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Themes in Pride and Prejudice

Themes Examples in Pride and Prejudice:

Chapter I

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"Mr. Bennet..."   (Chapter I)

Mr. Bennet is being prideful but not as obviously as Mrs. Bennet. His refusal to take Mrs. Bennet seriously suggests that he feels he is above (or too good for) his wife’s concerns. When she urges him to visit Mr. Bingley for the sake of his daughters, he tells her that she and the girls should go on their own—which would have been quite scandalous—and jokes that Mr. Bingley would probably prefer Mrs. Bennet.

"his wife..."   (Chapter I)

The themes of pride and prejudice have already begun to take shape in Mrs. Bennet’s character by the end of the first chapter. For example, she exhibits prideful behavior when she implies that her daughters are more deserving of Mr. Bingley than other eligible daughters in the neighborhood. She is also being prejudicial because she believes other girls, such as the Lucases, are inferior to her daughters—though she doesn’t have any real reason for thinking this way.

"“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”..."   (Chapter I)

The initial comic exchange that arises between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet provides us with an early allusion to the themes that directly relate to the novel’s title. While “pride” and “prejudice” certainly figure prominently (and in more complex ways) later on, Mr. Bennet is here shown to be detached and prideful while Mrs. Bennet is completely prejudicial.

"IT IS A TRUTH universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife..."   (Chapter I)

This humorous, tongue-in-cheek beginning sets the tone for the entire novel. Though it often deals with serious issues, such as the financial dependency of women in a patriarchal society, the novel is generally lighter fare than other Austen novels: as Austen herself admits in a personal letter, it is “rather too light, and bright, and sparkling.”

"may turn you all out of this house..."   (Chapter XIII)

The Bennets' estate is entailed to another person. When Mr. Bennet dies, the rightful heir will arrive to claim his inheritance and the Bennet women will have to move. Austen uses the entailment of the estate as a primary basis of the plot; it is the reason Mrs. Bennet is obsessed with matchmaking and so forcefully pushes Jane and Mr. Bingley together.

"Till this moment I never knew myself.”..."   (Chapter XXXVI)

Elizabeth realizes that she was prejudiced against Mr. Darcy. She misgauged his motivations and indulged her vanity "in useless or blameless mistrust." He interfered with Jane's engagement to Mr. Bingley because Jane did not express her feelings for Mr. Bingley, so Mr. Darcy suspected that she wanted to marry him for his money. Mr. Darcy acted out of genuine care and concern for his friend, not pride or prejudice. Elizabeth, however, has been both prideful and prejudicial.

"She turned from sister to sister, demanding their congratulations; and, when at length they all sat down, looked eagerly round the room, took notice of some little alteration in it, and observed, with a laugh, that it was a great while since she had been there..."   (Chapter LI)

In Communities of Women, critic Nina Auebach argues that the lack of unity between the sisters and the impermance of the house, due to it being in jeopardy of having no male heir, makes Longbourn alienating.  Whereas it would be hard to imagine some "little alteration" going unnoticed at Pemberly, in the Bennet home, there is a lack of a sense of permanance, and therefore, of home.

Source: Auerbach, Nina. Communities of Women. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978.

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