Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice is a story with two multidimensional characters and many flat characters as support. It is set in England around the end of the eighteenth century, a time when wealth determined social standing and social standing determined who you married. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, (Austen 1), this sentence, the opening sentence of the book, sums the whole book up in one deft move. Austen notifies the reader, using this sentence, that the whole book will be about the pursuit of marriage. The title of the book also supplies the reader with a foreshadowing of the contents of the book. In all actuality this book is mostly about the relationship of Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who, by their own admissions, share the faults of being rather proud and very prejudiced.
Miss Elizabeth Bennet, often affectionately called Eliza or Lizzy throughout the book, is the second oldest daughter of Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet and the most independent and proud of five unmarried daughters (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE). Although not as attractive as her older sister, she makes up for this with a bright and intelligent mind, a keen wit, and her devotion to Jane (Main Characters). She is the favorite of Mr. Bennet, Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference, (Austen 2), probably due to her intelligence and her love of books. Her father shares this love with her, constantly holding up in the library away from the constant activity of the book. Eliza is of the lower rich class as her father only has an annual income of about 2,000 pounds and only 5,000 pounds settled on his wife and children. Her fathers house, once he passes away, is to be entailed to Mr. Collins, Elizas second cousin and the preacher whose patroness is Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, usually only called Mr. Darcy throughout the book, on the other hand, is the son of an Earl and owner of an estate well known among people throughout the book as one of the biggest and most beautiful in the region, Pemberley Estate. Many women found Mr. Darcy rather appealing aesthetically. Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcys favorite friend finds an interest in Elizas older sister almost automatically in the book. Mr. Darcy is of the upper rich class.
The story begins when Mr. Bingley rents Netherfield Estate. Mrs. Bennet, consumed by the desire to see her daughters married (Analysis of Major Characters), then bothers her husband about going over to introduce himself for the benefit of their children. In the day and age this story is set a woman could not get to know a man with out the proper introduction of herself by somebody else, preferably a male and even better her own father. Soon after Mr. Bennet and Mr. Bingley had become acquainted a ball took place. Not only did Mrs. Bennet and all five of her daughters attend but Mr. Bingley and his sisters and his best friend, Mr. Darcy. At the ball we immediately learn all about Mr. Darcy who refuses to dance with Eliza stating She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men, (Austen 9). He snubs every woman in the room in the same manner except for Bingleys unmarried sister whom he danced with only a few turns. Immediately he is labeled proud, arrogant, and obnoxious and someone unworthy of any girls time no matter how much he made annually, even Mrs. Bennet saw him as an unfit husband. Eliza, though she does not admit it to anyone, is peeved by the remark about her, which was said, within her earshot. She obviously had never been rejected in anyway due to not being aesthetically pleasing.
As the plot unfolds we find that Eliza and Darcy are rather similar in their faults. Eliza and Darcy both tend to take pride in who they are, and are prejudiced against those that are different personalities and background. Elizabeths prejudice tends to come from her self-respect and as a protector against those who make her feel less of herself. She is also considerably stubborn, Persuaded that he could have no explanation to give with a strong prejudice against anything he might say (Austen 172). Her opinion of Mr. Darcy is so strong and vivid that she refuses to be open minded when he tries to explain himself while she is at Charlottes. This is also seen in the scene where she confronts Darcy about why she thinks he is such a horrid man including reasons such as what he did to Mr. Wickham.
Elizabeths motivation and her view on things seem to come from her want to fulfill the expectations of her father who wants her to portray herself as an intelligent and well rounded young woman. Her parents are also her strengths, and the reason as to why she has such a profound personality. For example her mother, Mrs. Bennet, wants her to be like a puppet, just to be a housewife who is interested in social standings. But her father is the voice of reason; he shows her that being an educated woman allows her to make choices. When first interacting with people Elizabeth is very open minded to humble, honest people. Prideful and self-centered people, on the other hand, she automatically hates and will not listen to.
She is very strong-minded, and is not easily persuaded against her personal views. Her main weakness is that she is very prejudiced without realization. She has a very complex personality because she has a mind of her own and acts upon her own thoughts, regardless of what others may have to say. This type of personality among woman was not seen yet during this time period. Woman were not as educated as Elizabeth was during her time, their main concerns were usually the arts and things that were house-based.
Elizabeth seems to have a problem in distinguishing whats morally right and wrong. She seems to be against people being prejudice, but doesnt seem to realize that she is as well till the very end of the story when she falls in love with Darcy. At one point Darcy told her that her defect is willfully to misunderstand everybody. In the end she noticed her mistakes when she says, How despicably have I acted I, who have prided myself discernment, I, who have valued myself on my abilities (Austen 187-188).
The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which tuned the tide of his popularity; for he as discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend," (Austen7). Everyones view of Darcy at first seems to be very unarguable. For they were not wrong he was a prideful man, and looked down upon those who were of lower class. He is a very obstinate man, proud, haughty, and arrogant and ends up alienating himself from the townspeople during the first ball because he comes to think that they are not worthy of his presence. Darcys reasoning for being so prideful, were - Pride relates more to the opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us. (Austen 19) Pride, the main characteristic of Darcy, was mainly due to his familys allowing him to follow his principles in pride and conceit. (Austen 310) He was raised to care for and respect only his family and himself. This is probably why his first thoughts of Elizabeth were She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me".
The main reason as to why pride and prejudice existed among the higher and lower classes was due to how they each interacted with one another and what they thought about the other. At the time the rich used to marry those who were rich in the same class to they would only get richer. It was rarely ever seen on of high class marrying one of a lower class. For example how Lady Catherine wanted Darcy to marry her daughter even though they were first cousins. This is why Lady de Bourgh thought it was so outrageous that her nephew would marry someone so beneath himself.
According to Compton's by Britannica in Pride and Prejudice Austen reverses the convention of first impressions: pride of rank and fortune, and prejudice against Elizabeth's inferiority of family, hold Darcy aloof; while Elizabeth is equally fired both by the pride of self-respect and by prejudice against Darcy's snobbery. Ultimately, they come together in love and mutual understanding. Throughout the book the two characters develop and grow into loving and caring people. They obviously changed each other and eventually were the best couple of the whole book.