From Pride to Prejudice
Pride is defined as high or too high opinion of one’s own dignity, importance or worth; the condition or feeling of being proud; a noble sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character; self respect; self esteem.
The definition of prejudice is; an opinion, usually unfavorable, which is formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason; a disadvantage resulting from some judgment or action of another (Websters Dictionary).
Pride and prejudice are two essential ideas in Jane Austens novel. In the novel Pride and Prejudice, pride comes in for Austens sharper criticism. She has chosen to personify this trait in several characters of the novel. Although, throughout the novel it is hard to find one character alone that portrays prejudice. When prejudice does occur in this novel, Jane Austen has shown it in the hands of a notoriously proud character. Because prejudice is not personified, or depicted as a major characteristic flaw, one would believe that it was not to be the object of Jane Austen’s focal point.
Jane Austen has depicted pride in her minor functional characters as a means of demonstrating its importance as a theme of this novel. Lady Catherine is one of the main offenders. Characters such as Mr. Collins fuel the Ladys arrogance and pride, as he is put there to satire proud people and their followers. Another important character to note is Mr. Darcy. He is an extremely important character in this novel, a major character in fact. In the beginning of the novel, the reader, Elizabeth, and the community of the shire perceive Mr. Darcy to be excessively proud. Given that our perception of his character, along with Elizabeths perception, has changed throughout the novel, points to Jane Austen’s criticism of pride and snobbery. This insinuates that once pride, and prejudice along with it, is done away with, a character becomes much more favorable. It is also noted that Lady Catherine does not sway from her proud arrogant position throughout the entirety of the novel. This is partly to provide a contrast between the supposed arrogance of Mr. Darcy at the beginning of the novel, and his change in behavior near the end of the novel.
Throughout this novel we are shown the arrogant and haughty dispositions of the upperclass of this society. We are also shown the exceptions to the stereotype, namely Mr. Bingley and Miss Darcy. These upperclass people are exceedingly proud of their great fortunes and estates. As a result of their emphasis on monetary issues, they are prejudiced against, and commit acts of prejudice towards their financial and social inferiors. An example of this is in the beginning of the novel, at the ball, when Mr. Darcy snubs Elizabeth Bennet in an act of prejudice. He refuses to dance with her on account of her being not handsome enough to tempt (him) (pg. 9). After being described throughout the chapter as “the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world (pg. 8). Because he would not socialize, it is evident that he feels superior or more likely prejudice towards the people who are not in the same class as him. He danced only once with Mrs. Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady, and spent the rest of the evening walking about the room, speaking occasionally to one of his own party
(Pg. 8). Mr. Darcys refusal to dance with Elizabeth Bennet is consistent with the rest of his snobbery and it is logical that he is slighting Elizabeth Bennet because he is excessively proud and does not feel that she is worthy of him.
Another example of a proud character executing prejudice on an inferior candidate is Miss Bingley and Mr. Darcy’s conspiracy against Mr. Bingley and Miss Bennet’s courtship and inevitable marriage. Together, Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley decide that Mr. Bingley and Jane are not suited and therefore should not be married because Jane’s background is not worthy of Mr. Bingley’s rich, socially handsome estate. Firstly, Mr. Darcy influences Bingley to leave Netherfield. Then Miss Bingley fails to tell him of Jane’s presence in London, even though she knows that it would be of great interest to him. Combined, Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley is a force to be reckoned with. Miss Bingley being prejudice towards Jane is an attempt to protect dear Mr. Bingley. It is because of her pride, and her warped perceptions, that influences her to think she would be doing the right thing by keeping Jane and Mr. Bingley apart. Clearly, pride causes people to develop unjustified prejudice views against fellow human beings.
Lady Catherine’s bullying of Elizabeth towards the end of the novel is an effort to keep Elizabeth from marrying Mr. Darcy. This comes about as Lady Catherine feeling that her daughter was more entitled to Darcy than Elizabeth was. This is derived from Elizabeths lower social status and her lower monetary value. The Lady argues, Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” This is an act of extreme arrogance stemming from her prejudice against Elizabeth. Lady Catherine, as a result of her pride, believes she is more important than everybody she is acquainted with is. The Lady also feels that everyone else should respect and honor her family, especially Elizabeth. Elizabeth is expected to do so by rejecting a proposal from a man whom she loves. This obscene assumption on Lady Catherine’s behalf is as a result of her prejudice towards the Bennet’s because of their lower income, and social status. The prejudice against them for such a reason is rooted in Catherines own arrogant pride.
In the case of the characteristics: pride and prejudice, the two key themes of the novel, one would perceive that pride comes in for the sharper criticism by Jane Austen. This is evident because of her personification of pride, in characters like Lady Catherine, and the fact that the prejudice, which does occur in the novel, is accompanied by pride. It is probable that prejudice is rooted in pride. Through the incidents mentioned previous, prejudice has been shown to be a result of arrogant pride. Because pride is an underlying emotive in the prejudiced actions of the characters, Jane Austen is justified in her more sharply criticism of pride.