What are some major themes and motifs in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aside from the dominant themes of pride and prejudice depicted in the title, there are a few other interesting and important themes to take note of. Two of these are: marriage and women's economic freedom. Charlotte provides a good illustration of both.

Charlotte is an active character and has much to say about the theme of marriage: marriage is more significant than romantic union; happiness in marriage is associated with something other than love; marriage is a practical way to establish a sound future. Charlotte's opinions and reasoning ties into women's economic freedom.

"I am not romantic, you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins's character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state."

While some women could win economic freedom through having money "settled" on them, protecting it from a husband's ownership; through an inheritance (until marriage); or through widowhood, most women had no economic independence and were expected to continue to reside in their father's homes until marriage (which Charlotte despaired of). Thus, most women's economic freedom--at least from their fathers and mothers--came only with marriage. This was a compelling reason for Charlotte to marry. She was older than Elizabeth and less lovely. While some women earned economic freedom through novel writing, like Ann Radcliff and Fanny Burney, most women had to use their wits and attractions to gain economic freedom (such as it was) through marriage.

Some motifs are:

  • balls
  • estates
  • income
  • women's income
  • militia
  • walking
  • trees
  • books

Estates form an important motif that is related directly to Elizabeth through the entail. The two largest are Rosings and Pemberley and these relate directly to the power status women might hold. Lady de Bourgh, though irritating and pompous, is a woman of great power. Not only does she independently own great wealth, she has the management of the entire estate and the village in her personal control (undoubtedly she, like her male counterparts employs a Steward of the estate, as Darcy does). Everything from agriculture to medical concerns to domestic problems is in her care: in short, the happiness and employment of a large community of people is all under her control.

Walking is another motif. The Bingley ladies disparage Elizabeth for her energetic walk across the fields when Jane is ill as being beneath a person of breeding and class--upper class, that is. Darcy, on the other hand, sees that a walk invigorates the health and brings out luster in the eyes--Elizabeth's eyes, that is. Walks to Meryton are also disparaged with scorn for flirtations with the Militia. Yet, it is on a walk that Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth that though he would be tempted, he cannot, as a penniless second son, offer her marriage. It is during walks that Darcy finds Elizabeth to give her his beloved letter of explanation. It is on a walk that Darcy and Elizabeth reveal their hopes to each other and come to a loving accord.

They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects.



judging others


self important


believing the best of others