“Pride,” observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her
reflections, “is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have
ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human
nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us
who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some
quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different
things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may
be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of
ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
-chapter 5, page 18
In the previous passage, Mary Bennet distinguishes between vanity and pride. What do you think she is suggesting in that?
I think she means exactly what she says in the last line. Pride is our sense of self-worth, which ought to be independent of what others think of us. Vanity, on the other hand, is wrapped up in others' opinions of us. Austen is probably referencing a philosophical debate with which she almost certainly would have been familiar- the relationship, described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, between amour-propre, or vanity, and amour de soi meme, which still references others, but is more concerned with one's internal qualities.