Significance of Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austens novel Pride and Prejudice is one with a title that is important to the development of the entire plot. It is appropriate because the entire book revolves around those three words. Austen uses both pride and prejudice as qualities for many of the characters. Pride and Prejudice is a significant title because both traits are illustrated through the characters of Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, and Elizabeth Bennet.
Mr. Darcy is one of the most obviously proud characters. Although he has a kind nature underneath, he shows pride in his high status in society. At the ball, Darcy is described as being the "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world (10) because he will only dance once with Mrs. Hurst and Mrs. Bingley. He looks down upon others who are not as wealthy as he is. For example, Darcy refuses to dance with Elizabeth because she is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt [him] (11). He is basically saying that she is pretty but not worthy enough for him. Mr. Darcy also displays prejudice toward Elizabeth in beginning of the novel because of her low social status and useless family. Darcy is eventually forced to deal with his pride and prejudice when he falls in love with Elizabeth. He overcomes his pride and marries her despite her social status.
Another character that illustrates both pride and prejudice is Lady Catherine De Bourgh. Because of her high social status, she thinks she can control anyone around her. Her prejudice towards the Bennet family is clearly shown when she confronts Elizabeth about marrying her nephew, Darcy. Lady Catherine believes that Elizabeth is not worthy enough to marry him and claims that a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family (338) will not prevent the union of her own daughter and Darcy. Like Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine also looks down on the Bennets because of their lower income and social status. Her pride prejudices her against the thought of Darcy marrying below his class and she exclaims to Elizabeth Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody? (341). Lady Catherine believes that Elizabeth is not good enough for Darcy, and because she is full of pride, she tells Elizabeth this to her face. She also thinks that if they get married everyone will look down on Darcy because Elizabeth is from a lower class.
Elizabeth Bennet has a high level of self respect that makes her proud like the other characters but at the same time causes her to be prejudice towards anyone who insults her dignity. She is clearly prejudiced towards Darcy when she forms an unfair opinion of him after only meeting him once. This is understandable due to his proud and arrogant manner at the first ball. Elizabeth proves she will not change her opinion of Mr. Darcy by saying to him, "You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it" (184). Elizabeth would not agree to marry him no matter what he did. Later on when Mr. Wickham gives her a harsh description of Mr. Darcys character, her prejudice against him strengthens even though she still does not know him well enough to form a truthful opinion. When Darcy gives Elizabeth the letter explaining all that she assumes of him, she is already persuaded that he could have no explanation to givewith a strong prejudice against everything he might say (195). Her opinion of him is so strong that she does not accept any explanation he gives. Again, this is an example of prejudice because she is not letting anything he says change her mind about her first impression of him.
Jane Austens novel is based entirely on its title, Pride and Prejudice. They are the three most important words of the novel because many of the characters are guilty of both pride and prejudice. Again, it is very fitting because the basic personalities of a majority of the characters are summed up in the title.