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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen
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What are men to rocks and mountains?

In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth asks, "What are men to rocks and mountains?" before embarking on a trip with the Gardiners. She looks forward to viewing the beauty of nature, and the question also reflects her state of mind shortly after learning that Darcy separated Bingley from her beloved sister Jane. The question reveals her disappointment with men, who are changeable and unreliable in contrast to rocks and mountains, which are durable and sturdy. The question also shows Romanticism's influence on Austen.

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Just before she embarks on a vacation to see the countryside with her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, Elizabeth Bennet asks, "What are men to rocks and mountains?” She is looking forward to viewing the beauty of the landscape and notes that they will see the rocks and mountains, among other natural scenes.

The question also reflects her state of mind at the time. She has recently come back from visiting her friend Charlotte at Rosings, where Mr. Darcy and his cousin were also visiting Lady Catherine de Bourgh. At Rosings, Elizabeth learned about the role Darcy played in separating Mr. Bingley from her beloved sister Jane. Elizabeth is disgusted by this. She blames Darcy for what she believes to be his prideful prejudice against her family because of their lack of wealth. She probably blames Bingley, too, for being so easily dissuaded from his love of Jane, which has, in turn, caused Jane tremendous unhappiness and destroyed her prospects. She is also still somewhat shaken by Darcy's unexpected proposal.

When Elizabeth asks this question about men, rocks and mountains, it also reveals her disappointment with men, who are changeable and false. In comparing and contrasting them to rocks and mountains, that are stable and dependable, she conveys her lack of confidence in men and her sense that their nature will cause them to fail and disappoint. By comparison, nature will not disappoint.

The question also shows the influence of Romanticism on authors of the period, including Jane Austen. Romantic writers and artists viewed nature as uncompromised and uncomplicated, which Elizabeth conveys in this question.

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