1. Jane Austen’s original title for the novel was First Impressions. What role do first impressions play in Pride and Prejudice?
C1: Pride and Prejudice is, first and foremost, a novel about surmounting obstacles and achieving romantic happiness. For Elizabeth, the heroine, and Darcy, her eventual husband, the chief obstacle resides in the book’s original title: First Impressions. Darcy, the proud, prickly noblewoman’s nephew, must break free from his original dismissal of Elizabeth as “not handsome enough to tempt me,” and from his class-based prejudice against her lack of wealth and family connections. Elizabeth’s first impressions, meanwhile, catalogue Darcy as arrogant and self-satisfied; as a result, she later accepts slanderous accusations against him as true.
Both Elizabeth and Darcy are forced to come to grips with their own initial mistakes. Structurally, the first half of the novel traces Darcy’s progression to the point at which he is able to admit his love in spite of his prejudice. In the second half, Elizabeth’s mistaken impressions are supplanted by informed realizations about Darcy’s true character. Darcy’s two proposals to Elizabeth chart the mature development of their relationship. He delivers the first at the mid-point of the novel, when he has realized his love for Elizabeth but has not yet escaped his prejudices against her family, and when she is still in the grip of her first, negative impression of him. The second proposal—in which Darcy humbly restates his love for her and Elizabeth, now with full knowledge of Mr. Darcy’s good character, happily accepts—marks the arrival of the two characters, each finally achieving the ability to view the other through unprejudiced eyes.
C2: First impressions and separation of social classes plays a very active role in the whole theme of Pride and Prejudice. In this novel by Jane Austen, we don’t only see how first impressions effect relationships, but we also how the characters in this story experience transformation through their experiences of first impressions, pride and prejudice.
First impressions cause these characters’ preconceived notions, based on wealth and class to activate more pride and prejudice against each other. Elizabeth Bennet’s first impression of Mr. Darcy is that he is “proud, above his company, and above being pleased,” (ch. 3) while Mr. Darcy’s first impression of Elizabeth is that she is not handsome enough to tempt him. The fact that her and her family are not wealthy and her mother is a bit overwhelming and pushy also has an impact on Mr. Darcy’s pride and prejudice toward Elizabeth.
Furthermore, Elizabeth’s pride and prejudice toward Mr. Darcy continues to grow stronger. She is oblivious of his admiration toward her, because she figures a man like him would never love her and she could never love a man with so much pride and conceit. With the confusion of Mr. Darcy’s true character it takes her almost the entire novel to discover the truth about him: the truth about him and Wickham and his true reasoning for parting Bingley and Jane.
Pride and Prejudice is a story about a man who changes into a better man and his true and upstanding character, and he blossoms into a true gentleman. It’s also about a woman who changes because her perception of this man has been clarified. Both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy learn to see beyond their first impressions of each other and learn how to make things right. Both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy act out of misjudgment, pride, prejudice, and lack of open communication right from the very beginning of their acquaintance. Although they are both extremely guilty of these character flaws, Elizabeth accomplished a greater transformation because, ironically, her pride and prejudice exceeded Mr. Darcy, who was known throughout the entire first two volumes for his pride and prejudice. They are much alike in character, however, and they both undergo great transformation.