Pride and Prejudice
Marriage plays a large role in Pride and Prejudice. Some characters marry for security, some marry for wealth and some marry for love. The idea of marriage is very important throughout the novel, primarily because it was often the only way for a woman of the period to secure her freedom, social status, and living standard. Social classes are also taken into account and play a major role as a theme in Pride and Prejudice. People of higher class are very proud of themselves and do not like to socialize with those of lower class. A pure example is Darcy when we first meet him when he talk about the way people of lower classes act and look bitterly upon them.
When Elizabeth is hearing her friends and family discuss how dreadful Mr. Darcy is, her opinion of him becomes even stronger. Elizabeth feels that her pride has been harmed by the pride of Mr. Darcy. Even when she gets closer to Darcy as a person she cannot let go of her prejudice, because almost everyone of her acquaintance despises him. Elizabeths contempt might be partly to her difficulty in understanding him but Mr. Darcys pride, however, is mere insecurity. Elizabeth, for example, truly believes Mr. Wickhams story about Mr. Darcy and is therefore blinded by her prejudice when she is having a discussion with her sister about these two gentlemen. Mr. Wickham gladly tells Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy is the one who is responsible for his misfortunes and that it gives him pain seeing him. Of course she believes him. It is because she has already found Mr. Darcy proud that she easily accepts Wickhams story and that without any real evidence of the truth of it. As Miss Lucas say:
His pride, said Miss Lucas, does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may express it, he has a right to be proud (Austen).
As we know, Elizabeth does not approve of it at all; however, she gladly talks of his pride among her friends. She does not feel sad because Mr. Darcy has rejected her; he is not a person to like anyway. This is evident as she is always confronting him and forcing him into communication, with topics that she thinks might upset him. An example is when she overhears Darcys opinion of her at the Meryton assembly and seeing the way he acts, makes her think of him as proud. From that moment, whenever she and Darcy are in the same room, they are either totally quiet or get into discussions, which always lead to one or two misunderstandings. When Elizabeth is at Netherfield, she gets into a discussion with Mr. Darcy and he gives an explanation of pride. She ironically remarks that he does not have any defects. However, Darcy declares that he has faults enough and explains:
My good opinion once lost is lost for ever''
That is a failing indeed!'' - cried Elizabeth. Implacable resentment is a shade in a character. But you have chosen your fault well. I really cannot laugh at it; you are safe from me
There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil- a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome
And your defect is a propensity to hate every body
And yours,'' he replied with a smile, ``is wilfully to misunderstand them (Austen 78-9)
Elizabeths mind has already been made up; she is determined about Mr. Darcys character and is at this point too blind to accept anything else. Elizabeth tries to figure out Mr. Darcys character, but because of her prejudice against him, she cannot make a fair judgment. Despite the fact that Elizabeth somehow knows that he is right, she cannot bear that thought and therefore she cannot stay at Netherfield any longer. She is running away from her problems, but not for long. She is going to meet Darcy several times, and have many discussions. But for the time being this is what is best for both parties, because Darcys attraction to Elizabeth is becoming a little too strong.
When Elizabeth is away from Longbourne to visit Charlotte, she changes a little.
Not being able to confide in her sister as she has always done, or having her mother around all the time, makes her form her own opinions and make her own judgments. When she stands more or less alone in a community she does not belong to, she has a lot of time to think for herself. She is surprised that she meets Mr. Darcy so many times when she is out walking, but she does not think that he has a motive to do so. Nor does she realize that the reason for him to stare at her so much might be because he likes her, not just to judge her. Mr. Darcy, in his turn, realizes that the opinions that Elizabeth has are not her own but are shaped by her community. Her community has blinded her, and it is not until she knows the true nature of things that she can really begin to change herself. It is the proposal of Mr. Darcy that makes Elizabeth really angry and, of course, she rejects him. It is not until the next day, upon the reception of a letter from Mr. Darcy, which Elizabeth gets to know the truth behind the turn of events she has been accusing him of. Concerning Mr. Wickham she cannot believe Darcys version to be true, and she tries to think of it as a lie. However, since she has received it as a letter she can go back to it as many times as she likes and read through the details. Having done so she realizes that she has been unfair to Mr. Darcy and gets really ashamed of herself, ashamed that she has been blinded by prejudice:
`How despicably have I acted! she cried; ``I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister and gratified my vanity, in useless or [blameable] distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind. But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment, I never knew myself.' (Austen, 288).
Fortunately she realizes her prejudice, and how wrong she has been in judging people without access to all information. From this moment Elizabeth is more careful in discussing her opinions with people, and does not judge people too harshly without knowing them first. But it is not only Elizabeth that undergoes a change, Mr. Darcy must also let go of his pride and the rooted opinions that he has from his community. They get to know their true selves and do not listen too much to the voices of their communities any more. They are free to make their own decisions and are listening to their hearts. Although, even if Elizabeth has a clear dislike for Darcy, she cannot help being a little interested in him. The pride Mr. Darcy has makes some people dislike him, but still he is able to change, a change that will make Elizabeth fall in love with him. With the change he sees things from a different perspective, and start to accept people as they are. He also makes Elizabeth aware of his weaknesses, and it is when both come to an equal understanding that they see who they truly are.
The most important meeting Elizabeth has with Mr. Darcy is when visiting to Pemberley. Seeing the place and hearing what the housekeeper has to say about Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth now sees him in a different light. She regrets rejecting Mr. Darcy, thinking that she might have been the mistress of Pemberley at this time. Then seeing him at his own place, she sees him in a totally different light and really starts to question herself if he still wants her. With no prejudice she, for the first time, sees who Mr. Darcy really is, and really likes what she sees. It was the deception from others and the pride in Elizabeth that could not let go of her prejudice against him, but now when all prejudice is gone, she cannot only see who Darcy is, but also show her true self to him.
Austen, Jane; edited by Charnwood large print edition, 1984. Pride and Prejudice.