Justification of the Title-Pride and Prejudice
“Pride and Prejudice” was first published in 1797. It was given the title “First Impressions.” “First Impression” plays a great role in the novel. Throughout the novel, there are so many events where this first impression becomes vital. First, we see Elizabeth making a wrong judgement about both Darcy and Wickham. Her attitude towards Darcy and Wickham is only the result of first impression. This theme of judgement runs throughout the novel. It is also apparent in the very first sentence of the novel. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young man in possession of a good fortune must in want of a wife.” However, this novel was published again under the new and apt title in 1813. The title was “Pride and Prejudice.” If we have a minute study of the novel, we realize that the first impressions have their impression for the first few chapters but pride and prejudice are the facts that become the essence of the story of the novel. Definitely, this novel is about the pride of Darcy and the prejudice of Elizabeth caused by their mutual misunderstanding.
In the beginning of the novel, Mary describes Pride as “a common failing. Human nature is particularly prone to it.” Mr. Darcy is no doubt the most proud character in the story. During the discussion between Wickham and Elizabeth, Wickham tells Elizabeth that he has a “filial pride.” Mrs. Bennet also says that “He walked here and he walked there, fancying himself so very great.” His haughty manners at the ball gave the people very bad impression of his personality, especially Elizabet, whom he regarded as “tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Other proud characters include Lady Catherine, Miss Bingley and Elizabeth Bennet. However, Lady Catherine’s patronizing behaviour and Miss Bingley’s rudeness are due to their social status. Elizabeth is proud due to her high respect for herself and it is best displayed when Darcy refers to Darcy: “And I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified me.” When he rejects her in the ball, her prejudice mounts up and from the start, she willfully misinterprets all his actions and utterances.
Darcy’s pride stems from the superiority of intellect, his noble ancestory and his riches and it leads him to have prejudice against Elizabeth’s family and her low connections. Although, “He had never been bewitched by any woman as he was by her”, Darcy feels it beneath his dignity to accept the fact that he is in love with her. Even he can repress his feelings no longer and does propose to Elizabeth: “He was not more eloquent on the subject of the tenderness than on pride.” He appears humble when he is rejected without ceremony. Moreover, Elizabeth’s words “Had you behaved in a more gentleman like manner” and her criticism of his self-conceit also leave deep effect on him.
Elizabeth’s refusal gives initiative to a process of self-analysis in Darcy. As a result, Darcy appears as a man who has gone through a considerable transition. We realize this fact when he delivers a long explanatory speech to Elizabeth at the end of the novel. Another proof of his transition is that he remains firm in his choice of Elizabeth even after elopement made by Lydia and Wickham. This is the elopement that causes Elizabeth acknowledge: “Indeed he has no improper pride. He is perfectly amiable.”
In Elizabeth, we also see the compound of pride and prejudice in the intelligent and self-assured young woman. Her prejudice against Darcy occurs when she overhears Darcy calling her, “tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”
Elizebeth’s judgements about other characters’ dispositions are accurate but only half of the time. She is right when she considers Mr. Collins “Self-serving” and “Sycophantic.” Similarly, she considers Lady Catherine de Bourgh “Proud” and “snobbish.” Elizabeth’s first impressions about Wickham and Darcy steer her incorrectly. When Charlotte tries to convince her about the agreeable side of Darcy, she utters: “To find a man agreeable whom one is determined to hate! Do not wish me such an evil.” However, she comes to know the real side of Darcy and Wickham when she reads the letter written by Darcy. In fact, this letter introduces in Elizabeth the same self-criticism that Darcy undergoes. Thus, Elizabeth realizes her folly in trusting her first impressions and acknowledges: “How despicably have I acted. I, who have prided myself on my discernment! -I, who have valued myself on my abilities.”
Darcy’s role in Lydia Wickham episode clearly shows that he has completely removed his feelings of pride because if he had not done so, he would never have been ready to give his assent to get involved in Bennet’s disgrace and have for his brother in law, the man he despises. Elizabeth’s realization of the fact that “Darcy was exactly the man, who in disposition and talent would most suit her” suggests that her initial prejudice against Darcy is dissolved and it is the best and adequate time for them to get married.
However, it is not only Elizabeth who is prejudiced against Darcy, the others in society have also prejudice against Darcy. We realize it when we read the following lines. “His character is decided. He was the proudest and most disagreeable man in the world and everbody hoped that he would never come there again.”
One thing is worth mentioning. Not only the protagonists but the other minor characters also reflect pride and prejudice in their personalities. Lady Katherine is also an example of pride and prejudice. Mrs. Bennet is proud of her daughters. She is also prejudiced against Darcy in her stupidity. Furthermore, Lydia’s thoughtless behaviour prejudices society against the responsibility that her sisters will ever get married. This is articulated through the snobbish Mr. Collin’s letter. “This false step in one daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all others…” To sum up, we can say without any hesitation that the title “Pride and Prejudice” adequately points to the main theme of the novel. Both the protagonists have been tangling with pride and prejudice throughout the story. They, no doubt, strived hard to remove their pride and prejudice. The fact is that both are proud and prejudiced. Darcy’s pride leads to prejudice and Elizabeth’s prejudice is the result of pride in her own perceptions. No doubt, the title of the novel is quite apt and suggestive and fully related to the story. We fully agree with the remarks of a critic who remarks: “The appropriateness of the title is indeed unquestionable and it bears immense significance to the plot, thematic concerns and the characterization in the novel.” (Words: 1108)