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In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen uses setting to not only portray the social-economic levels of the different classes, she also uses setting as a backdrop for social behavior, particularly unprincipled behavior. The settings in combination with behavior correlate to her novel's themes.
The ball at the Meryton Assemby Hall is the first setting for the theme of pride. Austen does not go to great lengths to describe the Hall or its guests, but we do know that Mr. Darcy feels himself to be far above the company. Later, Mr. Darcy's pride is shown in the large rooms of Mr. Bingley's estate, Netherfield. Mr. Darcy very arrogantly gives a long list of attributes an "accomplished" woman must possess in order for him to think of her as "accomplished." He also makes very arrogant remarks comparing country society to London society. Similarly, Mr. Bingley's sisters are also guilty of making very arrogant and prideful remarks.
In contrast to the settings of Meryton and Netherfield, the two settings in which Austen begins to unravel her theme of prejudice are, ironically, even more grand. Elizabeth first begins to realize her prejudice against Mr. Darcy when, after his first proposal, he gives her the letter explaining his relationship with Wickham. The setting in which she receives this letter is the woods around Rosins, the grand estate of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It is interesting that Austen chose this setting to allow Elizabeth to begin to realize her prejudice because the setting is so grand. Austen is telling the reader that Elizabeth must be brought to Mr. Darcy's social level, the level that is far wealthier than her own families', before she finally begins to see that she was prejudiced against Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth further realizes her prejudice against Mr. Darcy when she visits Pemberley with her aunt and uncle. Mr. Darcy's estate is even grander than Lady Catherine's and seeing what he owns, what he was offering her, and hearing from the housekeeper what a humble, wonderful man he is makes Elizabeth realize just how prejudiced she was against Mr. Darcy.
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