Pride and Prejudice Essays

Essay Introduction

Over two hundred years have passed since Jane Austen published Pride and Prejudice. Since then, society, gender roles, and many mannerisms have changed drastically. Women’s rights have since expanded, and social class is not set in stone, meaning now all people have the opportunity for greater economic success, and nobody is curtsying unless, of course, to the Queen of England. One thing has remained the same, though, and that is the world’s love for romance novels. Pride and Prejudice is noted as one of the greatest of all time.

Research Paper on Pride and Prejudice

The novel follows the conflicted love story of Elizabeth Bennet, a witty outspoken young woman born in a middle-class family, and Mr. Darcy, a reserved, somewhat snobbish wealthy man. It would be a mistake to claim that romance is the only element written in Austen’s novel. It is, in fact, the moral foundation or character conscience that makes the novel so great. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, two completely different characters, embark on a moral journey as they face their own pride and Prejudice against each other and the conforms of society. When characters examine their own conscience, it is when the turning points of the story occur. Moreso, Austen lets the characters do the speaking. She limits descriptive details of the character’s actions and instead has them express their own personality verbally. In the novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen uses historical setting and character dialogue to illustrate character morals and tell a whirlwind romance story.

Argumentative Essay Examples on Pride and Prejudice

Set in England during the early 1800s, Pride and Prejudice was modeled on the historical setting of Jane Austen’s life. At this moment in history, England was still considered an aristocracy or hierarchy based on property. The aristocracy and gentry owned about two-thirds of the land in England and were appointed by the crown to govern the countryside. People took their place on a pyramid, where the rich and powerful sat at the top, and the poor lay powerless at the bottom. While new economic opportunities boosted life expectancy and quality of life, they also reinforced social class divisions that had existed in Britain for centuries. With the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution, the middle class rose greatly due to the need for skilled labor. They took positions such as teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, governesses, and clerks. The upper class suddenly felt the pressure as the middle class soon weighed them. As a result, they tried to increase their representation in parliament, but reform acts restricted them, giving the middle class, also known as commoners, equal or increased representation in parliament.

Thesis Statement for Pride and Prejudice

Unlike the middle class in the 19th century, the lower class was left unaccounted for. The lower class was known as the unskilled laborers, too poor to be educated or become acquainted with a well enough trade. So, the lower class took up menial jobs. These jobs were often dangerous and paid terribly. At this point in English history, there were no labor laws to protect them. Among the lower class, child labor was seen as a necessity just to earn ends meet. Children took up jobs such as chimney sweeping and mining, working long hours that would be considered abuse today. The fact that the unskilled workers were left to survive in terrible living conditions showed the lack of sympathy from the government during Jane Austen’s lifetime.

Research Papers on Pride and Prejudice

In the early 1800s, women in England were much less people than they were property. Their lives were completely controlled by men. Starting with their fathers, brothers, male relatives, and then husbands. There was a lot of pressure on young women. According to society, their only purpose in life was to find a husband. Then, they were to reproduce, hopefully, a son heir for their husband’s wealth and property and to ensure that if the husband died before them, they would have a place to live. It was almost uncommon for a woman not to get married during the 19th century. In fact, it was even frowned upon. As soon as a woman married, her inheritance was given to her husband. In other words, a dowry was given to her husband by her father. As soon as the marriage was finalized, as stated by the law and marriage vows, her husband owned her, and she was officially his property. Marriage was a lifetime commitment, and only the very rich and noble were granted the right to divorce by parliament. If a woman tried to leave her marriage, she would be caught and punished by the law. It was not until 1891 that women could file for divorce.

Women’s Classes in 19th Century England

During this time period, women were divided into three different classes. They were either a part of the upper-working class, lower-working class, or underclass. Each class was individually distinct in all aspects of life. The woman in the underclass, dressed in dirty, ripped clothes, were deprived of any education and often had to turn to prostitution to support their livelihoods. The majority of women in England resided in the lower-working class and often had little to no inheritance to support them, so they began working as soon as they turned eight. They held jobs in domestic service and became seamstresses and servants to the wealthy. Both the lower-working class and the underclass were despised by the upper class simply because of their lack of class, but the reality was that their lives did not allow for such a fortune.

The upper-working class was where the most prestigious women established themselves. These women did not work but focused more on showing their wealth and high status primarily through the fashion they wore. Such fashion included corsets, gloves, and veils, royalties the other classes could never afford. Higher-class women most likely received a basic education in reading, writing, and playing the piano. During the 19th century and previous centuries before, it was hard to move up on the social class pyramid. This insinuated that women from the upper class were mostly raised by fathers of high inheritance. The higher the inheritance, the more likely a man of high standing would want to marry her to increase his own wealth.

It is important to note why all this history regarding society, wealth, and gender plays such an important role in the novel Pride and Prejudice. In the very first sentence, Jane Austen writes one of her most notable lines, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” With this one sentence, Austen acknowledges the morals of society in the 19th century and introduces the plot of the story. Where the morals of society and the plot meet based on the continuous storyline of several female characters pursuing men of outstanding wealth. However, it would be inaccurate to assume that only a man of good fortune would want a wife. Therefore, the narrator alludes to the concept that women, not quite as big a fortune, are also on the lookout for a husband, presumably with a good one. In the very first chapter, it is made clear that the only way for a woman to increase her social standing is to have an advantageous marriage. Thus begins the start of the novel, when a man of good fortune named Mr. Bingley arrives at Netherfield.

Darcy’s Initial Impressions and Superiority

In order to set up the storyline of Pride and Prejudice, one must be introduced to the main characters. Austen starts with the Bennets, a middle-class family composed of five daughters. Due to the lack of a male son, as soon as Mr. Bennet dies, his estate will go to his nephew Mr. Collins. Hence, it is vital that the daughters marry well and hopefully quickly before his passing so that they do not fall into prostitution or homelessness. Austen focuses particularly on one sister, the second eldest, Elizabeth. Elizabeth, although well-bred compared to her younger sisters, was a modern-day feminist of her time. She shared her opinions somewhat freely and refused to marry out of necessity, which was an extraordinary statement to make when a woman’s life depended on marriage at the time.

Marrying out of love was a luxury Elizabeth certainly could not afford, but nonetheless persisted in the hopes of not conforming to society’s ways. When Netherfield estate is bought, it is made known to the Bennet family that a wealthy man named Mr. Bingley has purchased it. Immediately Jane, Elizabeth’s older sister, is deemed by their mother, Mrs. Bennet, to be the worthiest daughter for him to marry. When the Bennets are introduced to Mr. Bingley, who is sweet and awkward but deemed gentlemen, they also meet Mr. Darcy. To their displeasure and, evidently, to his, Mr. Darcy comes off as miserable and ignorant, as he pays very little interest toward the Bennet family. This marks the beginning of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s whirlwind relationship.

Upon Darcy’s introduction, nearly everyone makes preconceived notions about his character. Although, Elizabeth is the only one justified in her dislike towards Mr. Darcy because she overhears his rude remarks aimed at her during the ball at Meryton. It is when Mr. Bingley suggests to his good friend Mr. Darcy that Elizabeth would also make a fine companion:

“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 humor 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.”

Upon first glance, Darcy deems Elizabeth unworthy of his attention, or even a dance, due to her obvious social status. His miserable and cold composure suggests that he feels superior towards the people of Meryton. Unbeknownst to Darcy, Elizabeth hears his comments. Evidently hurt by him calling her “not handsome enough,” Elizabeth admits, “I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine.” Elizabeth feels no pity telling the rest of the town of his bad manners and obvious pride. With just one encounter, Darcy gains an unpleasant reputation with the people of Meryton.

On the contrary, Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s dear friend, finds truth in his being prideful: ‘His pride,’ said Miss Lucas, ‘does not offend me so much as pride often does because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, and everything in his favor, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.’

Charlotte believes that people of a particular wealth threshold deserve the right to be prideful. If not the right, then they are simply raised to be. Growing up in a wealthy family, being accustomed to high society, and then encountering or mingling with lower classes would be a culture shock. It is to be noted, though, that Charlotte knows nothing of Darcy’s character. She simply bases her opinion on the knowledge of his wealth and good looks.

Darcy’s comments result in an interesting dialogue between him and Elizabeth throughout the entirety of the novel. Even though Darcy’s brash insult cuts Elizabeth deep, she does not fall down the road of self-pity. His obscene rudeness leaves Elizabeth with a negative impression of him, and she, therefore, does not feel the need to respect him, even though he is a man with great wealth. A feminist of her time, Elizabeth wittily, with a hint of disdain, responds to all of his inquiries. Not one to hold her tongue, Elizabeth is not afraid to subtly let Darcy know she heard his short remarks.

She leaves Darcy quite surprised at her courage, especially since he outranks her in class and gender. Despite the fact that their acquaintance is spoiled upon their first meeting, they are unfortunately reunited at Mr. Bingley’s ball. Mr. Darcy, against his will, finds himself intrigued by Elizabeth: To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.

Darcy requests a dance with Elizabeth, but she refuses, unwilling to forgive his ignorance when they first meet. But her refusal makes Mr. Darcy all the more intrigued by her, and the narrator declares: ‘Her resistance had not injured her with the gentleman, and he was thinking of her with some complacency.’ With every disinterest towards him and display of self-worth for herself, the more attracted Darcy becomes to her. When Mr. Bingley’s sister, Miss Bingley, persistently tries to belittle Elizabeth because of her class and looks, it only makes Elizabeth appear ever so more charming. In addition, Elizabeth has her own opinions, which differentiates her from Miss Bingley and probably all of the other women Mr. Darcy has been of acquaintance with.


Even though Darcy’s opinion of Elizabeth is slowly turning into admiration, their intellectual banter continues as they try to figure each other out. A common discussion between the two usually sparks due to their differences.

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