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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Who is "Pride" and who is "Prejudice"? Explain.

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In Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice, one could argue that Fitzwilliam Darcy symbolically represents pride while Elizabeth Bennet represents prejudice. Darcy is depicted as an extremely wealthy aristocrat who hails from an affluent family and is very self-possessed. Unlike his close friend Mr. Bingley, Darcy is a reserved man who comes across as arrogant and cold.

Initially, Darcy is not attracted to Elizabeth and feels that her family is significantly below his social status, which is why he acts dismissive and callous towards her during their first meeting. Even though Darcy's feelings for Elizabeth begin to grow, his pride prevents him from appropriately expressing his emotions and overlooking Elizabeth's humble social status.

Elizabeth Bennet embodies prejudice when she initially perceives Darcy as an arrogant, rude man and immediately labels him as an unscrupulous, selfish person. Elizabeth resents Darcy for his proud attitude, and her prejudice against him influences her to believe the deceitful, immoral Wickham. Elizabeth's prejudice towards Darcy also prevents her from viewing him in a positive light, and she continues to misjudge him for an extended period of time. She also completely blames Darcy for her sister's heartache and refuses to view the situation from his perspective.

Despite Darcy's pride and Elizabeth's prejudice, the two characters are able to overcome their faults and recognize their love for each other.

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In the most traditional readings of the novel, Mr. Darcy is seen as "pride," and Elizabeth Bennet, as "prejudice."

The plot of the novel kicks into action when Mr. Darcy is too proud to ask Elizabeth to dance. Elizabeth overhears him saying that she is not pretty enough to tempt him. Like any self-respecting young woman, Elizabeth is insulted and develops a prejudice against Darcy.

Darcy's pride and Elizabeth's prejudice put them at odds and cause mishaps that lead the course of their true love to not run smoothly. Darcy, because of his pride and his tendency to look down on Elizabeth's family, manages to enrage her during his first marriage proposal. Being proud, Darcy expects her to fall all over him when he, the grand Darcy, proposes to her, the lowly Elizabeth. However, she surprises him by bursting into a rage, telling him he has insulted her in every way possible through his arrogant proposal and telling him, in essence, that she wouldn't marry him if he were the last man alive.

Elizabeth, however, due to her prejudice against Darcy, also falls into error. She has been too willing to believe Wickham's stories about Darcy's cruelties. She lets an initial bad impression of Darcy blow up into something far worse. Today, we would call this confirmation bias: she has decided Darcy is a bad person and is all too willing to believe the worst about him.

Both characters have to learn and grow to get over their weaknesses of pride and prejudice so that they can accept each other's love.

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Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice shares a quality with Austen's other novel, Sense and Sensibility, in that the titles of each story represent the two strongest forces that drive the narrative, both manifested in the two main characters.

In this case, Pride would be Darcy. Darcy, himself, admits that he is quite proud of his family name, and that he sees nothing wrong in adopting a persona that shows how proud one is of the things one has achieved.

Unfortunately, Darcy's tendencies and behaviors make him look haughty and snobby rather than sincerely proud of himself. Yet, Darcy (as we see in the end) is not really as stuck-up as he acts: He simply has been raised with a clear understanding of his family legacy and the need to distance himself from people that are not his equals. This is a tendency more than a chosen behavior. The fact remains that Darcy is simply a proud man who, in time, learns to separate pride from snobbery.

On the other hand, Elizabeth does not see any of this. She also has a bad tendency and that is to take things at face value without analyzing any deeper. She immediately labels Darcy as a proud man in every bad connotation that the term implies. Not enough with that, she allows every information about Darcy that comes from someone as creepy as Wickham to influence her opinion of Darcy even more. In other words, Elizabeth is completely prejudiced against Darcy (and people like Darcy) from the very beginning.

Therefore, Darcy is Pride, while Elizabeth is Prejudice. Darcy earned Elizabeth's prejudice by acting haughtily, instead of proudly. He also may have been a bit too proud as a rule. Contrastigly, Elizabeth's prejudice was caused by Darcy and his friends.The "Bingley Set" (minus Mr. Bingley) did not help much in changing Elizabeth's perceptions of them. However, in the end, both Darcy and Elizabeth along with all the pride and the prejudice that prevails in the story, are able to find a happy medium.

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