The novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen was originally titled First Impressions. This is significant because it reflects the values and attitudes of 19th century England, and portrays the main themes of the novel. It is set in England during the 1800's and Austen focuses on a society whose opinions are based on first impressions. This is achieved through cultural context, characterisation, narratorial commentary, and methods/techniques.
During the 19th Century, first impressions were very important. The reader is presented with Meryton, a highly structured class society which judges people on superficial qualities, such as physical appearance, social status, clothes, possessions, behaviour, dialogue. The message Austen positions the reader to understand, is that a society which makes its judgements based on first impressions is immoral and unjust. (-She uses humour' to help convey this in a less-serious tone.) For example, Mrs Bennett's first impressions of Mr Bingley were based upon his behaviour and physical appearance. "Oh! My dear, I am quite delighted with him. He is so excessively handsome!" (Page 16) Mrs Bennett has a driving force in her behaviour to marry her daughters to wealthy men, who were financially stable and socially accepted, so her liking to Mr Bingley is reinforced by his interest in her eldest daughter Jane. "Mr Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and danced with her twice. Think of that my dear; he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time!" (Page 15) In contrast, Mrs Bennett's first impression of Mr Darcy was that he is cold, abrupt, and proud. This is established because of his manner and behaviour. The narrator describes Darcy's behaviour in chapter 1; Mr Darcy danced only once with Mrs Hurst and once with Miss Bingley, declined being introduced to any other lady and spent the rest of the evening walking about the room speaking occasionally to one of his own party....
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