Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen
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Assess the appropriateness of the title of Pride and Prejudice.

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Pride and Prejudice is an excellent title in every respect. It is alliterative and memorable, its trochaic rhythm tripping off the tongue. It also sums up two of the major themes of the novel. On the most basic level, Mr. Darcy stands for pride and Elizabeth for prejudice. Darcy is...

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Pride and Prejudice is an excellent title in every respect. It is alliterative and memorable, its trochaic rhythm tripping off the tongue. It also sums up two of the major themes of the novel. On the most basic level, Mr. Darcy stands for pride and Elizabeth for prejudice. Darcy is proud of his family connections, his social position, his abilities, and his superior intelligence. Elizabeth is prejudiced against Darcy long before she hears Wickham's mendacious stories about him, because his conduct towards her is so cold and arrogant.

However, the two themes of pride and prejudice are so pervasive in the novel that if we turn this formulation on its head, it works almost as well. Elizabeth is undeniably proud. She will not lower herself to accept an offer of marriage from Mr. Collins, as her friend Charlotte does, because it is advantageous from a worldly point of view. Her pride will not even allow her to accept a far more magnificent offer from Mr. Darcy until he treats her with more civility. Nor is there any doubt of Darcy's prejudice against Elizabeth. His opinion of her is affected by the behavior of her mother and younger sisters, who really are vulgar and foolish. He is similarly prejudiced against Jane, advising his friend Bingley not to marry her, since he assumes she most be a fortune-hunter. Pride and prejudice are, therefore, both important motivations for both the main characters as well as many others throughout the novel.

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For a question such as this one, you should consider just what makes for an appropriate title and by what criteria it should be measured. In any case, I'd suggest that Pride and Prejudice's title subtly hints at some of the key themes in the book (as well as of the characterization of its two main characters).

Ultimately, the qualities of both pride and prejudice are deeply intertwined in the characterization of Darcy and Elizabeth (in ways that work against them in their early interactions). Both are deeply prideful, Darcy about his class and social privilege, whereas Elizabeth takes pride in her intellect and discernment. Both also exhibit prejudice. In chapter 3, we see Darcy's disdain of the women at the ball (including his disdain of Elizabeth herself, with his early derision of her shaping much of their future interactions). Meanwhile, Elizabeth herself tends to be blinded by her own preconceptions, misreading Darcy's intentions towards her, while also severely misjudging Wickham.

However, Darcy and Elizabeth are not the only characters who exhibit these qualities. Ultimately, I think Pride and Prejudice can be viewed as a work of satire, focused on the social conventions of late Georgian England. This is a world where both pride and prejudice run rampant, tied closely with socioeconomic status and class-based assumptions of respectability. In its depiction of this world so heavily shaped and influenced by social pretension, here too the book's title is an apt one.

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