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Literary Themes in Pride and Prejudice

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  • 0:00 Themes of 'Pride &Prejudice'
  • 0:28 Prejudice
  • 1:37 Reputation
  • 3:16 Class
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

In 'Pride and Prejudice,' a romantic relationship ignites between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy despite issues of class, education, and circumstance. In this lesson, we will explore the main themes of the novel.

Themes of Pride & Prejudice

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is said to be a satirical and social critique on social status and the expectations of women during the eighteenth century. Throughout the book, the strong themes of prejudice, reputation, and class are explored as the romance between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy develops. In this lesson, we will look at the themes to get a better understanding of Pride and Prejudice.

Prejudice

As the title suggests, prejudice is one of the main themes of the novel. Prejudice is one of many obstacles that gets in the way of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from connecting quickly. For example, Mr. Darcy's prejudice toward Elizabeth is largely because of her social standing. He does not notice the strength of her character for a long time since he is above her in class. The narrator says, 'Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty. . . and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.'

Here, the narrator demonstrates how Mr. Darcy's initial prejudice initially clouds his ability to see Elizabeth for the strong, intelligent woman that she is. Once he is able to disregard their social differences, he allows himself to fall in love with her. Austen's attention to Mr. Darcy's prejudice and subsequent transformation into a humbler perspective shows the issues that social prejudice can cause, and the good that can come from removing those prejudices from society.

Reputation

During eighteenth century England, a woman's reputation and femininity were considered incredibly important. Women were expected to adhere to certain rules and exhibit pristine behavior in the public sphere. Many of the Bennet sisters step out of these expectations in ways that potentially harm their reputations.

A good example of this is the story line of Elizabeth's sister, Lydia. Lydia makes an irrational decision by running away with Wickham and living with him out of wedlock. Her decision could result in irreparable damage to her entire family's reputation if Wickham refuses to marry her. In fact, Lydia's decision to forgo her own reputation threatens the rest of her sisters' reputations. Elizabeth speaks to her father about Lydia's behavior and its consequences by saying, 'Our importance, our respectability in the world must be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain of all restraint, which mark Lydia's character. . . she will soon be beyond the reach of amendment.'

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