Elizabeth’s Pride and Darcy’s Prejudice?
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a timeless social comedy which is both satirical and full of sentiment. The title refers to the personalities of the two main characters and cues the reader to Austen’s broader thematic purpose: to satirize nineteenth century manners and morals, especially as they relate to courtship and manners. Although both characters contain both these traits, it is mainly Mr. Darcy who exemplifies ‘pride’ while Elizabeth Bennet exemplifies ‘prejudice.’ However, one of the book’s many ironies is that the prejudiced Elizabeth thinks it is Mr. Darcy who has the overall prejudiced disposition. Likewise, proud Darcy thinks it is Elizabeth who is most often proud. Through the course of the novel, these characters grow and through each other, discover their own foibles-- Elizabeth is indeed prejudiced and Darcy is indeed proud. Armed with this growth and heightened moral insight, the couple is rewarded with happiness and fulfillment at the end of the novel. But what if their initial beliefs were correct? Let’s say that Mr. Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice were switched within the context of Austen’s plot and narrative structure. Could a proud Elizabeth and a prejudice Darcy grow in self-awareness through the circumstances of the novel and gain a better understanding of human condition? Before Austen allows her characters to have a ‘fairy-tale’ ending, they must undergo self-growth. Given Austen’s overall view of English class structure and her empathy towards independent and spirited young women, it would be unlikely that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy would resolve their differences and grow as human beings.
It is Mary, Elizabeth Bennet’s younger sister who seems to pinpoint a working definition of “pride” as it is portrayed in the novel. She says: “Pride is a very...
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