Is romance what makes life worthwhile in the novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question is rather subjective, but Jane Austen gives her readers some pretty good clues about what is and is not important (worthwhile) in her novel Pride and Prejudice

If romance is a synonym for love to you, then the answer to your question may be yes; however, even love alone is not enough to "make life worthwhile" in this novel. Both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are looking for many qualities in the people around them in order to have a fulfilling life; it takes them nearly the entire novel for them to figure out that they are essentially looking for the same things. 

First (but in no particular order), they are both looking for someone whose primary concern is not money and class. Darcy does not want to connect himself with gold diggers of a low class (like Mrs. Bennett), and Elizabeth does not want to connect herself to someone who is high class and disdains her for not having money or social status.

Second, they both want to be challenged and inspired by the people around them. Darcy is bored with nearly everyone in his life because they talk and think about things that have no substance; Elizabeth feels the same way about nearly all of her family members and some others.

Third, neither of them are interested in compromising (translation--they are both incredibly stubborn). They both make swift judgments and are unwilling to change their views quickly, as evidenced by the several hundred pages between the time they meet and decide they do not like one another, and the time they finally confess their love for one another. Elizabeth says this, though the same could probably be said of Darcy:

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” 

On a positive note, they are both kind people who will do what they can to help and protect their friends. Darcy tries, though wrongly, to protect his friend Bingley from Jane; Elizabeth kindly visits her friend Charlotte because Charlotte is married to a man she does not particularly love.

So, while love is important, it is not the only thing which "makes life worthwhile" for Darcy and Elizabeth. They are both seeking someone who is willing to look beyond money and class, who challenges and stimulates their thinking, who will stand his or her ground but is willing to bend when it is necessary, and who has a generous and giving heart regardless of class or money. They find one another early in the novel but fail to appreciate the other's attributes until much later; perhaps that is because they are so much alike. 

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Pride and Prejudice

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