In Pride and prejudice, why do the places where the major characters live seem more important than the personal relationships?  I'm referring to such places as Pemberley, Rosings, Longbourn.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The naming of one's abode was, perhaps still is, a longstanding English convention. It relates to habitational identifications for individuals dating from long before surnames were standard, a convention that gave rise to habitational last names, such as the Scottish habitational name Berwickshire (borders). So part of the importance of abode names in Jane Austen's work is simply that it was the custom of the era.

Another importance of abode names is that they do in some sense define the relationships that can be had. For instance, Pemberley and Rosings were famous in their vicinities, perhaps even beyond their vicinities, and they were recognized to be the dwelling of the ruling classes. To hear someone spoken of in connection with Pemberley makes it clear that such a person is confined by choice as well as by rank and birth to a social sphere above the peasant farmers who live around Pemberley. In this sense, the dwelling names are not more important than the relationships, after all, Jane Austen's whole emphasis is relationships, but do define the relationships.

Further, the place names symbolize the characters who dwell there underscoring their character traits and the role they fill in the plot conflict development. For instance, Longbourn, where Charlotte lives with her parents in retirement from the courtly circles of London, symbolizes Charlotte's isolation and underscores the reason and practicality for her decision to marry Mr. Collins. Whereas Pemberley symbolizes the reasons Mr. Darcy has for feeling superior and underscores the genuine nature of his virtue, while also underscoring the real gulf of quality that exists between him and Elizabeth Bennett and her slightly irascible family.

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Pride and Prejudice

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