An analysis of Pride and Prejudice, focusing on the pride and prejudice of various characters.
Pride often hinders one from making a worthwhile decision, and prejudice sometimes blinds one to what is before them. There are situations in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that prove this. As in real life, some characters in the book realize these qualities in themselves; others never do.
Pride plays a very important role in the book. It alters the decisions of the characters, and works in unison with prejudice to keep some of the characters from becoming involved with other characters, particularly the Bennets. Prejudice works to make the character in question think that someone is beneath them; pride keeps them from acting on their feelings as if their prejudices do not exist.
Mr. Darcy’s pride and prejudice does not allow him to dance with Elizabeth at the ball when they first meet. “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” (Austen, His prejudice tells him that Elizabeth is beneath him; his pride keeps him from overcoming his prejudice. He refuses to dance again in a later ball when someone offers Elizabeth to dance with him. He says “Every savage can dance.” (Austen, 17) However, at the same ball, he later asks her to dance, but she refuses him. Elizabeth’s pride would not allow her to dance with Mr. Darcy because he had left such a horrible first impression on her at the first ball.
Mr. Darcy tries to keep his best friend, Mr. Bingley, from becoming romantically involved with Jane Bennet, because his pride will not even allow his friend to be with someone who is beneath him. He draws his conclusion of the Bennets from watching the family at balls and other events. He then goes to Mr. Bingley and convinces him that Jane is indifferent to him. They then decide to move back into the city without knowing when they will come back. One of Mr. Bingley’s sisters writes to Jane to tell her that they are moving away.
Mr. Darcy is very prejudiced and prideful in his marriage proposal to Elizabeth. He tells her that she is not one to be worthy of marrying him, but he cannot help it because he loves her. “In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” (Austen, 123) Mr. Darcy tells her that she is not at his level to be marrying him. It is implied that he thinks her too poor to be of any note to him, and in addition her family does not have good social manners. He tells her that he cannot help himself, even though she is not comparable to him. Elizabeth’s pride and first impression of Mr. Darcy causes her to blow up in his face and tell him that she cannot accept his proposal because of the way he has treated her. She also uses the argument that he separated her sister from Mr. Bingley.
Mr. Darcy does, however, have a pride that shows the good side of him. His pride for his home, Pemberley, brings out the good side of him. Everyone that knows him well knows him to be the kind of person who is generous and prideful, but in a good way. “… he gave up everything to be of use to the late Mr. Darcy and devoted all his time to the care of Pemberley property.” (Austen, 54)
When Mr. Darcy sees that Elizabeth has rejected him after his proposal, he begins to realize that he has been prideful and prejudiced to her and to her family. He sets out to correct the things that he has done to drive her away from him. He leaves her a letter explaining that Mr. Wickham lied to her and is actually the one that treated Mr. Darcy poorly. He can give no good reasoning for separating Jane and Mr. Bingley, but he convinces him to propose to Jane. He saves Lydia from ruining her family. He pays off Mr. Wickham’s debts and convinces him to marry Lydia.
Lady Catherine is very prejudiced in her views, especially against Elizabeth and her family. Mr. Collins feeds her pride by acting like she is the queen. He feeds her ego until she thinks she can command everyone around her like servants. On one such occasion in which Elizabeth is at Lady Catherine’s house, she insists upon Elizabeth playing the piano, no matter her proficiency. She goes on to criticize Elizabeth’s ability to play the piano for quite some time. “Lady Catherine continued her remarks on Elizabeth’s performance, mixing with them many instructions on execution and taste.” (Austen, 115)
Lady Catherine continues with her objections to Elizabeth when she struts into the Bennets home and criticizes every part of it she can find. “She entered the room with an air more than usually ungracious, made no other reply to Elizabeth’s salutation than a slight inclination of the head, and sat down without saying a word.” (Austen, 227) She then assumes that Mrs. Bennet is Elizabeth’s mother and that one of the girls standing there is one of her sisters. She then insults them further by saying they have a very small park and their sitting room is very poorly situated and built. Mrs. Bennet offers her something to drink and eat, but Lady Catherine rudely refuses anything at all. She then abruptly stands up and asks to take a walk with Elizabeth in the garden, which she calls a wilderness. On the way out of the house Lady Catherine promptly opens all the doors and peers into the rooms they had concealed; deeming them adequate, but no more. As soon as they enter the garden, Lady Catherine proceeds to tell Elizabeth that she has no intentions of letting Elizabeth marry Mr. Darcy.
I will not be interrupted. Hear me in silence. My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other. … Their fortune on both sides is splendid. They are destined for each other by the voice of every member of their respective houses; and what is to divide them? The upstart pretentions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured! But it is not, shall not be. If you were sensible of your own good, you would not wish to quit the sphere in which you have been brought up. (Austen, 230)
Lady Catherine does not want any chance of Elizabeth marrying Mr. Darcy to exist. Elizabeth reacts by telling her that she has been insulted in every way, and she then proceeds to storm off, no matter Lady Catherine’s objections.
Lady Catherine is very stubborn and strong-willed. She does not like it when Elizabeth defies her wishes, because she is used to everyone obeying her without question or hesitation. She insists that her daughter marries Mr. Darcy; she does not seem to care or even to notice that he wants nothing to do with his cousin. “To put it mildly, Lady Catherine is an over-bearing control freak whose wealth, title, and sheer force of will typically get her what she wants. Until, of course, she meets Elizabeth Bennet, who refuses to roll over and play dead in Lady Catherine’s presence.” (Shmoop)
Caroline Bingley is a selfish arrogant character that tries to be controlling like Lady Catherine, but without success. She does not show any real affection for her brother, Mr. Bingley, but she tries to separate him from Jane Bennet. She nags Elizabeth constantly about not being pretty, especially around Mr. Darcy. According to her standards, Elizabeth is not pretty and should be no acquaintance of theirs. She thinks that the Bennets are not good enough for either her brother or Mr. Darcy; as a result she tries to drive them away.
On occasion, she even pokes fun at Mrs. Bennet. “You will have a charming mother-in-law, indeed; and, of course, she will always be at Pemberley with you.” (Austen, 18) This is mockingly said; in fact, she thinks Mrs. Bennet to be a rude lady with no manners. Caroline Bingley would love to be as far away from the Bennets if she had her way. She despises them and thinks of them as dirt. There is a similarity between her and Mr. Darcy, but there is very little resemblance. “She has all of Darcy’s class prejudice but none of his honor and virtue.” (Gradesaver)
The Bingley sisters consider themselves the lesser of no woman and think of every other woman as less-pretty than themselves. The dresses that they wear are elegant, almost an insult to every other woman. “I never in my life saw anything more elegant than their dresses. I dare say the lace on Mrs. Hurst’s gown—” (Austen, 9) The Bingley sisters think very highly and treat the Bennets, Elizabeth and everyone else with disrespect.
Elizabeth Bennet is one of the most prideful characters in the book. She refuses Mr. Darcy for most of the book, because she is prideful and will not give in to him after he has separated her sister and Mr. Bingley. He also insulted her and her whole family when he proposed to her. She refuses to dance with Mr. Darcy and takes care to protect her pride at the same time. “Indeed, sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I have moved this way in order to beg for a partner.” (Austen, 18)
Elizabeth turns down Mr. Darcy when he proposes to her for a number of prideful reasons. She despises him for separating her sister and Mr. Bingley, who were very happy. In his proposal, he also says that he is going against his better judgment by proposing to her. At the time, she believes that he has greatly wronged Mr. Wickham and uses that as another reason to decline.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is named so because of the pride and prejudice that develops the plot of the book. Pride often hinders one from making a worthwhile decision, and prejudice sometimes blinds one to what is before them. Only Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth realize their Pride and or Prejudice and then do their best to change their views.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Rockville: TARK Classic Fiction, 2008.
“Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice.” Shmoop: Study Guides, Teacher Resources. 11 May 2009 .
“Pride and Prejudice Study Guide | Character List | GradeSaver.” Study Guides & Essay Editing | GradeSaver. 11 May 2009 .