Pride and Prejudice: Title

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Pride and Prejudice: Title

Post by Archer on Fri Jan 14, 2011 2:10 pm

Pride and Prejudice was first written in 1797 under the title “First Impressions”. It was later revised and published under the title“Pride and Prejudice” in 1813.

In the novel, first impressions do play an important part: Elizabeth is misled in her judgment and estimation of both Darcy and Wickham. Her regard and sympathy for Wickham and her hostility and prejudice against Darcy are due to the first impressions. But when we study the novel deeply andseriously we can easily see that the title “Pride and Prejudice” is more apt and more befitting to it. The first impressions which the character gets of each other take up only the first few chapters. The novel is more about the pride of Darcy and the prejudice of Elizabeth and the change of attitude in Darcy and Elizabeth’s correction of her first impression.

At the apparent level, we see that Darcy embodies pride – he is possessed by family pride. As Wickham tells Elizabeth that he has a “filial pride”, in his “father and brotherly pride in his sister Georgiana” Darcy himself says that his pride consists in caring for none beyond his own family circle, thinking mean of all the rest of the world.

There is no doubt that Darcy is a proud man. Nothing can excuse his remark about Elizabeth,

“… tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me”

nor, indeed, the statement that

“my good opinion once lost is lost for ever”.

His first appearance is insolent and we tend to agree with Mrs. Bennet’s complaint that

“He walked here and he walked there, fancying himself so very great”.

The set-down comes at Hansford personage, which is the climax of Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice. In this scene, Darcy lays his proud heart at her feet and learns what she thinks of him. He admits that he remained blind to the faults of Lady Catherine and Miss Bingley and was thinking mean of those beneath him in social standing.

Elizabeth feels that Darcy is all pride. Having been prejudiced against him by his refusal to dance with her, she willfully misinterprets all his utterances, all his actions. Her prejudice clouds her usually clear judgment and she listens to Wickham’s biased account of Darcy with complete belief and declares Darcy to be ‘abominable’ (thoroughly unpleasant). Blinded by prejudice she rejects his proposal.

It is at Rosings that their process of self-discovery starts. At Netherfield Park,Elizabeth’s family – her mother and her sisters have seemed vulgar and ill-bred. At Rosings, Darcy is embarrassed by the vulgarity of his aunt Lady Catharine and realizes that refinement of manners is not the monopoly of the elite. His lesson is complete by Elizabeth’s rejection of his proposal and her rejection makes him realize his misplaced pride. This excessive love for Elizabeth forces him to write an explanatory letter to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s moment of self-awakening comes on receiving of Darcy’s letter. Learning the truth about Wickham, she realizes her own blindness and prejudice in judging Darcy and Wickham on mere fist impressions. Now she is also able to see the validity of some of his objections to Jane and Bingley marriage. At Pemberely, she learns about Darcy’s austerity of manner. Now the Lydia-Wickham episode brings the final reconciliation. This overwhelms Elizabeth and she recognizes that Darcy is exactly the man who, in disposition and talents, will most suit her.

However, to say that Darcy is proud and Elizabeth is prejudiced is to tell but half the story. The fact is both Darcy and Elizabeth are proud as well as prejudiced. The novel makes clear the fact that Darcy’s pride leads to prejudice and Elizabeth’s prejudice stems superiority and refinement and this leads him to have a general prejudice against people beneath him in he social hierarchy. Elizabeth’s prejudice on the other hand stems from his pride. Both suffer from the faults of pride ad prejudice, but they are also the necessary defects of desirable merits: self-respect and intelligence.

It is true that Jane and Bingley are not the part of the theme of Pride and Prejudice but their love is an important link in the novel and without it the story cannot be complete. Jane is the specimen of faultless beauty and she is free from willing to see good in everyone. Similarly Bingley is easy going and friendly. Both Jane and Bingley are simple characters and are not sufficiently profound. It is the intricate characters of Darcy and Elizabeth that hold our interest and exemplify the title of the novel, “Pride and Prejudice”.

Darcy and Elizabeth are of course, the pivotal characters but the subsidiary characters also tend to demonstrate further aspects of the main themes. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is a hilarious caricature (extremely funny) of the same faults of pride and prejudice. Mr. Collins is a mixture of obsequiousness and pride. He is a sycophant, and out and out flatterer of Lady Catherine. Mrs. Bennet has a pride in her daughters and in her stupidity develops a prejudice against Darcy. Miss Bingley herself and her sister Mrs. Hurst are the mixture of pride and impertinence.

The title Pride and Prejudice is thus, very apt and points to the theme of the novel. The novel goes beyond a mere statement of first impressions and explores in depth the abstract qualities of pride and prejudice. This theme is worked out not only through the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth but also through various minor characters. It is a title which does complete justice to the theme and subject of the novel.
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