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Pride and Prejudice Character and Theme
Transcript of Pride and Prejudice Character and Theme
Character and Theme
Exploring Character and Theme
in Jane Austen's
'Pride and Prejudice'
The atmosphere of the time is incredibly patriarchal; men are more powerful than women.
Charlotte Lucas: "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance."
"In her own past behaviour, there was a constant source of vexation and regret; and in the unhappy defects of her family, a subject of yet heavier chagrin. They were hopeless of remedy. Her father, contented with laughing at them, would never exert himself to restrain the wild giddiness of his youngest daughters; and her mother, with manners so far from right herself, was entirely insensible of the evil. Elizabeth had frequently united with Jane in an endeavour to check the imprudence of Catherine and Lydia; but while they were supported by their mother's indulgence, what chance could there be of improvement? Catherine, weak-spirited, irritable, and completely under Lydia's guidance, had been always affronted by their advice; and Lydia, self-willed and careless, would scarcely give them a hearing. They were ignorant, idle, and vain. While there was an officer in Meryton, they would flirt with him; and while Meryton was within a walk of Longbourn, they would be going there forever."
Charlotte Lucas' views on happiness in marriage are akin to society's view. She sees happiness as something to which she has just as much chance of achieving as anybody, but it is entirely a bonus to a marriage. Her own happiness is something which doesn't matter to her, and she's "Never seen [herself] as a romantic", something which she regrets in her marriage to Mr Collins. Charlotte's role in the novel is to act as the opposite of Lizzy, to show how the views of society at the time are wrong, and Lizzy's views (shared by Austen) right.
If you have money, you have power!
Lady Catherine De Bourgh abuses her status to gain power. E.g. forcing Darcy to marry her daughter.
"My daughter and my nephew are formed for each other."
She also forbids Elizabeth to become engaged to Darcy.
"...what is to divide them? The upstart pretensions of a young woman without family, connections, or fortune. Is this to be endured!"
Lizzy's views are not typical of the time. She views happiness as essential to a good marriage, and is put-off marrying for "youthful beauty" and money, and would only agree to marry someone whom she loves.
Mr and Mrs Bennet's marriage was unsuccessful, and is an unhappy marriage, something which impaired Mr Bennet's ability to be a good father to his daughters, and ultimately led to the almost-scandal caused by Mr Wickham and Lydia.
"You have no compassion on my poor nerves!"
"You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least."
Longbourn, the Bennet's home, was to be left to their cousin, Mr Collins rather than one of the five Bennet sisters. Men would inherit everything, so women would have to marry to gain accommodation and good living facilities.
"It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable."
Mr Darcy's views are similar to Elizabeth's, and he goes completely against societal norms to be with her. This causes some conflict between him and, for example, Catherine de Bourgh, but ultimately he gets his way. He loves Elizabeth, and does everything in his power to get her to love him, including saving the Bennet's from Wickham and Lydia's elopement.
Despite society's norms (and all of his efforts) Darcy finally allows himself to give in to power and dominance and fall in love with Elizabeth. He breaks all the usual rules and norms for marriage, by making Elizabeth his equal so that she will love him and they can be happy.
"You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you."
"Why is he so altered? From what can it proceed? It cannot be for me– it cannot be for my sake that his manners are thus softened."
"When all this was resolved on, he returned again to his friends, who were still staying at Pemberley; but it was agreed that he should be in London once more when the wedding took place, and all money matters were then to receive the last finish."
- Mr Gardiner's letter to Elizabeth regarding Lydia and Wickham's elopement.
In the time the novel was set, your status and how well off you were was based on your family and their reputation.
Lydia ruins her family's reputation when she elopes with Wickham, as her family is then seen as dysfunctional and poor. That behaviour at the time was looked down upon very seriously.
“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?"
Not only does family provide (or fail to provide, as in the case of Lydia) the Bennet daughters with their education and manners, but the social ranking of the family determines how successful they may reasonably expect to be in later life.
The influence of Elizabeth's family shapes her opinions and behaviour and allows her to become the head-strong female lead the novel portrays. This is highlighted by the contrast of the rest of her family and the upbringing she is given, to show that family is a key theme. Family is what holds the characters together and shapes them as people.