What is the significance of civility in Pride and Prejudice? How is civility valued in the text? What is the ultimate effect of its being valued in a particular way? ( I'm planning for an...

What is the significance of civility in Pride and Prejudice? How is civility valued in the text? What is the ultimate effect of its being valued in a particular way?

( I'm planning for an argumentative essay, could you suggest me a few points to argue about this topic?)

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Interestingly, the mention of the root word civil appears over seventy times in Austen's novel, and other words closely related to civility have been counted more than a hundred times; therefore, civility is certainly a motif in Pride and Prejudice, for, after all, this composes the Novel of Manners in which the supremacy of the rational faculty is revered as demonstrated by order and discipline in the lives and domestic affairs of the English country gentry. This reverence for civility, especially among the upper classes, nevertheless, imposes limitations upon individuals since in the interest of politeness, some characters assume a certain hypocrisy. For instance, in her desire to diminish the attractiveness of Elizabeth, Miss Bingley, with feigned civility, observes,“How very ill Eliza Bennet looks this morning....She is grown so brown and coarse.” The irony of this civility is that because of Miss Bingley's close attention to Elizabeth, Darcy, then, gives her more heed than he normally would.

With civility valued so highly and adhered to so strongly, it is also often misappropriated as in the encounters of Elizabeth with Mr. Darcy. When Darcy first proposes, he asks in such a high-handed civil manner that she refuses. Finally, when Elizabeth becomes more acquainted with him, she realizes that he is truly a gentleman. She explains to Darcy,

From the very beginning, from the first moment, I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance ....were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.

After Darcy hands her a letter that explicates his role in bringing Bingsley to reject Jane, along with details about Wickam's situation that prove Darcy to be innocent of wrongdoing, Elizabeth acknowledges how her own pride has caused her to be prejudiced against Darcy. With great civility, though, she apologizes, and accepts his proposal of marriage. 

Civility, then, has a decisive effect upon the characters of Pride and Prejudice. Indeed, it is the civility in Darcy which leads him to change, for it makes him more attentive to the feelings of others. Likewise, Elizabeth in her civility becomes aware of her family's inappropriate conduct, and her own misjudgments.

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[There is a link below on "aspects of civility" in Pride and Prejudice which should assist you in an argumentative essay on civility. Part 5 seems especially useful for argument. Also, see the link on writing an argumentative essay.] 

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