Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

theme of pride in detail

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The two major themes of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice are summed up in the title. The first aspect can be traced in the actions and statements of all of the work's major and many of its minor characters. Pride is the character flaw that causes Elizabeth Bennet to dislike Fitzwilliam Darcy upon theIr first meeting. She perceives in him a cold aloofness that she attributes to ills own inflated opinion of himself Yet Elizabeth herself also suffers from the same flaw; her pride in her own ability to analyze character is such that she refuses to reevaluate Darcy in the face of evidence in his favor.

In some characters, Austen depicts pride overtly. Lady Charlotte de Bourgh is motivated by pride in her family's status to try to break up a potential match between Elizabeth and Darcy. Mrs. Louisa Hurst and Caroline Bingley try to achIeve the same effect with the relationship between their brother Charles Bingley and Jane Bennet. In each case, however, Austen depIcts the pride of these minor characters as ridiculous: "Austen treats pride," writes Robert B. Heilman in "Epluribus unum: Parts and Whole in Pride and Prejudice," "as if it were wholly unproblematic, a failing no less clear-cut than prejudice."

In the case of Elizabeth and Darcy, however, Austen treats pride less directly. On his first appearance in the novel, Darcy appears "above his company and above being pleased," reports Heilman, the "proudest, most disagreeable man in the world." The people who record these observations, the critic continues, "believe that they are seeing sense of superiority, snobbishness, excessive self approval." However, they do not take into consideration that some of the other behavior that Darcy exhibits, such as "reserve, an apparent unresponsiveness to overtures, a holding back from conventional intercourse, pleasantries, and small talk," may actually stem from a quiet personality. So what appears to be pride may be simple shyness or awkwardness. When Elizabeth and others consider Darcy full of pride, they are also condemning him, says Heilman, for not obeying the rules of the "neighborhood social ways." For Darcy and Elizabeth, at least, pride can be more than a simple negative quality.

In fact, pride serves several different functions in the novel In addition to the misplaced pride of the minor characters, there are characters who ne abeth herself come to a realization of the necessity not to reject pride, but to control It.