Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of the publications in English literature that has stood the test of time. As such, it has been appreciated by many generations of readers. The book was initially published as “First Impressions” in 1797. In 1813, it was revised and published as Pride and Prejudice with a more mature outlook by the writer.

The author attempts to portray how personal pride and uncontrolled prejudice can suppress and overcome love if not checked. It is not just a love story but a narrative that also depicts the nature of English society in the 18th and 19th centuries. Interestingly it captures gender bias as is evident even in today’s modern society by portraying the limitations placed on women of her epoch who even though from the middle class and no matter how smart or witty, were marginalized

During Jane’s lifetime, the novel may not have been too popular, yet sold almost 1500 copies. Later in the 19th century, it garnered popularity apparently because many critics reviewed and understood the skills with which the author brought the 19th-century English society to life. It’s important to point out that even though it was published in the eighteenth century, the story as Jane told turned out to reflect, as if by procrastination, what occurred in the early 19th century.

Introduction

Jane Austin’s novel Pride and Prejudice is a captivating insight into English society during the eighteenth century. It centers on romance, pride, and prejudice, and the author expertly showcases the power of love in overcoming personal pride and societal divisions. The story centers on Elizabeth and Darcy, who continually engage in clashes whenever their paths cross. The self-opinionated Elizabeth Bennet and proud Mr. Darcy nearly miss their chance at true love due to their strong personalities. Fortunately, the two would eventually recognize their mistakes and change their perception of each other and fall in love.

Some of the characters used by Austen to bring the 18th-19th century England society into life include the stubborn and prudent Elizabeth Bennet, Proud Fitzwilliam Darcy, optimistic Jane Bennet, Ignorant Lydia Bennet, Introvert Kitty and Mary, Miss Darcy, George Wickham, Ambitious Mrs. Bennet, Intelligent but lazy Mr. Bennet,  Charlotte Lucas, Charles Bingley, Georgiana Darcy, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, etc. Amongst all, look out for the Bennets, and their mom, whose only ambition is to marry off her daughters.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice focuses on the romantic entanglement of the Benet sisters. There are many themes in the novel, such as love, class, pride, prejudice, reputation, and family. However, the dominating characters are Elizabeth and Darcy, whose union suffers from their character traits. Darcy’s pride leads him to mock and looks down on anyone outside his social circle. Elizabeth’s bias mind causes her to make the wrong judgment to the detriment of her love.  These two finds happiness by helping each other overcome their weaknesses.

A classical comic and entertaining English literature, Jane Austin’s brought out the best of her skills in this novel and won the hearts of critics. Her expertise in character development and the use of irony keep readers intrigued from the beginning to the end. No wonder the modern-day critics have been reviewing the novel from various angles; historical, linguistic, economic, and from a feminist perspective. Four broad thematics, however, stand distinguished from this work, including love, family ties, societal limitations, and cruel disregard of the middle class.

Social rank

The class was a crucial aspect of British society in Austen’s era, and she depicts it thoroughly in the novel. For instance, she showcases the Bennets as a Middle Class while Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley are Upper Class. Of course, in contemporary society, either people identify themselves with a certain class or a placed at a certain category by society.

Jane didn’t attempt to hide the difference between these two classes. When Elizabeth meets Darcy for the first time, he makes her feel insignificant and refuses to dance with her. Unfortunately, Elizabeth learns of this rejection and starts to form a wrong opinion of Mr. Darcy. We believe that her earlier impression about the man contributes to why she believes the lies of George Wickham easily.

Many readers often feel that Elizabeth is too fast to judge without proper investigation. But overhearing the discussion between Darcy and Bingley can make anyone feel classless. This is why it’s better to treat humans as equals, not minding the social rank. To Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy is a devil, proud ape, disagreeable baboon, and cold.

As for Mr. Darcy’s pride, we can’t blame him because wealth sometimes pushes one to assume extreme class consciousness. The man comes from a rich side of Jane’s society, and maybe he has formed his character around the people he knows. So, his initial reaction may be understood because that’s what he’s used to in his circle. But to show his true self Darcy accepts Elizabeth and even joins her to reject the Upper-Class behavior. Why won’t he, Lady Catherine, and Bingley sisters make everyone’s life unbearable? Let’s not forget Mr. Collins’s subtle closeness with Lady Catherine, which is nothing but a show of class consciousness. Austen did not condemn the differences in social ranking, but she pinpoints the negative effects on society.

Class segregation hurts society. The individual feels the impact in the area of unemployment, housing, and overall political and economic power. It creates an environment where individuals who are considered lower are excluded from public policymaking. Also, it plays a huge role in marriage and love in contemporary society. Yes! The rich always marries the rich while the Cinderellas have grown extinct.

Love and Marriage

Pride and Prejudice is a very exciting romantic story. Jane Austen tried her best to differentiate between a good marriage and a bad marriage. The marriages that take place in the novel are Charlotte/Collins, Lydia jennet/Wickham, Jane/Bingley, Elizabeth/ Darcy. Few are based on love, others purely on selfish ambitions. However, the existing marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet is like the worst of all. The partners have parallel temperaments that make them view life in different ways. Their marriage lacks emotional and intellectual compatibility and understanding.

Another marriage in the novel worth mentioning, but on the wrong side, is Charlotte Lucas’s marriage with Collins. This is a selfish union because Charlotte has one purpose in mind, and that’s financial security. She sees marriage as an economic exchange to satisfy her selfish desire.

On the contrary, we can mention the union between Bingley and Jane as the most successful. Theirs is a union between a man and a woman who love themselves. Also, the marriage between Elizabeth and Darcy is the perfect union because their love is unique and eternal. In the beginning, their relationship is not all roses, with a misconception that led to hatred. Soon, the feelings grow from hatred to admiration and later transforms to full-blown love, respect, and satisfaction.

The author captures the theme of love and marriage very succinctly. The novel traces the courtship of Jane Bennet and Bingley, Elizabeth, and Darcy through various misunderstandings and hindrances before they eventually enjoy happy marriages at last. Their love takes time to grow despite their differences and societal demands. Austen believes that marriage is better on a firm foundation of true love. The novel is showing us that love is that abstract feeling that completes the happiness of every human being, even as it may not be a straight line with its ups and downs.

It is so surprising that what Jane experienced in her era and wrote in Pride and Prejudice is still happening today. Most men and women look for one condition or the other before they agree to marry each other. For instance, a man will look for a lady who is beautiful, presentable, self-made, and talented. As for women, no one wants to suffer, and as such, they’ll instead marry a rich and ready-made man than a struggling middle-class starter. Love has taken the second bench in marriage, and this may explain why the rate of divorce in our societies is increasing every day.

Gender roles

Jane Austen also handles gender issues. She portrays a British society where women need to marry for survival and to secure their family’s social status. Men, on the other hand, are independent because they could choose and take any decision they want. They could earn money and even enjoy privileges if their wives are rich. Men could also study and enter into any business of their choice to become successful.

According to Charlotte, marriage is a matter of chance to have a better life since a woman cannot own anything. In her experience, love is not essential as long as you accept the norms of society and live comfortably. This is why Mrs. Bennet wants her girls to marry Upper-Class men and live a meaningful life.

Another practice against women is that of discrimination when it comes to owning property. Their husbands get all their possession if she gets married while they obliged to obey their husbands and live the life of a slave.

Elizabeth, who happens to be one of the main female characters in the novel, refuses to allow society to influence her. She understands the difficulty and the stress of not marrying as society demands. Despite all that, she disagrees to go against her will and feelings and looks for happiness. Even when the mother becomes mad at her for rejecting Mr. Collins, Elizabeth does not budge until she lands her true love.

Pride

Jane carefully and critically depicts pride as a monster through some of the characters. First, Lady Catherine is proud because she is an aristocrat. She may be excused because her upbringing suggests to her that she is superior to any other person who is not on her level. She exhibits that by bullying and insulting Elizabeth and pushing her around not to marry Darcy.  Also, Mr. Collins is another proud character who believes that Elizabeth will not despise his proposal since she doesn’t have a dowry.

But the epitome of pride in the novel is Darcy. He puts Elizabeth down coldly with a patronizing comment about her looks. He seems to withdraw himself and feels superior and ignores her on her visits to Netherfield. Pride also convinces Darcy that he is right to interfere in the relationship between Jane and Bingley.  Moreover, the first time he proposed to Elizabeth, his actions and words reveal that he is trying to favor her. Elizabeth flatly rejects him, noting his proud character as well as his involvement in his sister romance. It is only after the second proposal that we see a man with evidence of a complete change of heart. Loving Elizabeth makes him understand that people can be good despite background, status, and origin. As the novel ends, the matured Elizabeth learns that there is good and bad pride. According to Darcy, “vanity is a weakness, but with the superiority of mind, pride will always be under check.”

Pride has never done any good for anybody. Instead, it leads to a fall. So, it is better to live as a humble man or woman than looking down on others even from our different backgrounds and varied opinions.

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