entailed,” thus he is not a “legitimate” landowner.
- Mrs. Bennet has her own inheritance of £4,000, but it is from an earned income, Mrs. Bennet's father having been an attorney (thus establishing himself and his daughters in the “middle class”).
- Mr. Gardiner is undoubtedly wealthy, keeps at least one servant, and has sufficient funds for extended travel, but because he is “in trade” and lives “in view of his own warehouses” (as opposed to a genteel neighborhood), he is looked down upon by the upper classes. Darcy even speculates that having an uncle “in trade” might lessen the Bennet girls' chances of marrying “well”.
- Sir William Lucas used his knighthood as an excuse to quit his business and his home in town and live like a gentleman in Lucas Lodge, even though he was not really wealthy. It is suggested that if he had continued working (as Bingley's grandfather apparently had), he could have amassed real wealth and allowed his children and grandchildren to be genteel.
Most of the minor characters are caricatures—exaggerations of particular character types. Notice especially Mr. Collins, Sir William Lucas, Wickham, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter, Mary and Lydia Bennet.