What is the significance of ball parties in Pride and Prejudice?
In Pride and Prejudice ball parties are the shop window for the marriage market. They're an opportunity for families such as the Bennets to introduce their daughters to society, hoping that they will attract the attention of some rich, dashing young man who'll come along and sweep them off their feet. Though highly conventional, such formal gatherings give young ladies like the Bennets a rare chance to emerge from their parents' shadows and assert their individuality. As well as showing off their beauty, young ladies can also use these occasions to engage in relatively open conversation with members of the opposite sex, something they wouldn't get to do very often at home.
To a lesser extent, single men in possession of a fortune are also on display. After all, in a marriage market it takes two to tango. They too are objects; their wealth, good looks, and social standing are paraded openly before their prospective wives. And on such a shallow basis they, like the womenfolk, are judged accordingly. It is at one such soiree that Elizabeth immediately jumps to conclusions regarding the somewhat intimidating figure of Mr. Darcy. Though undoubtedly a fine specimen of a man, he also comes across as aloof, arrogant, and insufferably proud. Both Elizabeth's prejudice and Darcy's pride are reinforced by the superficial nature of the parties they are obliged to attend, where a high value is placed...
on appearance and not much else.