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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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How does Elizabeth Bennet gradually overcome her preconceptions and come to realize that Darcy is not as self-absorbed as she once thought him to be?

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Elizabeth Bennett is an example of the "pride" described in the title. She is much smarter than many members of her family and trusts too much in her first impressions. The first ameliorating influence is her sister Jane, who—though she lacks Elizabeth's sharp wit—has a kind heart and a certain wisdom that acts as a moderating influence.

Next, part of Elizabeth's antipathy towards Darcy is caused by wounded pride. As it becomes obvious that he admires her, that cause for antipathy is removed. Darcy's letter is a major step in her change of heart.

When Elizabeth visits Pemberley, she finds that Darcy is admired and liked, especially by old servants who have the opportunity to know his character in depth. Elizabeth's discovery of the truth about Wickham also serves to reconcile her with Darcy. His treatment of the Gardiners and their appreciation of Darcy also help reconcile the couple, as does Lady Catherine (inadvertently). Darcy's second proposal convinces Elizabeth that her new understanding and admiration of Darcy are well founded.

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For one, Elizabeth pores over Darcy's letter to her, where he explains that he is not actually the villain of Mr. Wickham's story but, rather, that George Wickham is the real villain who preys on young girls for their money. She cannot really forgive Darcy for coming in between Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet, Elizabeth's older sister, but her mind is changed regarding Darcy's involvement with Wickham's inheritance, etc. Then, when she sees his elegant home, Pemberley, and hears his servants describe him in such glowing terms, Elizabeth is affected. Even more, however, when Darcy himself greets her and her relatives, the Gardiners, so graciously and warmly, she begins to be won over by him. Finally, Darcy's willingness to step in and finance the marriage between Wickham and Lydia, despite his abhorrence of the man and the ridiculousness of the match, is such a generous gesture that Elizabeth cannot help but feel grateful and in some awe of how he's changed.

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