There are many different ways of interpreting Pride and Prejudice. For instance, when it was first published, the work was a very early example of a romance novel [romance novel: A literary genre within which the main plot is focused upon the development of a romantic relationship between two people. Traditionally the story will have an optimistic ending.] .
There are many characters in the novel who display one or both of these - pride and prejudice. As you'll see, the two often go together.
It's helpful to define these words in their context. In this book, they mean:
Pride - having too high an opinion of one's own worth or importance.
Prejudice - making judgements about others which aren't based on fact or experience.
|Character||Example of pride|
|Darcy||From the beginning, Darcy is shown to be too proud of his own social standing. He looks down on people, especially the Bennets. This is made worse by his natural quietness, which makes him seem even more aloof [aloof: Distant and cold in manner, and lacking in interest or concern.] .|
|Elizabeth||Elizabeth isn't naturally proud in the same sense as Darcy. But when she's slighted by him at the first ball, her pride is hurt. As a result, she compensates by becoming more proud of herself and defensive about her family.|
|Lady Catherine||Lady Catherine is incredibly proud, believing it to be the natural order of things that she be praised and obeyed.|
|Mr Collins||Collins' pride changes according to whom he's speaking. In the company of people he believes to be below him socially, he revels in taking the moral high ground and bragging about his standing. With those above him, his pride vanishes and he often humiliates himself.|
|Character||Example of prejudice|
|Darcy||Without knowing the Bennets - or almost anyone else, for that matter - Darcy seems to form opinions without taking the trouble to get to know them.|
|Elizabeth||Again, prejudice isn't Elizabeth's natural outlook. However, when Darcy offends her, she allows everything to feed the prejudice she develops against him. She's prepared to believe anything bad about him to fuel the impression she wants to create (for instance, Wickham's story).|
|Mrs Bennet||Mrs Bennet develops a more blatant prejudice against Darcy after his actions at the ball. She acts on this, insulting him within earshot. Her character's lack of depth is shown by her prejudice disappearing when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth.|
|Lady Catherine||She's prejudiced against anyone below her in social standing, unless they're prepared to play by her rules (that is, what she says goes). So she's prepared to tolerate Collins, but despises Elizabeth.|
|The Bingley sisters||Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley are prejudiced against Jane and Elizabeth. This is mainly out of self-interest. They dislike Jane because they feel she isn't good enough for their brother; they dislike Elizabeth because Darcy likes her and Miss Bingley wants to marry him.|
Austen offers a balance to all this pride and prejudice in two ways. Firstly, she creates characters who don't really show either characteristic (for example, Jane, Bingley and Mr Bennet). Secondly, she shows that pride and prejudice can be overcome (Darcy and Elizabeth).
Metaphors, similes, personification... test yourself on these and many more English terms with this hazardous game!
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