Conflict in Pride and Prejudice

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  • 0:00 Conflict in Pride & Prejudice
  • 0:48 Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy
  • 3:36 Mrs. Bennet & Her Daughters
  • 4:43 Elizabeth & Mr. Collins
  • 5:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elisa Goldman

Elisa has taught K-6 grades and has two master's degree in Instructional Technology and Education.

In this lesson, you will learn about the conflicts that take place in the novel 'Pride and Prejudice,' including those that the main characters engage in based upon quick judgments and unfair reasoning.

Conflict in Pride & Prejudice

There are many instances of conflict between the characters in Jane Austen's novel of manners, Pride and Prejudice. As a matter of fact, the title in and of itself tells you that there will be conflict. Conflict springs from numerous sources, including competing moralities, competing desires, incompatible impulses and tendencies to misunderstand one another.

In the story, the main characters, Ms. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, as protagonist and antagonist as they struggle, both externally and internally in their relationship. The two main characters follow an often reproduced pattern of hate turning to love, which we'll now explore a little further.

Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are both passionate people with strong opinions and personalities. Elizabeth displays these qualities through her wit and charm and Mr. Darcy through his pride, his faithfulness and his belief in doing what is right. In the first part of the novel, Elizabeth speaks about her feelings towards Mr. Darcy, saying, 'The general prejudice against Mr. Darcy is so violent that it would be the death of half the good people in Meryton, to attempt to place him in an amiable light.' Oh boy, the venom in Elizabeth's words tells us that she really doesn't care for Mr. Darcy at this early point of the story. Mr. Darcy later pits himself against Elizabeth with the zinger 'My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.' It's clear that these two don't entirely see eye to eye at times.

Mr. Darcy is quick to pass judgment on Elizabeth based upon her wealth (or lack of), social class, physical appearance and relatives. He says that she has beautiful eyes, but at the same time criticizes her within Miss Bingley's hearing, saying, 'She a beauty, I would have soon called her mother a wit!' Almost as quickly, Elizabeth develops a prejudice against Mr. Darcy because of his uppity manners, his initial refusal to dance with her and the tall tales that Mr. Wickham tells her about him.

When Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth during her visit to Rosings Park, she is astonished because she didn't realize that his feelings towards her had changed so dramatically. He tells her he loves her despite her family, social connections and lack of money. It is one of the most insulting proposals found in literature! Mr. Darcy's objection to her sister Jane and Mr. Bingley's romance and her own wounded pride form the basis for her prejudice towards him. She finishes her vicious rejection by telling Mr. Darcy, 'I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.'

Elizabeth uses an inner monologue on several occasions to let the reader feel her frustrations. After reading the letter Mr. Darcy gave her after the proposal, Elizabeth says to herself, 'He expressed no regret for what he had done which satisfied her; his style was not penitent, but haughty. It was all pride and insolence.'

Once these misunderstandings are examined and finished, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy lovingly argue over who is more responsible for all the missteps in their relationship. Elizabeth tells Mr. Darcy of her philosophy of life, 'Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure,' to help make amends and reassure them both.

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