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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen
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Both terms in the title of Jane Austen’s novel can apply to several individual characters and, more generally, to English society overall. Both terms have primarily negative connotations, and Austen portrays the individuals who exhibit extreme amounts of either quality as unlikely to have happy lives. The widespread prejudice among the upper classes against those they deem to be of inferior status is one of the most damaging aspects of society as Austen presents it. Elizabeth Bennet’s family is negatively affected by such prejudice because there are too many daughters, and her father married “beneath” him: his income and properties will not be enough to ensure that all five girls make good marriages.

Lady Catherine and Caroline Bingley, who are especially vocal in their criticisms, are among those who affect Darcy’s attitudes. Pride is shown as being permissible in the upper classes, especially the men, but is applied more as a personal characteristic. Both Darcy and Elizabeth have fixed ideas about human behavior, and their pride in holding onto their attitudes gets in the way of their getting together. Even worse, Darcy’s pride leads him to conceal his knowledge of Wickham’s true character and thus enable him in seducing Lydia.

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The title Pride and Prejudice refers to the two main characters in the novel, Elizabeth Bennet and Lord Darcy. Elizabeth is traditionally associated with prejudice. She conceives a dislike for Darcy even before she meets him. He walks arrogantly into a local ballroom. When he is encouraged to ask Elizabeth to dance, she overhears him say she is not pretty enough to tempt him. Naturally, she is angered by these words and decides he's a jerk. As a result she is mean to him: this, of course, causes him to fall in love with her.

Darcy is traditionally considered to represent pride. He is the wealthy lord with a high income. He is used to everyone kowtowing to him. He is so sure of how great he is that he proposes to Elizabeth in the most insulting way possible. She gets furious at him, and more or less tells him she wouldn't marry him if he were the last man alive.

During the course of the novel, Elizabeth has to get over her prejudice against Darcy, and Darcy has to get over his pride if they are ever to get together. 


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