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At first glance this phrase seems to call attention to the title of the story, which exposes the mentality of the times: Pride and prejudice permeated society with its effrontery, snobbery, and hypocritical value system which indeed were masks that covered a very empty, narrow-minded, undereducated over estimated upper classes.
For the middle classes, pride and prejudice were embodied by arranged marriages, the want for social status, the need to acquire goods through marriage, and other forms of old fashioned and non-sensical practices.
Therefore, the stories portrayed in the novella are indicators of the lack of common sense that Austen witnessed in a time of which she was much more ahead. As a modern thinker and independent scholar, Austen was able to look into her present as if she were looking at a scene of the past. Hence, her plea is precisely to take a good look at the characters, and do the exact opposite to what they all do, think, and say.
Saying that Pride and Prejudice is a plea for good sense means that Jane Austen wrote the novel to demonstrate many kinds of bad sense, being bad and unwise choices, and to demonsrate the opposite kinds of choices, which would be good sense.
In this regard, Pride and Prejudice could be seen as a plea for good sense if the complications to the conflict are emphasized. These complications include:
- Mrs. Bennet's vain behavior that humiliates the whole family.
- Mr. Bennet's sarcastic withdrawal into mockery of his wife and daughters and abandonment of parenting efforts.
- Mary's foolish artistic and academic pretensions (she needed a governess).
- Lydia's foolish obsession with flirtations with military officers.
- Kitty's blind parroting of Lydia's wrong-headed flirtations.
- Elizabeth's gullibility regarding Mr. Wickham.
- Miss Bingley's sarcastic and biting witticisms at other's expense, including Darcy.
- Bingley's inability to rely on his own opinion.
- Mr. Collins' vanity and pomposity based on the preference given to him by Lady de Bourgh.
- Darcy's insistence on letting his breeding speak for itself, thereby withholding important civilities and information.
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