Pride and Prejudice conveys a commentary on society in the 1800s; it describes the society at the time while also presenting Jane Austenr’s generally dissenting opinion on it. In the book, Austen states certain things like facts and then throughout the story, the characters either fall into place or rebel against societal expectations. This is how she establishes her opinions.
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Austen makes the characters who rebel against what society wants sympathetic while showing the issues that arise with the characters who follow along and making some of those characters antagonistic. To provide some examples, Austen uses these situations to prove her points; Mr. Darcy and Elizabethr’s first impression and eventual romance, Mr. Collinr’s pandering to Lady Catherine, and Mr. Wickham and Lydiar’s elopement.
Mr. Darcy makes a pretty terrible first impression to Elizabeth, and that impression lingers for the better first half of the whole book. At first, Austen has Mr. Darcy fall in line with the social stereotypes for a man of his standing when her’s rude to Elizabeth because of her lower class and not being handsome enough for him, as shown in this quote: Which do you mean? and turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me. Darcy is basically falling right into how many men were at the time. Elizabethr’s social standing wasnt high enough for him to consider her for a moment. Her’s prejudiced against her from the start, which is why the title of the book is what it is. Austen shows her own opinion on how Darcy acts by making him an antagonistic character. Elizabeth and her family are offended by him because of how he treats Elizabeth.
Even when Darcy starts to fall in love with Elizabeth, her’s still a jerk because when he proposes to her. He talks about how he loves her even though her’s lowering himself to her social standing, as developed in this quote: He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed; and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority of its being a degradation of the family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit. Darcy is still antagonistic at this point. Her’s so worried about his class and social standing that he even makes a point of it in his proposal to the woman her’s hoping to marry, which the book makes out to be ridiculous and offensive. Austen superimposes many of her views on this subject through Elizabeth. How Elizabeth reacts gives us a hint to what Austen thinks about the subject as well. When Elizabeth angrily rejects Mr. Darcy, itr’s showing Austenr’s opinion on people being so extremely preoccupied with class differences.
However, Mr. Darcy doesnt stay as an unsympathetic character, and eventually, the main romance of the book is allowed to develop in tandem to Mr. Darcyr’s own development. Slowly throughout the course of the rest of the story, Mr. Darcy realizes that he loves Elizabeth and her class should not and will not have an effect on his desire to marry her. Once he makes this clear to Elizabeth, we see Austenr’s opinions again through Elizabethr’s reaction. When Lady Catherine confronts Elizabeth with her misguided view that Elizabeth is Darcyr’s social inferior, Elizabeth replies, In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentlemanr’s daughter; so far we are equal. Elizabethr’s words reveal how Austen thinks marriage should work; that Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are equal, and any social distance between them should not be a factor considered over love.
The second social commentary Austen makes is via Mr. Collins and his relationship with Lady Catherine. Mr. Collins is one of the most extreme characters in regards to his opinions on class. While Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham share his views, at least at first, Mr. Collins is the most bumbling and obvious about it. Mr. Collins basically sees himself as the cream of the crop because her’s clergy, as shown here: My dear Miss Elizabeth, [ ] permit me to say, that there must be a wide difference between the established forms of ceremony amongst the laity, and those which regulate the clergy; for, give me leave to observe that I consider the clerical office as equal in point of dignity with the highest rank in the kingdom – provided that a proper humility of behavior is at the same time maintained. Her’s basically saying here that he considers himself equal to the highest social standing among the nobility, or non-clerical members of society. We can see Austenr’s opinion on this purely through the fact that she makes Mr. Collins extremely irritating throughout the entire story. He never stops being annoying, and he never changes his views on society, unlike Darcyr’s character arc.
Mr. Collins tries to get with Jane and Elizabeth during the story. He doesnt propose to Jane because he recognizes that Mr. Bingley likes her; however, since Elizabeth is not currently engaged with anyone, Mr. Collins proposes to her. Elizabeth absolutely refuses, much to the anger of her mother. Elizabethr’s mother tries to force Elizabeth into marrying Mr. Collins. During this conversation, Mr. Collins further reveals his personality and why Elizabeth and the reader are definitely not supposed to like him: Pardon me for interrupting you, madam, cried Mr. Collins; but if she is really headstrong and foolish, I know not whether she would altogether be a very desirable wife to a man in my situation, who naturally looks for happiness in the marriage state. If therefore she actually persists in rejecting my suit, perhaps it were better not to force her into accepting me, because if liable to such defects of temper, she could not contribute much to my felicity. Mr. Collins is basically saying here that he considers Elizabeth foolish for not accepting his proposal, and since her’s concerned with his own happiness, he changes his mind about marrying her. Itr’s evident that he doesnt care about his future wifer’s feelings, though. Mr. Collins continues to be characterized as an unsympathetic character, and thatr’s Austenr’s intentions.
When the reader meets Mr. Collinr’s patron, Lady Catherine, they are absolutely not supposed to like her either. Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins fit together perfectly in regards to their opinions on class and society. Theyre both extreme examples of what upper-class folks were supposed to think during that time period. When Elizabeth goes to visit Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins makes this statement: Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel. Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us which becomes herself and her daughter. I could advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest there is no occasion for anything more. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved. With this one quote, before we even meet Lady Catherine, Austen makes it clear what were supposed to think about her. The line, She likes to have the distinction of rank preserved, is immediately intended to be an irritant to the reader and to Elizabeth herself. Throughout the entire visit, Lady Catherine shows herself to be extremely preoccupied with rank and class, and Elizabeth dislikes her for it.
Finally, Lydiar’s marriage to Mr. Wickham really develops what Austen thinks about reputation. When Lydia runs away with Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins says this: The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison of this. [ ] Howsoever that may be, you are grievously to be pitied; in which opinion I am not only joined by Mrs. Collins, but likewise by Lady Catherine and her daughter, to whom I have related the affair. They agree with me in apprehending that this false step in one daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves with such a family? Her’s saying that Lydia being dead would be better than her running off with a guy! That level of concern about oner’s social standing is insane. Lady Catherine shares his views, as also developed in this quote: I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sisterr’s infamous elopement. I know it all; that the young manr’s marrying her was a patched-up business, at the expence of your father and uncles. And is such a girl to be my nephewr’s sister? Is her husband, is the son of his late fatherr’s steward, to be his brother? Heaven and earth! of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted? Lady Catherine is saying that because of Lydiar’s elopement, the entire Bennet family would go into disgrace. Since this is coming from an unsympathetic character, it shows what Austen thinks about that concept. The fact that Lydiar’s marriage would have ruined the Bennet family is shown to be an offense to the other Bennet sisters.
However, despite this, Lydia is still portrayed as an unsympathetic character after she gets married, as shown in this quote: Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless. She turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations; and when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room, took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a laugh, that it was a great while since she had been there. Through Lydiar’s characterization, we see that while the fact that the Bennet sisters would be shamed is reprehensible, Austen still thinks that Lydiar’s judgment was bad. Lydia is foolish and made a bad decision when she ran off with Mr. Wickham. However, her choices shouldnt bring shame to the other sisters. Although, the situation that Lydia placed the sisters in made Mr. Darcyr’s intervention all the kinder, as he saves the Bennets from shame out of his own pocket.
In conclusion, Jane Austen reveals her personal opinion through her characterr’s thoughts, actions, and how theyre perceived. Using Mr. Darcyr’s character arc, Mr. Collinr’s relationship with Lady Catherine, and Lydiar’s marriage, the reader sees what Austen thinks about the social expectations and rules of the time. Austen portrays characters who are preoccupied with social class and standing as unsympathetic and sometimes antagonistic, like Mr. Darcy at the beginning of the book and Lady Catherine throughout.
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