In "Pride and Prejudice" what is the significance of the following comment by Charlotte Lucas?
"One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man with family, fortune, everything in his favor, should think highly of himself... he has the right to be proud."
Charlotte is discussing Darcy's rude comment about Elizabeth at the first dance in the novel. He had passed Elizabeth by, and at Bingley's suggestion that he dance with her, Darcy stated rudely, "She is tolerable, but not handsome enought to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men." Later as Jane, Charlotte and Elizabeth discuss this comment, and Darcy's tendency to be "eat up with pride", Charlotte comes in with the above comment. What she is saying here is that if anyone has the right to feel pride, it should be Darcy, who has a fine family, fortune, and "everything in his favour".
This comment could be significant because first of all, Elizabeth agrees. She states, "That is very true...and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine." After her pride is wounded, she becomes the one too prideful to move past her prejudices of him. Even though she does not come from a "fine family" or substantial means, she herself becomes guilty of pride, after mocking and hating his. And, the kind of "pride" that Darcy has is less due to his circumstances, and more to a social awkwardness that he later confesses to. Elizabeth's is born only from her heart. It is also significant because of Austen's theme of pride, class distinctions, and romance in relation to all of it.
Charlotte's comment functions to show both a common attitude towards social class at the time "Pride and Prejudice" was written. Unlike Elizabeth, Charlotte accepts the status quo of the social hierarchy of her day. Being very practical, She see Darcy's behavior as perfectly normal, simply part of the social system as it existed in the time "Pride and Prejudice" was written. Elizabeth, on the other hand, differs with the conventional way social class and money is perceived. She sees Darcy's behavior as inexcusably rude because she does not see social class as a reason for one person to think he or she is superior to another. Of course, this attitude proves to be alluring to Darcy, who has never met a woman who really stood up to him.