How do wealth and worth relate to pride and vanity in Pride and Prejudice?How do wealth and worth relate to pride and vanity in Pride and Prejudice?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a really interesting topic and suggests a bit of subtly in its analysis.  While on a quick glance it may seem that wealth and worth are two words for the same thing, and that pride and vanity are same thing -- in both cases there is a difference in connotation that shapes the response you would craft for this question.

I would look at Lady Catherine as a prime example of the subtle juxtaposition of ideas in your question. Wealth is the accumulation of material goods and money, but having wealth (which has a monetary "worth") doesn't mean that the person with the wealth has worth. Lady Catherine has the most wealth in the novel, and society would deem that she has the most "worth" due to her title and influence, but as a human being, she is lacking in worth.  She doesn't actually do anything to represent her worth in a positive light.  She is incredibly rude and arrogant.  She condescends to everyone she encounters.  She tries to control everyone's lives -- even those of little consequence to her (like Collins).  She deems her opinions and assumptions to be true. Period.  For example, she thinks that it is a given that her daughter will marry Darcy.  Never mind what Darcy wants, much less how Elizabeth feels.

In regards to the second element of your question, pride and vanity are not the same thing.  We tend to respect and encourage pride, but find vanity to be the overreaching, insufferable extension of pride.  Pride is a good thing, until it becomes the basis of vanity and prejudices.  Again, Lady Catherine has every right to be proud of her family's position in society, but not to the overreaching extent that she demonstrates in the novel.  She takes that pride, but then makes condescending remarks to Elizabeth who is of a lower social station.  She dominates conversations.  She manipulates those beneath her socially.  Darcy demonstrates pride, and at the start of the novel that pride is seen as vanity (and perhaps it is a a couple of places), but he later reveals that his pride is just that -- well deserved pride for his family name.  In the end he reveals several examples of his fine behavior, thus maintaining an appropriate for himself.

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Pride and Prejudice

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