What Role Do First Impressions Play in Pride and Prejudice?
Pride and Prejudice is the story of human souls which is easily and gracefully told by the famous English writer Jane Austen. Having stood the test of several epochs, the novel remains one of the best in the world literature. The original title of the novel is First Impressions which embodies one of the main themes of the book: first impression can be deceiving. From the opening and to the closing line the author shows that it is not appropriate to judge a person on first acquaintance. The main character of the novel Elizabeth is misled by her former impression: throughout the main part of the book she hates a man who in the end turns out to be the only person worth to be lived for: “… 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” (Austen, 1813).
People always tend to take at face value words of a person with pleasant appearance and manners, and do not want to understand those who are not accomodating enough. Young Elizabeth misjudges Mr. Darsey at the beginning of their acquaintance as she hears his words about her appearance: “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” (1813). Here can be traced a reciprocal antipathy based on the first impression: “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 … ” (1813). However, their misjudgments change as they learn more about each other.
The deceptiveness of first impression pursues not only the characters of the novel but the reader as well. From the first description of Mr. Darcy one learns that “… Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien…”(1813). By contrast, in the same chapter appears that “… 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…” (1813). Elizabeth’s mother says of her second daughter: “Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humored as Lydia” (1813). However, soon the reader gets to know that Elizabeth is a charmingly beautiful and deep person.
“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” (2008), says James Uleman, a psychology professor at New York University. However, it is possible to make a good second impression as people can change their opinion about others. In Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen shows the reader that the first impression is not always correct, in fact, it is deceptive. At the beginning of the acquaintance Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are prejudiced against each other. However, it turns out that their first impressions are mistaken. It is necessary to remember that not only a bad impression can be wrong but also a good one: “Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind” (Vonnegut, 1986)…
Compare female and male attitude to marriage by analyzing main male and female characters in the novel.
In her novel Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen shows many different characters, who have their specific features and views. Taking into account specific of the novel, it can be interesting to consider female and male attitude to marriage in the novel. Austen shows that there can be different attitudes to marriage between men and women. All they have different main points about the marriage – for one the most important is love, other pay attention to the financial situation or social status, and some shows the balance between the opposite views.
One of the first characters which the readers meet in Austen’s novel and whose attitude to marriage they can see is Mrs. Bennet. One can see that she is excited about Mr. Bingley, “a single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year” (Austen). The emphasis that Mrs. Bennet makes, talking about Mr. Bingley’s income can make one think that she is interested in a good catch for her daughters, and it is true, but “good” does not mean only wealthy in Mrs. Bennet’s case. She also tells about Mr. Bingley that “it is very likely that he may fall in love” with one of her daughters (Austen). In this way, Mrs. Bennet also pays attention to the aspect of feelings in marriage. Mrs. Bennet pays attention to the financial situation and aspect of feelings in marriage. However, she considers marriages of her daughters, and for her, they have two aspects – necessary achievements of her daughters, their transition to a more prestigious status, and holiday that accompanies it. Such attitudes show an interesting mix of seriousness and frivolity in Mrs. Bennet’s view on marriage.
In Austen’s novel, there are two characters whose attitude to marriage can represent two different sides of Mrs. Bennet’s view. The first of those characters is Lydia, one of Mrs. Bennet’s daughters. She pays much attention to the formal moments of celebration related to marriage. She tells to her sisters “how I should like to be married before any of you; and then I would chaperon you about to all the balls” (Austen). Describing her marriage she tells that she “was thinking, you may suppose, of my dear Wickham. I longed to know whether he would be married in his blue coat” (Austen). These few moments shows Lydia’s general frivolity attitude to marriage. She fell in love with Wickham and forgot about the material side and about the decency of her time, living with Wickham before the wedding.
The opposite attitude to marriage shows Charlotte Lucas. She claims that “happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least” (Austen). She pays no attention to the feelings in the context of marriage, and in such way, she makes her own choice. Charlotte tells that she never was romantic and ask only a comfortable home, “considering Mr. Collins’s character, connection, and a situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state” (Austen). Charlotte’s attitude to marriage can be called the marriage of convenience but in a positive sense. It is not a choice of a person who is ready for anything for money, but the choice of the person who is guided only by the mind, not by the feelings.
The character of Elizabeth Bennet represents a balance between mind and feelings. In opposite to her mother, Mrs. Bennet, and her sister Lydia, Elizabeth has no frivolity in her attitude to marriage. She does not think about decorations at the wedding or color of groom’s coat. Thinking about marriages of people around her, Elizabeth pays attention to the different aspects. She clearly understood the importance of a financial situation, but it is not the most important point for her. She refused Mr. Collins, telling that they can not make happy each other. She also refused even more wealthy groom, Mr. Darcy, even though he is not only rich but have a better social position than Elizabeth. Marriage with him could be very profitable for Elizabeth but she refused him because she did not like his personality. Elizabeth agreed to marry him later when she saw that he changed and he is not such negative person as seems at the first time he proposed her. Considering Elizabeth’s views, it was noticed that she “believes that affection, friendship, and respect are major elements of a happy and strong marriage” (Blom). In this way, Elizabeth shows the balance of opposites – she looks for a person with proper social and financial status, she would not quit all for love like her sister Lydia. However, Elizabeth also looks for proper personality whom she could love and respect.
What is interesting, Mr. Darcy pays much attention to the feelings in his attitude to marriage. He understood that he has the better social position than Elizabeth and the way how and when he speaks about that make her angry. However, despite this inequality, he wants her to be his wife. He starts his proposition with words “My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” (Austen). It is important that Elizabeth refusal and an indication of his disadvantages makes him change and prove her that he is not the person she thinks he is. Mr. Darcy pays the main attention to feelings in his attitude to marriage – however, one can pay attention to the fact that Mr. Darcy is wealthy enough and have enough high social position to do not worry about these points.
In Austen’s novel, there is a character who, in opposite to Darcy, pays much attention to the financial situation. Elizabeth found out that Wickham’s affection for Lydia was “not equal to Lydia’s for him” (Austen). In the novel, it is noted that “Wickham still cherished the hope of more effectually making his fortune by marriage in some other country” (Austen). Even though he did not leave a country and married Lydia, it is clear that he did it because of benefit, not because of love. In this way, Wickham represents a marriage of convenience in the negative sense – just because of money. Without Darcy’s interruption and proposition, Wickham would just leave Lydia with a ruined reputation.
One more character, Mr. Collins, represents marriage because of social views. He has a similar attitude to marriage with Charlotte Lucas, who becomes his wife. Collins tells about marriage “my reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish” (Austen). The reason he chose as first clearly shows that for Collins marriage is neither about feelings nor about the financial situation. For him, marriage is about the proper social status that he wants to have. One can compare the way Collins starts his proposition with the way Darcy did it. Darcy started with his feelings to a concrete woman when Collins started with his reasons for marriage, and this shows that personality of a wife is not very important for him – it must be proper woman with proper behavior, but for him it does not matter which proper woman to choose if there are several such ones.
In this way, Austen shows that attitudes to marriage can be very different. For Lydia and Mr. Darcy the most important are feelings, even though they are very different characters. Mr. Collins and Charlotte Lucas shows the positive variant of the marriage of convenience – marriage caused by reasons of mind, not feelings. Wickham represents the marriage because of money, and Mrs. Bennet and her daughter Elizabeth shows mix and balance of different attitudes to marriage.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice.The Project Gutenberg EBook, 2011, www.ucm.es/data/cont/docs/119-2014-04-09-Pride%20and%20Prejudice.pdf. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.
Blom, Elin. “Contrasting Attitudes Toward Marriage in Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet’s Disregard for the Contemporary Marital Conventions.” 2015, http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:903774/FULLTEXT04. Accessed 26 Aug. 2017.
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