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Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice: Character Analysis & Concept

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  • 0:02 Background Information
  • 0:37 Plot Overview
  • 3:36 An Analysis of Lady Catherine
  • 4:42 Lady Catherine and…
  • 5:18 Lady Catherine and Love
  • 7:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Megan Pryor

Megan has tutored extensively and has a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Fiction.

During this lesson, we'll learn about Lady Catherine from Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice. After a brief summary to establish context, we'll analyze Lady Catherine's role in the work and how that role influences the novel's main themes.

Background Information

Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, is the most famous novel written by Jane Austen. Like the rest of her work, Pride and Prejudice is a romantic novel that features a cast of upper-class English characters. Jane Austen's social commentary and wit are two of the qualities of her writing that have guaranteed not just its legacy, but its significance to modern readers. Pride and Prejudice, in particular, is a timeless story about true love obtained despite many obstacles, both external and internal, and as such, it is a favorite of many modern readers.

Plot Overview

Pride and Prejudice is the story of Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters. Their mother wants to find them husbands. In fact, the first sentence of the book, which deals with the subject of marriage, is very famous: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.'

The novel starts with the young and relatively wealthy Mr. Bingley moving to the neighborhood. While everyone likes Mr. Bingley, his friend, Mr. Darcy, is considered proud and arrogant. Elizabeth's oldest sister, Jane, is smitten with Mr. Bingley, while Mr. Darcy unconsciously insults Elizabeth at a neighborhood ball.

A visit by Mr. Collins, a clergyman, shakes things up. Elizabeth and her father do not think much of Mr. Collins, but it turns out that Mr. Collins wants to marry Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Elizabeth has a temporary flirtation with Mr. Wickham, a military man who claims to have been wronged by Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth rejects Mr. Collins when he eventually proposes to her, and he asks Elizabeth's friend, Charlotte, to marry him instead.

Mr. Bingley, who mistakes Jane's shyness for indifference, moves away. Jane is crushed by the news and goes to stay with some relatives for a short while. Elizabeth visits her friend and Mr. Collins at their home in Kent. While there, Elizabeth is invited to the home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is Mr. Collin's boss and who also happens to be Mr. Darcy's aunt. During their visit, Elizabeth runs into Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy get into a disagreement. He tries to propose to Elizabeth, but she rejects him, because she thinks he has treated individuals, including her sister and Mr. Wickham, poorly. Mr. Darcy explains himself and Elizabeth is forced to admit that she misinterpreted Mr. Darcy's actions.

When Mr. Wickham and Elizabeth's younger sister, Lydia, elope, it is Mr. Darcy who talks them into getting married in order to salvage the Bennet family's honor. Mr. Darcy's actions deepen Elizabeth's feelings for him. Mr. Bingley returns and asks Jane to marry him, and she happily accepts.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh visits the Bennets. She tries to intimidate Elizabeth because she thinks that Elizabeth wants to marry Mr. Darcy. Lady Catherine does not approve of this turn of events, because she wants Mr. Darcy to marry her daughter, Anne, who she considers a better match in terms of status. To Lady Catherine's disgust, Elizabeth stands her ground. Lady Catherine threatens that she will stop the marriage. Elizabeth is worried that Mr. Darcy might listen to his aunt. In reality, when Mr. Darcy finds out that Elizabeth refused to agree not to marry him, he immediately goes to Elizabeth and asks for her hand in marriage again.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth marry at the end of the novel. Despite her resistance to their marriage, Lady Catherine does eventually visit Mr. Darcy and his new wife.

An Analysis of Lady Catherine

While the characters in Pride and Prejudice are often thwarted by miscommunication and deceit, Lady Catherine could be considered an antagonist. She tries to use her wealth and social status to intimidate Elizabeth into leaving Mr. Darcy alone.

Lady Catherine's character is defined by her superiority complex. Even when she seeks out Elizabeth to intimidate her into not marrying Mr. Darcy, Lady Catherine can't quite bring herself to admit that such a match would even be possible. She calls it a 'scandalous falsehood.'

Lady Catherine is shocked when Elizabeth refuses to agree to her demands. Luckily, Mr. Darcy refuses his aunt's advice, too. In fact, after he hears about Lady Catherine's visit to Elizabeth, he actively seeks Elizabeth out and asks her to marry him.

Lady Catherine is first mentioned in the novel by Mr. Collins when he visits the Bennet family. As Mr. Collin's employer, Lady Catherine is held in high esteem by Mr. Collins. Since Elizabeth and her father both think Mr. Collins is a foolish man, his opinion of Lady Catherine is considered wrong.

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