Pride and Prejudice Themes and Analysis

A literary work, such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’, can be interpreted in multiple ways depending on the mood, prior knowledge, level of understanding, and perspective of the reader.

The analysis here is an example, covering major elements of theme, setting, style, tone, and figurative language. 

Pride and Prejudice Analysis

Pride and Prejudice Themes

Themes are commonly the central ideas of any piece of literature. They are developed in various ways and characters. Written from the perspective of Elizabeth, the novel explores a number of themes, such as love, marriage, pride, prejudice, class, reputation, and many others.

Pride and Prejudice

As the title of the novel suggests, both pride and prejudice play a vital role in the novel. Pride is pronounced through the character of Darcy and prejudice is highlighted through Elizabeth. Darcy acts snobbishly during his first meeting with Elizabeth that eventually makes her hate him. His pride blinds him to the good qualities of Elizabeth, and her prejudice blinds her to see through his outward nature. It takes time for them to realize and evolve out of their pride and prejudice. Besides, Elizabeth, Darcy too out of his pride is exposed to prejudice over the people below his social class and economical status.

Other characters who exhibit pride in the novel are Catherine De Bough and Miss Catherine Bingley.

Love and Marriage

In Pride and Prejudice, Love and Marriage go hand in hand. Especially, it specifies the love and marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth, who strongly believes in marrying for love than anything. As the opening line of the novel suggests, It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife marriage was the major concern of Austen time. That is what would have inspired her to focus on love and marriage in Pride and Prejudice and in her other novels too.

True love, the leads to the happy union of the characters despite all adversity is portrayed through the couples, Darcy and Elizabeth, and Jane and Charles Bingley.  At the same time, the novel also exposes the marriages that happened solely for the purpose of independence, reputation, and financial security, as in the case of Charlotte Lucas and Lydia Bennet. 

Class

Class plays unmistakably a significant role in the novel. The novel draws a clear line between the rich and poor. The theme is employed to foster Austen’s distaste over the society in general.

She makes it clear that people like Lady Catherine, due to their pride in social class act rudely, even in their regular conversation, and forever guilty of mistreating other people. The characters like Mr. Collins and Caroline are defined completely by the dictations of the class system. In contrast to them, Jane Austen produces more positive examples in Bingley and the Gardiners. Through Darcy’s character, she has enumerated class as a force that drives people to have virtue and decency, comparing the situation to the careless behavior of Mrs. Bennet and her daughters.

Darcy is presented as an epitome of an ideal high-class gentleman. Though, he seems to be arrogant and selfish in the beginning, over a period of time, his prejudiced opinion on the lower class changes, when he is exposed to the ideal qualities of Elizabeth. Austen strongly conveys her ideology that class does not determine one’s character, at the same time through love one can overcome all obstacles, including class.

Some of the other themes, one finds in Pride and Prejudice include integrity, family, reputation, etc.

Analysis of Key Moments in Pride and Prejudice

  • Bingley arrives at Netherfield along with his sisters and Darcy.
  • Darcy insults Elizabeth at the Meryton Ball while Bingley is attracted to Jane
  • For the first time in the party arranged by Sir William Lucas, Darcy makes a positive observation on Elizabeth’s fine eyes, after Elizabeth turns down his request for a dance.
  • When Jane is sick, Elizabeth arrives at Netherfield to take care of her sister. Positively, Darcy gets to see more of her, which he finds as a danger.
  • Collins arrives at Longbourn to choose a wife for him amongst the Bennet sisters. But, he ends up marrying Charlotte Lucas.
  • Meanwhile, Elizabeth gets acquainted with Wickham, who tells her the story of him being treated arrogantly.
  • Bingley leaves Netherfield uninformed. Desolated Jane goes with the Gardiners to London with the hope of meeting Bingley only to be disappointed.  
  • Elizabeth comes to know of Darcy’s involvement in the separation between Jane and Bingley. She vents out her anger and accuses him of spoiling the life of Wickham and her dear sister’s happiness.
  • Despondent, Darcy explains the reasons for his actions in a letter to Elizabeth, which softens her feelings towards Darcy but he leaves Rosings to know her reversal of feelings.
  • During her visit to the Gardiners, Elizabeth meets Darcy in his Pemberley estate, but her happiness short-lived when she receives a message about Lydia’s elopement with Wickham.
  • Elizabeth comes to know of Darcy’s painstaking effort in saving Lydia’s reputation in marriage with Wickham.
  • Soon, Bingley proposes to Jane and engaged.
  • Infuriated by Elizabeth, Lady Catherine warns Darcy, who regaining hopes proposes to Elizabeth again, who accepts happily.

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

Pride and Prejudice, on the whole, employed with irony and wit. Austen through the speeches of various characters employed irony that draws a clear line between what is being said and what the readers interpret about the reality of the situation. For example, when Mr. Collins confidently tells Elizabeth that “I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long,” the reader knows about Elizabeth’s feelings that are direct opposite what he expects.

The tone of Pride and Prejudice, despite it being romance is ironic towards various characters and events in the novel. The ironical is employed to demonstrate the foolishness of characters, the attitude of pretensions social class, and the criticism on gender roles.

Austen exaggerated situations and phrases, also used comparisons to satirize some of the ridiculous courting rituals of her time. Jane Austen’s use of irony, which is common in her novel is highlighted in the novel. She has employed all forms of irony namely: verbal, thematic, situational, and dramatic.

Use of Symbols

Dance

One of the prominent symbols in Pride and Prejudice is dancing. An Austen detail on a couple’s compatibility through dancing that symbolizes the level of their relationship. When Elizabeth and Darcy dance together the first time, their steps are stilted and formal, similar to the indifference and formality they had in their relationship at that point. Likewise, when Elizabeth and  Mr. Collins danced, he missteps, grovels, and embarrasses in front of her friends and family, similar to the awkward situation of him proposing to be rejected by Elizabeth. At the same time, Jane and Bingley 4times on a single night, reveals how happy and comfortable they were together.

Outdoors

‘Outdoors’ in the novel has come to symbolize openness and understanding. Many knots in the story are loosened in the outdoor settings in the story. Darcy proposes both the times when they were in the outdoor settings. In contrast, Indoor meetings have often caused to multiply their misunderstanding. Evidently, they were forced into awkward situations during their meeting at Netherfield, in Kent, and at Pemberley.

Pemberley

‘Pemberley’ stands to symbolize the nature of Darcy in the novel. In the beginning, when Pemberley’s pride is mentioned we see Darcy as a man of arrogance and Pride. Later, when Elizabeth visits Pemberley, she sees that as neither “formal, nor falsely adorned”. Following that description, we see the improved Darcy, who is more sociable and friendly. The lack of pretension, refined taste, and gracious welcome, Elizabeth and the Gardiners experienced at Pemberley, is a symbol of refinement in the man. One could see the positive change comes over Elizabeth that makes her fall in love with Darcy as she sees his true character revealed through his home.

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Miz Alb
About Miz Alb
Miz Alb is a passionate reader of literature. She loves to look deep through the nuances of a literary work. She has secured her post-graduation in English Literature. With her learning as a background, she is analyzing the literary works down the ages.

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