Characters in Pride and Prejudice
The novel Pride and Prejudice can be regarded as a masterpiece of the classic literature that did not lose relevance until present days. In the literary piece, Jane Austen depicted two quite controversial characters that develop in the course of the novel. At the beginning of the literary piece, the opinions formed due to first impression have great importance to Elizabeth and Darcy who mistakenly judge each other. However, the characteristics of two protagonists change in the course of the novel and, thus, later they look at each other from a different angle. When Elizabeth and Darcy form objective opinions about each other, they become more prudent and reasonable. Thus, the characters become able to open their hearts to the feeling of love with plot development. In this respect, a profound analysis of Elizabeth and Darcy’s characteristics is necessary to examine such a change in the characters’ personalities. Therefore, the development of Elizabeth and Darcy’s feelings and opinions throughout the course of the novel, shows that living in accordance with dignity and virtue, while overcoming personal failings, supports human happiness.
At the beginning of the novel, Elizabeth is depicted as an intelligent and inventive young woman who encounters Darcy with hostility. In this regard, the first impression has an important role in the formation of Elizabeth’s prejudice and opposition towards Mr. Darcy and his family. Thus, when Darcy encounters Elizabeth, he says: “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” (Austen, 2003, p. 11). The character does not value Elizabeth for her intelligence; moreover, Darcy underlines the fact that she lacks feminine charm and beauty. As a result, Elizabeth meets her future lover with prejudices as well. Although Elizabeth is a lovely smart young woman, she acts as a haughty and proud character at the beginning of the novel. Thus, the first hostile encounter with Mr. Darcy forces the woman to act in a similar way. At the end of the story, Elizabeth shares her feelings with Darcy : “From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry” (Austen, 2003, p. 219). Therefore, Elizabeth does not consider Darcy to be the ideal match for her, but rather finds him to be derogatory youngster blinded by his social status and wealth.
Although Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth possess similar characteristics like intelligence and virtue, the misinterpretation of behavior that leads to negative first impression starts a feud. At the beginning of the novel, Darcy is portrayed as a supercilious representative of the upper class.
For example, when the man entered the ball room:
The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud; to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend. (Austen, 2003, p. 8)
Thus, being a member of a wealthy family and owner of the great estate, the behavior of a man is mainly guided by social stereotypes and prejudices that debase people of the lower social status. Indeed, Darcy’s poor judgment about Elizabeth and her family presents him to be an overly proud man who is too concerned about his social status. Moreover, the haughtiness of the young man does not allow him to express his true feelings towards Elizabeth. Although the character attempts to court Elizabeth, he makes it in such a strange and rude way that she misinterprets his real intentions. In addition, Darcy is portrayed as a cold and senseless character, who can openly criticize a woman or say humiliating words about her social status. Nevertheless, such a tendency disappears when the character begins to recognize the real values in life.
At the same time, Elizabeth has a sharp tongue accompanied by hasty judgments that complicates relations with her family and distinguishes her from social environment. While the woman has to cope with a hopeless mother and snobbish female representatives of the higher social class, she often talks and behaves arrogantly and distantly. In this respect, Austin has created an unconventional female character who contradicts the customs and traditions of that time. Elizabeth is neither similar to her sister nor to the female companions who wait for men to marry them without passion. From the first pages of the book, it is clear that Austin’s female character is not typical – she cannot be characterized by bad behavior and naughtiness that was usual for her class-bound society. Moreover, Elizabeth fences herself off the surrounding males that demonstrates woman’s permanent search for the ideal lover. Thus, Elizabeth is a wise brave young woman who breaks the norms peculiar to her social class. According to Austin, “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me” (Austen, 2003, p. 152). Additionally, Austin’s female protagonist has a close affinity for her father whom she considers to be more intelligent and civilized than any other youngster from her social environment . Thereby, throughout the novel, Elizabeth is depicted as a strong and proud woman who knows her worth.
Similarly to Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy also shows a tendency to make wrong judgments about others. However, this characteristic disappears due to certain circumstances at the end of the novel. Over the course of the novel, the male protagonist undergoes an extraordinary transformation. The pressure of the class-bounded society greatly affects Darcy that can be noted from the beginning of the novel. While the feeling of love challenges the character, he begins to change his worldview gradually. Moreover, he abandons the need to maintain a particular social status: “I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves […]almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world” (Austen, 2003, p. 216). These words of the male protagonist show how hard is it for him to overcome the prejudices created by his family. In this respect, the author depicts Darcy’s personal fight with family-created perception and morality. The transformation of the character illustrates the author’s belief that the prejudices imposed by the society may create difficulties for the self-realization of the person, but an individual can freely make a choice to be happy and, thus, overcome his/ her personal failings. Thereby, the evolution of Mr. Darcy at the end of the novel shows that he is a worthy man in spite of Elizabeth’s overly harsh judgments about him.
Eventually, both Elizabeth and Darcy overcome their personal failings and can start living happily in harmony with each other. While at the beginning of the story Darcy was viewed as a proud and arrogant wealthy youngster, he began to behave like an intelligent and forthright man who is able to be supportive and sensitive at the end of the novel. Moreover, Elizabeth transforms from a strong and independent woman into a soft young lady in the course of the novel. The female character turns into a wise woman who does not judge too hastily, but appreciates and values good treatment and worthy people. Throughout the novel, one can assume that the author attempts to reveal her own feelings about the established order in the class-bound society. Moreover, the opposition of the female protagonists to the social stereotypes and prejudices can be regarded to be a satire and criticism of the beliefs held by the representatives of higher social classes. At the same time, the transformation of Mr. Darcy also conveys an important message – Austine underlines the fact that every human is free to decide how to live his/ her life despite the beliefs of the general public. Therefore, the changes in the characteristics of Elizabeth and Darcy have crucial importance because they allow the characters to live in happiness and sympathy for each other and other people.
Therefore, two protagonists of the novel Pride and Prejudice undergo certain transformation. While at the beginning of the story Elizabeth and Darcy were hostile to each other and made poor judgments about others, their personality changes throughout the course of the story. The evolution of Elizabeth and Darcy underlines the difficulty of overcoming both personal and social prejudices and class inequality. The transformation of Austin’s protagonists shows that living in accordance with personal beliefs, while overcoming social obstacles and prejudices, will eventually recompense a human. Ultimately, protagonists’ characteristics change in the course of the novel that helps them to live in harmony and happiness. Therefore, in the novel Pride and Prejudice Austin shows the importance of living in accordance with personal beliefs, as well as the importance of acceptance of human failings and necessity to overcome them.