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First Impressions in Pride and Prejudice

By koalagirl333 May 07, 2013 576 Words
For centuries, first impressions have been an important part of life. When first meeting someone, an opinion is immediately formed. Whether or not these impressions turn out to be true, a first impression can have consequences. In the book Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen many first impressions are made and are often proved wrong. Austen illustrates that first impressions can be misleading using her character Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a positive character, something Austen uses to influence the reader and lead them to believe her initial impressions are accurate. Austen proves that judgements made quickly aren’t always reliable through Elizabeth’s encounters with the characters of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham. Through Elizabeth, Austen influences the reader to judge and create a first impression about Fitzwilliam Darcy. Mr. Darcy is first introduced to the reader at the Meryton ball, an ideal place for first impressions to be formed because men and women are dressed up and ready to be judged for their appearance and social status. Austen describes Darcy as “having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend (Mr. Bingley)” (Austen 12). Austen portrays Mr. Darcy as arrogant and supercilious in order to persuade the reader to form a unlikeable first impression of him, only later to redeem him and prove the first impression wrong. Every time Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy the readers opinion of him continues to decline until the views of him are unfavorable. Because Elizabeth’s first impression was unpromising, she continues to view all further interactions with him in a negative light. If she had first judged him in a positive way, she would have viewed other encounters in a favorable way. A quick prejudicial judgement of someone can have negative consequences. The reader first meets Mr. Wickham when Elizabeth sees him one day while in Meryton and immediately forms a good opinion of his character. Elizabeth thinks very highly of Mr. Wickham and is interested romantically in him. Austen portrays Mr. Wickham as polite and very gentlemanlike (Austen 86). Elizabeth's cheerful opinion of Mr. Wickham convinces the reader that he has a good character. The reader’s negative opinion of Mr. Darcy is further confirmed when Mr. Wickham tells Elizabeth of Mr. Darcy cheating him out of his rightful inheritance. Austen conveys that Wickham is a positive character through these interactions. Austen soon proves to the reader that their first impressions of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham were incorrect and unfair when Elizabeth reads a letter from Darcy telling the truth about Wickham’s inheritance. The letter says that Mr. Darcy gave Mr. Wickham what he wanted but Wickham spent it foolishly and returned for more. Their dislike of each other escalated when Wickham tried to elope with Darcy’s young sister in order to gain her fortune (Austen 227). Austen then makes Elizabeth realize that her former understandings of the two men were inaccurate. The author demonstrates that they have completely misjudged Wickham and Darcy based on Elizabeth’s initial impressions and that first impressions aren’t always true. In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen makes the point that first impressions can be false and misleading. The author skillfully manipulates the reader into believing Elizabeth’s first impressions about these characters, only to have them reveal their true personalities by the end of the novel. Austen demonstrates that opinions about someone shouldn’t be created until the real character and morals are thoroughly known. A prejudicial rush to judgement can be deceiving

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