Please analyze the theme of " First Impressions'' in Pride and Prejudice. 

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Pride and Prejudice, one important theme is about the dangers of first impressions. In fact, Austen originally titled her novel First Impressions. Because Elizabeth and Darcy both have distasteful first impressions of each other, they begin with animosity between the two. When Darcy is not impressed with Elizabeth at first, he makes insulting comments about her. Elizabeth overhears and immediately judges Darcy as rude and arrogant. Truly, Elizabeth and Darcy begin to dislike one another from the very beginning:

The first contact between Darcy and Elizabeth is made at the ball when Bingley asks Darcy to dance with her. Darcy’s superiority rings through when he remarks that Lizzy is not handsome enough for him. Bingley states that all the girls are handsome. Darcy insists that only Jane is beautiful.

After hearing Darcy's insulting comment, Elizabeth begins to hold a grudge against the competent, wealthy Darcy. Truly, Elizabeth and Darcy are filled with pride and prejudices from the start. Clearly, the two have begun with wrong first impressions. 

No doubt, Darcy is not attracted to Elizabeth in the beginning. In turn, Elizabeth is disgusted with Darcy's arrogance and insulting candor.

Later, Darcy becomes attracted to Elizabeth and proposes to her. Because of Darcy's prideful attitude, Elizabeth refuses to accept his proposal in marriage: 

'From the very beginning, from the first moment, I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.'

Clearly, in the beginning, Elizabeth is not impressed with Darcy and his wealth. She has formed her own prejudices. She finds Darcy's arrogance distasteful. She rejects his proposal. In error, she believes Wickham's untruthful account of Darcy. Again, the theme of first impression is evident. Elizabeth perceives that Wickham is trustworthy. She is immediately drawn to him and his charming personality.

Again, Elizabeth judges wrongly. Austen masterfully creates a story which shows how first impressions can be misleading. Elizabeth falls for Wickham. Her first impression is favorable. She believes Wickham is a worthy man.

Throughout the novel, Austen proves how first impressions can be so wrong. In fact, Austen uses the complex concept of first impressions as one of the work's central themes. Elizabeth admits that her first impressions were off base:

It is only when Elizabeth herself admits that her first impressions were wrong, both in the case of Wickham and of Darcy (especially when she discovers the part he played in arranging Lydia’s marriage to Wickham and thus easing the disgrace somewhat), that she is able to discover her true self.

Amazingly, Elizabeth finds her true identity when she finds true love with Darcy by accepting all his flaws. The theme of the validity or error in first impressions is Austen's story. Elizabeth and Darcy marry and find true love despite first impressions:     

As the two converse after their engagement, both admit that their first impressions, though flawed, were not completely wrong. Only by accepting those flaws do Elizabeth and Darcy find happiness.

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Pride and Prejudice

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