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

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Perform a Marxist analysis of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

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I can't give you an in-depth analysis in an eNotes answer, but I can get you started. You might begin with this quote—actually an a analysis of a passage from Goethe—in Marx's 1844 essay, "The Power of Money":

The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my—the possessor’s—properties and essential powers. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness—its deterrent power—is nullified by money.

We can understand how this relates to Darcy. He is seen, and used to being seen, through the lens of his wealth and power. While the local community might scorn him, it is because they intuit he feels he is too good to marry one of their young women. He fully expects, as we shall see, that if he were to approach a local woman with a marriage offer, she would immediately say yes.

Darcy doesn't have to worry about his looks or social skills. We know he is good looking (at least reasonably so), but we also know he lacks social skills. But to him, that is unimportant: his wealth ensures his social acceptance wherever he goes. His money can make the "ugliness" of his snobbery quickly disappear. And you might think about how good looking he really is: might people give him more credit than is due because he is wealthy? (After all, it is Wickham who excites Elizabeth and makes her heart beat faster.)

It is Darcy's knowledge that he is very wealthy that leads to his disastrous wedding proposal to Elizabeth. It never once occurs to him that his clueless and insulting rudeness might lead Elizabeth to reject him. After all, he expects money to paper over all of that.

Elizabeth's rejection might seem to refute Marx and point to the idea that there is more to life than money—but in the end, after seeing his estate of Pemberley and thinking it would be something to mistress of that, Elizabeth does marry Darcy. There is mutual esteem, but it does seem to be the case that wealth enters more than a little into the equation.

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