What is a central question raised in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The central question of Pride and Prejudice is: What does a person need to be happy?

A central question is a thematically-driven idea that the author of a book is writing the book to answer.  It is the driving force in the meaning of the story.  There can be more than one central question, but if you are asked to identify one you should start by looking for the answer.  Is an answer to life given?

Even so long after this novel was written, people are still asking themselves what will make them happy.  Do you marry for love?  Do you marry for money?  Do you marry for friendship?  The fundamental question is what makes a person happy.  For example, we are told by Charlotte that, “Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance” (ch 6).

“….If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation..." (ch. 6)

All of the young men and women (and the older ones) are trying to navigate the channels of pride and personality to determine what will make them happiest in the end.  Is it possible to be happy in marriage?

Darcy also claims that, “a lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment” (ch 6).  Elizabeth refuses to fall in love with someone she deems proud.  Ultimately, both Elizabeth and Darcy realize that people are not always what they seem, and that a person’s actions can mask different motives. Faith in another person is hard to find, but ultimately that is what our happiness-seeking characters are looking for.

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Pride and Prejudice

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