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Themes of Pride and Prejudice.

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Introduction

Themes Love and Marriage Marriage is an important theme of Pride and Prejudice. Its influence over the characters and events of the novel is hinted at in the ironic opening sentence: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife' (Chapter 1). Regardless of what any young man might desire or need, finding suitable marriage partners for her daughters becomes an all consuming passion for Mrs Bennet. In her opinion, the wealthier a young man, the more attractive a proposition he becomes. Jane Austen is keen, however, to point out the dangers of a marriage that is not based on mutual love and respect. The first marriage we witness is the unsatisfactory relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet. The main pleasure Mr Bennet receives from married life results from teasing his neurotic and foolish wife, and finding amusement at her expense. They are clearly incompatible. Mrs Bennet is obsessed with marrying off her daughters and the local gossip, while Mr Bennet concerns himself with reading and countryside pursuits. Jane Austen leaves the reader in no doubt that the Bennets' marriage does not form 'a very pleasing picture of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort'(Chapter 42). Mr Bennet had been initially 'captivated by youth and beauty' but once these initial attractions had faded, Mrs Bennet's 'weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her'(Chapter 42). ...read more.

Middle

This is a marriage based on real affection and romantic love, where feelings are mutual and genuine. Elizabeth who has a warm regard and genuine admiration for her sister, has no doubts that true happiness is the guaranteed reward for this uncomplicated and generous couple: 'they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her and himself'(Chapter 55). There can be no question of Elizabeth's and Darcy's future happiness. Jane Austen ends the novel with a portrait of a successful relationship based on growing admiration and affection. Both characters have overcome earlier feelings of pride and prejudice before realising the other's suitability. Their love is gradual, hard won and therefore worth having. The witty and lively Elizabeth could only be happy with a man whose talents and understanding matched her own. Accordingly, Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage is based on mutual respect and intellectual equality. Pride and Prejudice At various stages of the novel both Elizabeth and Darcy are guilty of pride and prejudice. Elizabeth's pride stems from her wit, perception and confidence in her own abilities. She is offended by anybody who does not treat her with respect. Darcy's insulting remarks in the Meryton assembly rooms, 'She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me'(Chapter 3), hurt her pride and begin to feed her feelings of prejudice against him. ...read more.

Conclusion

can appear convincing and charming, and the thoroughly decent Darcy is criticised for his arrogance: 'There was certainly some mismanagement in the education of those young men. One has got all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it'(Chapter 40). Secondly, there is a character's real worth which is only discovered when all the trappings of social nicety and appearances are dismantled. Lastly, there is the difference between how characters see themselves and how they are perceived by others. The hypocrisy of the actions of this last category of people, where actions contradict beliefs, is a common source of irony and humour. Mrs Bennet, Sir William Lucas , Mr Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh all have a high opinion of themselves which does not correspond to the opinion of others. Social Satire When Jane Austen wrote her novels in the early nineteenth century, English society was dominated by the aristocracy and landed gentry. Society and etiquette was controlled by a rigid set of conventions and protocol, which on the surface at least, were there to preserve decency and good manners. As a result of their inherited wealth and positions, the landed classes, who owned much of the countryside, had an innate belief in their own superiority over the rest of society. Consequently, they looked down on those whose occupations and income were not connected with land ownership. ...read more.

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