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Heroes And Heroines In Pride And Prejudice By Jane Austen

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Jane Austen in context

Heroes and Heroines in “Pride and Prejudice” Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy

Both Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy experience a reform in their characters. This psychological reform occurs as certain characteristics that were the very epitome of their personalities are altered. This is due to the misconceptions and prejudices both had about the other. As Darcy is a rich aristocratic gentleman of the 18th century, he behaves as we would expect; with arrogance, conceit and naturally with an air of superiority. While on the other hand, Elizabeth through her self education and lively wit has a great understanding of the society she lives in and believes herself to be of equal status with Darcy in that “he is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal”. Her apparent inferiority to Darcy is highlighted by him when she rejects his proposal “Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? вЂ" to congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?” It is also expressed by Lady Catherine de Bourgh when she intrudes on Elizabeth at her home in Longbourn. However, wealth is only one of the many obstacles, which our hero and heroine must overcome. The impropriety shown on both sides by relations acts as a powerful deterrent to the respect and the love they will later come to share for each other. However, while this at times does indeed act as a deterrent; it also accelerates the union of the two. As, if it were not for the gallant actions of Darcy towards the Lydia-Wickham affair with his admirable moral code of conduct, Elizabeth’s entire family would have faced ruin with the disgrace of Lydia as a sister. Elizabeth would not have learned of Darcy’s kind and generous nature and sense of responsibility; and if it were not for Lady Catherine’s interference at travelling to Longbourn Darcy would not have ventured to make the marriage proposal a second time.

As the critic Mordecai Marcus suggests the reason as to why Elizabeth and Darcy can withstand the claims from society is the “power of will which [they] … develop” as well as their “ability to educate themselves”. The society that they were enthralled in was still very much concerned with improving your wealth and connections through marriage and while Elizabeth’s marriage can be seen to elevate her, to Darcy’s family it can only be viewed as degradation. As Lady Catherine remarks “are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”. It is the strength of both characters that allow them to overcome these prejudices not only between themselves, but also the prejudices of society. This can be seen in contrast to the union between Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet, which was broken up early in the novel due to a lack of strength and will power on both sides. It is only through the actions of Darcy that enable the union to take place and thus further allows for the hero and heroine to communicate their own personal desires to each other.

Though we mainly receive an account of Darcy through Elizabeth’s subjective viewpoint, some aspects of it are objective as she recalls what he said about her; for instance, in their first meeting at the ball in Meryton. It is also here that Elizabeth admits to her vanity “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine”. On the whole however, it is an extremely subjective account of Darcy, and our change of opinion is guided by the change in Elizabeth’s view of him. She gradually sees a side to him that was blinded to us as well as her, due to her prejudice and willingness to disbelieve in his good character. On seeing Darcy’s gentlemanly behaviour to the Gardener’s, of whom he had previously seen as beneath him as Mr. Gardener is a member of the middle working class as well as his kind brotherly behaviour to his sister, we not only see him in a new perspective, but he also reforms in character here as previously he would not have associated with people of the Gardener’s status. His transformation is wholly brought on in an effort to please Elizabeth, and her attitude to him also alters. At this stage they both exercise their personal freedom and allow themselves to pursue their desires.

Austen also develops a humorous air of irony in this love plot, for instance during Elizabeth’s first marriage proposal with the pompous and narrow-minded Mr. Collins she remarks “I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal”. She ardently admits that she would not wish now or ever for a second marriage proposal



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