Pride: The conflict of Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has been a favorite for many over the centuries. The reason is clear. Jane Austen depicted human follies and the desires of the human heart entirely. People continue to love her work because she struck at the core of every character and made them relatable, and endearing, even when she points out their inconsistencies. In the case of the novel, Pride and Prejudice, Austen depicts a classic boy/girl relationship strained by the judgemental impressions that the main characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, have of each other. The conflict is based on their first encounter which creates a vindictive pride within Elizabeth and demonstrates Mr. Darcy's pride of superiority over others that keeps them from accepting each other.
The root of their problem began on their first acquaintance. Elizabeth's dislike of Mr. Darcy's character began when he injured her pride in front of the people she socialized with on a daily basis. She, thinking herself well known in the interpretation of human nature, is convinced of Mr. Darcy's persona. And without censure explains to him her feelings."From the very beginning—from the first moment, I may almost say—of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others"( Austen, ch 34). Elizabeth was thus solely dependent on her first impression of him when he slighted her at the town ball. Not only had she been publicly humiliated, but she had also had to sit out on dancing, one of the few entertainments of the day, because of the arrogance she believed Mr. Darcy possessed. She was decided upon never entering into any social engagement with him and expected to honor that promise she made to herself and her mother, "`I believe, Ma'am; I may safely promise you never to dance with him'' ( Austen, Ch 5). She chastises herself throughout the novel for always allowing herself to enter into conversations which turned into disputes with him thus causing Elizabeth Bennet to retaliate and accuses him of being proud while not realizing her own. Having her pride shattered within the first few chapters, prevented her from forming a good opinion of the man who by chapter ten finds himself bewitched by the woman whom he regarded only "tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt me" in chapter three. In return, her pride impedes Elizabeth from seeing that she is becoming the object of his affections.
Those words that he pronounced against her aroused within her a type of vindictive pride to come out and prove to him that she will not let his opinions get to her thus, fueling an unspoken attraction between the two without their realizing it. Elizabeth because of her hurt pride and Darcy because of the pride in his family name and fortune. Elizabeth also prides herself on the ability to judge a person when she first meets her she falls victim to pride without being aware of it. Although she what Mr. Darcy says about her at the ball does not seem to offend her, it hurts her pride enough to provoke her to defend her persona by communicating her opinions uncandidly and without measure. She expresses this idea to him and his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy at Ms. Debourgh's home, " 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, Ch 33). This description of Elizabeth's character is an allusion as to why she and Darcy take so long to get together. Although she is determined not to have anything to do with him, her courage to defend herself makes her prey to his affections. She is resolute in her attempt not to be defined by him and making it known to him and all others which consequently makes her attractive to him.
Mr. Darcy's first impression of her was more of an impression upon her family rather than on her character. Her beauty he quickly testified was not in the most favorable. And although he was not wrong in the impression he obtained of Mrs. Bennet he soon found, to his surprise, that Elizabeth's beauty was not what he had first been impressed upon. As he spent more time in her presence, he found that she was a woman a man like him could be proud of. "and to all this, she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading" (Austen, Ch 8). By this time, he has seen Elizabeth's attributes and tries to compliment her and let her know how his opinion of her has changed but is unsuccessful at every attempt to do so because of Elizabeth's attacks on his character.
Mr. Darcy's first impression of Elizabeth is quickly banished once he is immersed in her company and realizes what a treasure she truly is. Although he is unaware that Elizabeth is determined to let him know that she is not undone by their first acquaintance, he looks for opportunities to hear what she has to say without putting himself out there for everyone to judge. His pride impedes him from being liked by the society in Hertfordshire. Expecting always to portray the man that would honor the Darcy name, he lets his pride in his name and his nobility be his guide. His attentions to her come off as cold and critical; he is silent and sharp. He regards his feelings of the inferiority of her family as "natural and just"( Austen, Ch 34). Elizabeth now challenges his logical nature, and that makes him uneasy and fights this attraction proudly and dutifully. In his expectation to be constant and vigilant in his behavior, he forgets to be more human, weak and humble. He forgets that to be the honorable Mr. Darcy he must also be amiable and humble but is instead proud of his ascendancy and his character. His pride he does not hide during a heated conversation with Elizabeth and says the following, "But pride—where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation”( Austen, Ch 11). Thus demonstrating that he thinks himself above everyone and is proud to be above others and that it is not a defect, nor something to be guilty of until Elizabeth points it out. And then spends months making amends.
Although it is Mr. Darcy who is convicted of pride, both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are guilty of being proud and at the same time create a sort of tension that sparks within them an attraction. Her pride is vindictive. She adopts it after being offended by him and she uses it to demonstrate that she is not affected in any way by him. Mr. Darcy is guilty of superiority pride. He is proud of who he is and that he is better than the people around him. Though both characters are responsible for different kinds of pride, it is evident that either type of pride is damaging the possibility of them being together, but at the same time creating a common ground between the characters. Pride was, therefore, the conflict that kept them apart and overtime had to overcome to bring about a relationship based on love and respect.