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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


The title of the novel Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, can 
be interpreted as a theme running through the novel. Pride, observed 
Mary, . . . is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have 
ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human 
nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us 
who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some 
quality or another, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different 
things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be 
proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of
ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us. Pride 
and/or vanity is exhibited in different forms by each character.
Ms. Austen was trying to send the message that an excess of pride or 
vanity is indeed a failing. Those characters who can recognize their 
flaw emerge as the true heroes of the story. 

 In many minor characters of the novel, pride is a common 
characteristic. Mrs. Bennet, for instance, is extremely proud when it
comes to her daughters marriages of mercenary advantage. She is so 
concerned that her neighbors have a high opinion of her that her own 
vanity will not even allow her to think of her daughters love and 
happiness. This is best shown with the case of Elizabeth Bennet s 
proposed marriage to the esteemed Mr. Collins, a man she did not love. 
Mrs. Bennet was so upset when her daughter refused Mr. Collins offer 
that she would not speak to her for passing up such an opportunity. 

 We can see an example of pride for imaginary qualities in Mary 
Bennet who was herself the speaker of this passage. To the 
embarrassment of her family, Mary would take every chance she could to 
put on a show whenever in a public situation. Although she was not 
talented in any of the activities she decided to undertake, her high 
opinion of herself and her desire to esteem herself in the eyes of 
others enabled her to display her supposed talents. 

 Mr. Collins possesses a definite sense of vanity. He is in no 
way concerned about his own opinion of his character, for as we
see his character leaves much to be desired. All he cares about is 
what others think of him. He always needs the approval of his present 
company. When he gives Elizabeth the grand tour of his 
nothing-spectacular home, he is looking for her approval of his
position and possessions. It is not important to Mr. Collins for 
people to like him as a person, they just had better be impressed
his status in life and his connections. 

 Mr. Darcy, as one of the main characters, is for the better part 
of the novel a focus of the theme of pride. His pride is very obvious. 
It is a part of his nature and is seen in his mannerisms and in his 
speech. Darcy has such a high opinion of himself that he does not care 
what others think of him or his prideful actions. He believes that he 
is the best in every way possible and finds that his standing in 
society gives him the right to be critical of those not as perfect as 

 Elizabeth Bennet, the other main character of the novel, is just 
as guilty of being proud as any of the other characters in the novel. 
She prides herself on being unprejudiced and rational in the judgement 
of others. Yet, this is an imaginary quality as she learns that her 
preconceived notions of both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham turn out to be 
false. She is also very proud when Darcy confronts her about her 
family and connections. Although Darcy s accusations of the 
unsophistication of certain of her family members are true, Elizabeth 
is too proud to listen and accept the truth. Instead, she becomes so 
angered with Darcy that it effects her entire relationship with him. 

 Both Darcy and Elizabeth come to recognize their pride as a flaw 
in their respective characters. Darcy realizes that he must check his 
pride in order to be seen in a good light by others. Elizabeth, the 
object of his affections, is so turned off by his prideful ways that a 
touch of vanity enables him to change himself for her. Elizabeth, 
while observing the transformations of Darcy, realizes that she, too, 
has been guilty of too much pride. She sees that she was indeed 
prejudiced and that she must come to terms with the failings of her 
family. Darcy and Elizabeth are able to overcome their pride which 
enables them to live happily ever after.


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