Specialisation: Jane Austen

Virtue and Prejudice in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

INTRODUCTION

The connotations behind pride and prejudice were not quite the same when Jane Austen was writing this literary piece. To feel proud in those days did not regularly indicate anything favorable. While today, individuals tend to speak of feeling proud of strenuous work or achievements accomplished, in Austen’s period, experiencing pride generally signified an assumption of being better than others or an unwillingness to interact with diverse individuals. Austen’s renowned classic Pride and Prejudice of literature, with its keen examination of the complex intricacies, demonstrates how the central theme of prejudice can play a highly significant role in diverse perspectives. In Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke contends that prejudice could justly mold virtue into instinct, rendering one’s duty an innate part of nature.

THESIS

The literary literature Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen echoes the view of Edmund Burke regarding proper prejudices, illustrating the transformative capabilities of good bias in cultivating virtue and individuals’ self-actualization. Austen distinguishes between beneficial and harmful prejudices using characters, precisely Darcy, Elizabeth, Bingley and Bennet, highlighting their considerable impact on persons and society. Her examination of prejudice is politically pertinent, as it serves as a commentary on the societal standards and hierarchical structures of early 19th-century England.

GOOD PREJUDICE

Albeit alternate interpretations, Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice shows how Mr. Darcy noticeably transforms, demonstrating how helpful pride and prejudice can foster personal progress. Initially, he appears reserved and proud, particularly to Elizabeth Bennet. Regardless of adverse connotations, his persona cultivates, and he turns virtuous. His sense of accountability and duty increases, integrating his virtue into his being (Menchaca-Bagnulo 4). Darcy experiences a profound shift, acknowledging his mistakes. His self-awareness and admission of his flaws are evident when he expresses, “My feelings will not be repressed” (Austen 185). Darcy’s contemplations on his intrinsic character advancement highlight the transformation. He says, “I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun” (Austen 359). Darcy’s transformation exemplifies how beneficial preconceptions, grounded in genuine comprehension and empathy, can lead to interior development and a virtuous personality. Austen, comparable to Burke, proposes that valid prejudices rooted in virtue can change people, rendering their duty a habit. This transformation is central to the novel’s personal growth and maturation exploration.

Additionally, Jane Austen’s novel indicates that nearly everyone can exhibit pride and prejudice, and whether that proves favorable or unfavorable relies on how one faces prejudice. While these traits are more or less universal, those who rethink initial views are most likely to live cheerfully. For instance, Darcy embodies pride and prejudice most plainly (Bryne). Although his pride stems from affluence and status, one must consider other factors influencing his perspective. He was accustomed to being addressed as a leading figure and authority, and social codes guaranteed his respect from the lower classes. However, Darcy’s pride stood out conspicuously, and he saw himself above all other characters he encountered. When he expressed, for instance, “There is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment for me to stand up [dance] with, (Austen 13),” he showed that he found the women at the ball lacking in attractiveness or sophistication to meet his lofty standards. On the other hand, though also very affluent and well-situated socially, Bingley proved warmer and more receptive to meeting new people. He was depicted as “good-looking and gentlemanlike” (Austen 21). Bingley embraced an open mind and positivity when talking to and meeting allies. He was sincere and followed his inner feelings, unlike his friend, who was quite the opposite of him.

Finally, Mr. Darcy’s display of arrogance at the start of the novel leads to Bennett’s family and neighbors quickly forming biased views against him. Though he acted coldly by refusing to dance with Elizabeth and failing to show friendliness, he truly harmed no one by this stance, as a single interaction could not fully expose his character. Regardless, the poor impression left by him led others to judge his character hastily. For instance, Mrs. Bennett calls him “a disagreeable, horrible man” (Austen 15). Even the clever Elizabeth emphasized his early ideas exceedingly. When Wickham later shared of mistreatment by Darcy, she readily believed him as it matched her slanted view, formed without much cause. Nevertheless, the prejudice does not derail Mr. Darcy’s belief in his superiority; he maintains his character throughout the novel with not much regret of his character.

BAD PREJUDICE

Pride and Prejudice novel initially depicts Elizabeth as a wise character with good standing intellectually; nevertheless, Elizabeth succumbs to her partial prejudices; her initial views of Darcy are clouded by his indifferent and disapproving comments about her kin (Menchaca-Bagnulo 3). However, her outlook shifts as she gains insight into Darcy’s authentic nature. Darcy’s generosity and honor, exhibited through intervening in Lydia’s elopement, contradict Elizabeth’s earlier leanings. She realizes how her pride and bias impact her views, prompting a transformative change in her disposition. Moreover, Elizabeth’s immense confidence in Wickham indicates how prejudice colors her judgments. When Wickham shared his past, she had before then connotated Darcy adversely. Also, Elizabeth experiences prejudice against Wickham; Apparently, Wickham gives a handsome, outgoing and pleasing to Elizabeth. Austen explains, “Mr. Wickham was the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned…” (75). Despite her intelligence and skepticism, Elizabeth gets distracted by his superficial qualities and does not make sound judgments of Wickham’s true character.

Elizabeth and Darcy struggle to circumvent sensations of egotism and prejudice to accept and accept their affection and attraction towards each other. Darcy demonstrates how prejudice negatively affects people by stating that it was not an easy process for him. He makes it clear that his prejudice caused him to fight his desire to Elizabeth when he first makes the proposal to her. Although he disliked her family’s lifestyle, his feelings for her grew, and it seemed impossible to stay away from the affection. He clarifies, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be suppressed.” (Austen 185). The protagonist relinquishes his sense of pride and preconceived notions to proposal to Elizabeth.

Additionally, negative prejudice remained deeply rooted within Elizabeth, who stubbornly refused to overcome her bias. As a proud woman unwilling to accept inferior treatment, she took offence when Darcy proposed while insulting her family. “If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud.” “That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine” (Austen 21). The conversation refers the exchange between Elizabeth and Charlotte where Elizabeth climaxes a primary cause of her stubbornly clinging to her poor view of Mr. Darcy. Although Darcy haughty behavior at Meryton Ball alone formed a wrong first impression, what truly bothered Elizabeth was his injuring of her pride. Just as Darcy felt immense pride in his accomplishments, Elizabeth felt derived a sense of satisfaction from her discernment, intelligence, and physical presentation (Menchaca-Bagnulo 2). The harsh stinging of the insult made it quite challenging for Elizabeth to perceive him from a different viewpoint later.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE’S POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS

The inspection of bias in the novel goes beyond singular character advancement to have political significance. In early 19th century England, strict social divisions and societal judgments posed tremendous obstacles to class mobility and fair chances. Mr. Darcy, indicative of the affluent upper class, demonstrates excellent and lousy prejudice. His initial pride and feelings stem from his societal position and are evident in his disrespectful behavior at the Meryton ball. However, as the narrative continues, Darcy’s transformation reveals his ability to overcome these harmful traits (Menchaca-Bagnulo 3). He sheds his pride, opening himself to an ideal connection with Elizabeth, and breaks social expectations by proposing to her despite her lower-class status (Bryne). Darcy’s willingness to rethink his initial judgments and act in pursuit of virtue carries political implications in a society where rigid social structures and hierarchy are paramount.

Elizabeth Bennet, a curious soul of lesser financial means yet gifted with intellect and spirit, embodies humility through wit. Her reluctance to accept Darcy’s initial request stemmed from wounded confidence, feeling belittled by his insults (Menchaca-Bagnulo 3). However, Elizabeth’s journey towards self-knowledge and progress symbolized humankind’s capability to overcome bias and ego. As events unfurled, she acknowledged misjudgments, particularly regarding Darcy’s character. Despite wealth and status, Bingley, contrarily to Darcy, welcomed close subjects warmly and without pretension. Bingley’s amiability, regardless of fortune and rank, reflected hope for equitable change amid social stratification in society (Menchaca-Bagnulo 5). His kind nature suggested that the privileged could contribute to harmony by embracing diversity and respecting everyone.

CONCLUSION

Pride and Prejudice subtly symbolizes Edmund Burke’s notion of good bias, distinguishing between moral and immoral prejudices, and underscores their societal significance. The novel portrays how persons can evolve, casting off their negative qualities and assumptions and embracing virtue as an intrinsic part of their essence. In a society marked by social stratification and bias, Austen advocates for the capacity for individual progress and the reformation of society when persons transcend their unjust prejudices. In the end, the book implies that reducing hardship and promoting equal chances should be the fundamental measures of economic accomplishment.

WORKS CITED

Austen, Jane. “Pride and Prejudice (1813).” New York (1993).

Bryne, Paula. “Pride and Prejudice – and politics” Financial Times. (2023). https://www.ft.com/content/76ad7de0-5995-11e2-ae03-00144feab49a

Menchaca-Bagnulo, Ashleen. “Marriage, Courtship and Aristotle’s Spouidaia in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.” Perspectives on Political Science 49.3 (2020): 167-180. DOI: 10.1080/10457097.2019.1703458