introduction-to-jane-austen-s-pride-and-prejudice

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1813)
It began as First Impressions (1796-97), but it was unsuccessfully submitted for publication.
There are no manuscripts of his novel that have survived.
In the novel, Elisabeth has to learn to revise her “first impressions”, of both Darcy and
Wickham. Jane Austen wants to teach that first impressions aren’t reliable.
Austen writes about the gentry, that was a class of established landowning families (landed
aristocracy, or aristocrats who owned lands) who belonged to the middle and upper classes.
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Darcy is a landed aristocrat from the upper class.
The Bennets are landowners, but from the lower part of the middle class.
The Bingleys belonged to a new social class, who earned their money out of different
businesses.
In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen reflects her contemporary situation of:
- Upward social mobility.
- Challenged hierarchy.
She also shows criticism against the traditional ‘upper class’ aristocracy with the character
Lady Catherine. She was a peerage, this is, an aristocrat with a title. It describes the situation in
which estates were bought, rented or created by those who had made money in trade with
Netherfield and the Bingleys. Her position towards a new metropolitan professional middle
class is sympathetic, and the characters that define this class are the Gardiners.
The key themes of the novel are marriage and money. Both related to class, status and social
position. The main elements are:
 Comic dimension:
Austen’s ironic style is already present in the opening sentence of the novel. Some
comic scenes are Mary at Netherfield ball or Lydia showing her wedding ring.
This dimension is mainly focused on three characters:
♦ Mrs Bennet:
­ She is a bad mother, but not threatening.
­ Always suffering from her “nerves”, mostly to avoid difficult situations.
♦ Mr Collins:
­ Pompous, vain, flatterer and sycophant (pelota)
­ Characterised by his peculiar idiolect, this is, the personal linguistic variety
used by each speaker. We all have a dialect, sociolect and an idiolect.
­ He could have meant a danger for Elizabeth, but he is not powerful, and
Elizabeth is protected by her father.
♦ Lady Catherine de Bourgh:
­ Snobbish and arrogant.
­ Powerful, she is threatening for Elizabeth, although her danger is
neutralised by Darcy.
­ The criticism is individual and social, towards Lady Catherin herself, but also
towards the traditional “upper class” aristocracy.

Romantic dimension:
In Austen’s novels, there is a central love story that ends happily in marriage. In this
particular novel, there are two love stories, Jane and Bingley, and Elizabeth and Darcy,
although the central couple are the latest.
♦ Elizabeth, prejudice.
Some critics see Elizabeth as Austen’s most attractive heroine.
­ Intelligence, liveliness (=active) and independence.
­ Usually right in her opinions (although mistaken in the case of Darcy)
­ Seen in movement (e.g walk to Netherfield)
­ She has principles: rejects two marriage proposals (both advantageous from
the economical perspective)
♦ Darcy, pride.
­ Physically, he embodies the romantic hero, as the ideal object of desire in
popular romance fantasy.
­ Socially he has a fortune (“10000 a year”), and a country house, Pemberley.
­ Arrogance and pride.
♦ The relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy.
­ Emphasis on looks (sensuality)
­ Process of transformation and seduction: they have to reassess themselves,
and their social pride and prejudices.
­ Darcy’s romantic attachment implies a clear rejection of the dynastic
ambitions of his aunt, Lady Catherine.
­ Both have to learn a lesson:
 Elizabeth has to learn that she loves the man whose social pride
prejudiced her against him.
 Darcy has to learn how to adjust his mistaken pride and welcome
Elizabeth’s connections into his intimate family party.

Moral dimension:
Austen is a moral writer influenced by Samuel Johnson and Samuel Richardson, with a
very strong sense of traditional values. She criticises:
♦ Vanity, pride and arrogance. They are sins from the Christian perspective.
♦ Snobbery, from the social perspective.
Austen is against imprudent marriages.
♦ Mercenary marriages that are purely for money or social position: Charlotte
Lucas.
♦ Passionate marriages, solely for passion: Lydia.
The ideal situation would be a prudent marriage (Jane and Elizabeth). The parties love
and respect each other, and there is also some social/economic advantage. There
must be a balance of moral and personal qualities and process of mutual
improvement.
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