Pride and Prejudice


Symbols and Themes

Pride—Nearly every character in the novel is touched by pride, each in his or her own way. Elizabeth is the main character and the one most critical of proud people. What she does not realize until halfway through the novel is that she herself is deeply tainted by pride and must work to overcome this fault. She scorns everyone who does not meet her standards of decency. In this way, Mr. Darcy is her perfect counterpart, for he treats people the exact same way. While Elizabeth is disgusted by his treatment of others, he is charmed by her liveliness of spirit and acts as the instrument of her self-awareness.

Other characters, like Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins, are proud and insensible. They must be suffered, as Charlotte suffers them. Mary Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, and others fall into this category. Mary Bennet’s pride, for example, is demonstrated in her pedantic style of speaking and in her way of distinguishing herself (since she is not pretty) by means of vocabulary and piano playing—neither of which is very charming, however, since both are performed out of pride rather than out of humility.

Still others are viciously proud, like Wickham. He is deceitfully proud, hiding his pride behind affability and smiles. He is out for his own interest and will spare no one in achieving his secret aims.

Others are proud in subtle ways. Jane, for example, who is the picture of humility and grace, is too reserved in her affection for Bingley (which may be understood as an excess of modesty based on pride), even though she is very much in love with him. Her unwillingness to show it causes Bingley to later doubt her love. Jane must learn to overcome her fear of making a display of her feelings.

Prejudice—Prejudice serves as an obstacle to be overcome in the novel and appears most consistently in the form of social/class discrimination. For example, one of the biggest obstacles to marriage is the fact that one of the persons is outside the other’s social class, meaning that he or she has been...

Sign up to continue reading Symbols and Themes >

Essays About Pride and Prejudice