Since the year of 1813, Pride and Prejudice has been a very important literary piece. It highlights the ideals of marriage and human nature of the time, though Jane Austen made such an impact, people can still connect it to their culture and time.
The original title of this piece was “First Impressions” but was later changed to Pride and Prejudice as an indication as to what the entire book would be about, and what character flaws we as readers should be paying attention to, especially with the main characters: Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Based on what we read in the novel, we can tell that Elizabeth misjudges Darcy because of her prejudice towards him (and rich people in general) and Darcy misjudges Elizabeth based on his pride over how there were different social classes for a reason and that he was only to associate himself with his own socio-economic class. That said as the story progresses they both have to revise the way they are thinking of both themselves and each other.
The beginning of the story is relatively uneventful. The reader is introduced to all of the Bennet family, we are shown that Mrs. Bennet set her life mission to marry off her daughters to rich men (as was common for that era) and she frets over every little thing, which causes the readers to lose respect for her very close to the beginning if they had any respect for her to begin with. We find that Mr. Bennet’s favorite daughter is Elizabeth, but we also learn that he is a very hands off parent which is understandable, as his wife pretty much runs the show. We learn that Jane (Eldest Bennet Daughter) is the perfect representation of what a girl should have been back then; beautiful, good at music, very lady like, quiet, and good at being a housewife. (See Chapter 8 for information on the ideal woman) The second eldest, Elizabeth Bennet, is a lovely, beautiful young woman of 20 years old, she refuses to get married unless there is a mutual love and sacrifice and bond between she and her partner. We find that Mary is also a representation of a good wife, she is quiet and a bookworm. Next we have Kitty and Lydia Bennet, they are the youngest and they are obsessed with finding a man, especially an officer, these two are flirty and Lydia is 16 years old, not much is given about Kitty or Mary.
As Jane Austen wanted, the main focus is on Darcy and Elizabeth. Darcy is a rich man, it is stated in the novel “Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.” (Chapter 3, Paragraph 4 or 5) That said, the main emphasis being mentioned here is how handsome he was, but he was also very well paid, which was ideal for many of the female characters in the novel. He had an estate in the rich part of the city, also known as Pemberley. Darcy’s father was also a rich man, and it is stated by Darcy in Volume 3 Chapter 8-9, “ I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice, though not in principle. As a child I was taught what was right, but I was not taught to correct my temper. I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. Unfortunately an only son (for many years an only child), I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own.” This was of course in his second proposal to Elizabeth, but it showed how he was raised nonetheless. Due to Darcy being raised in this manner, he had a sense of pride that was extremely swollen, which in turn caused him to look down upon other socio-economic classes that were less than his own, which were many of them due to him being in the second tier of the classes just under the king and queen. He continued this throughout the book until he realized he was falling in love with Elizabeth Bennet. If one were to look back as view his character changes over time, they would see that at the beginning, he was snooty and rude to anyone who was less than he was, (See Chapter 3, “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”) Throughout his interactions with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, we can see how his initial disgust with people of a lower class changed to a mere dislike of them, and then further morphed into respecting them, and even falling in love with someone from a lower class than he. Additionally, we have Elizabeth Bennet, it was stated that her main character flaw is her prejudice to marriage, as well as the prejudice he holds to be true for many upper-class men and women alike. When she first met Darcy, his pride rubbed her the wrong way, though she already sub-conscientiously didn’t like him much based on her prejudices of rich people. The way he acted and what he said about her vexed her. Her initial impression of him was that he was indeed a snooty and stuck up man. This can be illustrated in one way by Mrs. Bennet in Chapter 3 when speaking to her husband about the way Darcy was acting at the ball, “But I can assure you,’ she added, ‘that Lizzy does not lose much by not suiting his fancy; for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your set-downs. I quite detest the man.” And in Chapter 5 when Elizabeth is talking about Darcy, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” She was speaking on when Mr. Darcy said she was not handsome enough to dance with, and when he said Jane was more beautiful than she. That in mind, it isn’t hard to disagree with her, but being how she changed over time needs to be discussed, we shall see that like Darcy, Elizabeth began very full of pride for herself as well as prejudice for Darcy.
This continues this way until around the 2/3 mark in the book after she visits the Pemberley Estate. Here she learns that Darcy is actually a kind man, who treats his servants with respect and pays them generously. It is only then that Elizabeth starts to consciously reevaluate her views towards Darcy (Though she had sub-conscientiously already begun doing so around the halfway point in the novel, as she was imagining herself being the mistress of the house as she was touring it), which goes to show that people can change when their views are challenged. It is a belief held by many that the author (Miss Jane Austen) was trying to show just how people can change one another. She provided these two main characters, which are seemingly foils, though we know they are more alike than different. She did so to allow the readers to see both sides of the fence at one time. Miss Austen focuses mainly of highlighting the character flaws in Pride and Prejudice instead of the positive qualities, she does this to give the reader a sense of satire. In literature the definition of satire is “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues” That said, one can connect how Austen uses a form of satire to point out the main flaws with marrying for money based on marrying for love. Two examples of these relationships are with Jane and Bingley with Darcy and Elizabeth, both married for love, but then you take into account Lydia and Wickham and Charlotte and Mr. Collins. Lydia married Wickham because she was infatuated by him, she was just a kid, merely 16 years of age. She figured he had money to support himself as well as her and she had no knowledge of any money saving tactics, which is a downfall for Wickham (not that he didn’t deserve it) and then we have Charlotte who married Collins out of mere monetary necessity. She is unfulfilled with the marriage, but she lives with it because she is living a comfortable lifestyle, much better than she would have had if she had become a spinster. That said, there is a fulfillment that both Jane and Bingley and Darcy and Elizabeth have because they are in love with one another and they can make it work for richer or poor.
In conclusion, Austen wanted the readers to understand what was wrong with marrying someone for their money but she also wanted us to see the necessity for doing so. Throughout the advancement of the book Darcy and Elizabeth both learn that they must check themselves in any emotions or prejudices they hold towards someone until they actually get to know them, because if not then they could miss opportunities that end up changing who they are for the better. If Elizabeth had not met Darcy she would still be prejudice to rich people, which wouldn’t allow her true happiness in the world. If Darcy hadn’t met Elizabeth, he would still be acting like a snooty, preppy, stuck up man, with too much money to fully know what to do with . Neither one of them would have changed and the story wouldn’t have been able to teach valuable life lessons.