The Effect of Pride in Pride and Prejudice, a Novel by Jane Austen
Full of twists and turns, the comedic and dramatic love story of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice provides many instances where pride interferes with the characters’ lives and ambitions. Pride diverts the characters from expressing their true feelings for one another. As the characters’ pride grows, it begins to affect their attitudes and their judgment, causing them to make risky decisions. While most of the characters are guilty of pride, some characters exhibit it more openly. The two protagonists of the story, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, develop interests in each other that both of them are unwilling to admit at first. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy continuously butt heads throughout the novel, as their pride is often an obstacle in their relationship. Pride interferes with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s lives by hindering their feelings for each other and causing Elizabeth’s quick judgement and Darcy’s snobbish actions.
As she is often quick to judge, Elizabeth uses her pride as a defense mechanism to protect herself from letting herself fall for Mr. Darcy. When Darcy refuses her dance request at the Meryton ball, Elizabeth’s pride tells her to put up her walls and immediately disregard Darcy as a possible love interest. Despite her overwhelming pride in her ability to judge people, she still has underlying feelings for him she does not want to admit. Because of this, her pride does not allow her to dance with Mr. Darcy at the Bingley’s ball, which is a rash decision. Elizabeth is too prideful realize Darcy is not asking her to dance out of pity or obligation, but because he genuinely has an interest in Elizabeth, even though she thought he had made up his mind about her. Furthermore, Elizabeth’s pride continues to be a problem for her when Darcy proposes to her for the first time. Elizabeth cannot put aside her past encounters with Darcy, his alleged mistreatment of Mr. Wickham, or the fact that he tried to separate Jane and Mr. Bingley. With great pride, she says to Darcy, “Had not my own feelings decided against you, had they been indifferent, or had they been favourable, do you think that any consideration would tempt me to accept the man, who has been the means of ruining, perhaps for ever, the happiness of a most beloved sister? (Austen 130)” Blinded by her pride and her prior judgement of Darcy, she fails to realize that his feelings and attitude toward “lower class people” have changed since he first met her, therefore creating yet another setback in their relationship.
Mr. Darcy’s initial thoughts of Elizabeth were negative, as his pride clouded his view of people of lower status than him. At the Meryton ball, Mr. Bingley suggests he ask Elizabeth to dance. Instead of doing so, Darcy tells Bingley, “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. (Austen 7)” Darcy is so prideful that, initially, he cannot approach Elizabeth because she is “unworthy” of his time. However, his feelings for Elizabeth change, as he asks her to dance at the Bingley ball, but gets turned down due to her pride. Despite the fact that his attitude is changing, he crosses the line when he is exposed on having deliberately broken up Mr. Bingley and Jane’s relationship, thinking it was not of best interest for Bingley to become so attached with the Bennets, as they lacked propriety and wealth. His pride hindered his judgement because of his attitude towards people of lower status. While thinking he was doing a favor for a friend, he subconsciously insulted the Bennet family.
Even though Pride and Prejudice was published over 200 years ago, its theme of pride is still as relevant today as it ever was. Pride affects modern society in both good ways and bad. Pride, when expressed in a positive way, can be beneficial to society. For instance, when someone takes pride in his or her school, job, or children, they are exhibiting a positive use of pride. The arrogant type of pride can sometimes be positive, as a prideful person with generally good intentions and ideas can quickly gain popularity and power so that their ideas can be spread to other places. On the other hand, when big-headed political leaders gain power, their pride can get in the way of their judgment, leading to rash decisions and ideas. Another negative consequence of pride is when, for example, a haughty boss fires a man from his company out of pride because he felt as if that man was a threat to his high position. Such examples happen often within society, for better or worse.
Overall, the pride of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy became an overwhelming roadblock in their relationship by concealing their true feelings for each other. Pride is like a black veil that hides the light of the good until a person’s will is strong enough to pull it back. Once they got over their pride, both Elizabeth and Darcy were able to see the future they could have together, ending their story in bliss. Pride is a problem not only in romantic love stories such as this one, but in modern society as well. When people are willing to get over their own pride and arrogance, they are able to look beyond past failures, doubts, and experiences that caused them to feel that way. Like Elizabeth and Darcy, the shedding of one’s pride becomes the threshold for new beginnings.
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