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Concept Of Good Breeding In Pride And Prejudice English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1240 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Jane Austen is known as one of Britain’s iconic writers from the nineteenth century, and is known for such works as Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and of course Pride and Prejudice, which will be the subject of this essay. Nineteenth century England was dominated by the Industrial Revolution which boosted the British economy and lead to epic growth. Society became dominated by wealth and the divide between those who were rich and those that were poor grew considerably leading to a new breed of class and intern highlighting a concept of good breeding within society. For women, it became more important than ever to socialize in order to become secure financially as they were expected to marry well so they could intern support their families. Marriage was no longer about love and commitment it was now heavily influenced by wealth, property and social status. Also the way people carried themselves in regards to behaviour and their mannerisms was judged by everyone around them in society. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet’s family’s behaviour ultimately influences her marriage prospects throughout the majority of the novel despite her character being determined and ruthless, which is certainly not how women were expected to behave during industrial Britain at that time.

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The two mannerisms that are prejudice and pride obviously depict the characters of both Elizabeth Bennet and William Darcy, who’s circumstances are much favourable than Miss Bennet’s. Darcy’s character personifies pride and arrogance where as his friend Mr Bingley who is also financially well off, is the complete opposite of Darcy in regards to his mannerisms. This therefore demonstrates that someone in a well-off position isn’t always proud and disagreeable. Prejudice within the text could be displayed towards the Bennett’s through Darcy due to their social class, however it could be conceived that Elizabeth is prejudiced towards Darcy, especially when he refuses to dance with her. What does their relationship truly consist of though? Is it simply ideal in terms of economics and that their suitability is purely financial? To a certain extent yes¸ however the two share a ruthless quality in their ventures; Elizabeth portrays this through her determined personality which is dominated by her morals and ideas of how love should be perceived. Darcy’s however is through his wealth, although it is known he was born into fortunate circumstances, the novel reflects his ability in maintaining his wealth and adding to it. Also when he begins to show his admiration for Elizabeth he isn’t put off by her lack of affection for him and continues to prove himself by even assisting a personal enemy in Wickham in order to ultimately aid Elizabeth’s sister Lydia and intern the Bennet family.

This sense of ruthlessness can also be seen in how Jane Austen writes. Often she uses the phrase “violently in love” [1] which not only can it be considered as an oxymoron, it also can be perceived to be a description of how deep and how passionate the love is between Elizabeth and William Darcy. On the other hand it can be said, to be used as an element of sarcasm between the two characters especially if it is shown in relation to Darcy’s vanity and arrogance portrayed in the beginning of the novel.

However the fact Austen uses this maybe to highlight the significance love has on a person and to show its importance in life. Jane Austen may view love and affection as life’s ultimate form of happiness, and this could be heavily influenced by her own circumstances in life not involving love and that of her sister Cassandra who lost her love.

Although Darcy maybe considered being unashamed of his pride, for many of the characters they are shown to be perhaps ignorant or even oblivious and unaware of their pride, for example one of Elizabeth’s siblings Mary. Mary embarrasses herself and the family when playing the piano and singing in public. Her father makes it known he does not wish her to no longer play by suggesting to her that she should allow someone else play. It is then, that Sir William Lucas intervenes by also suggesting that Mary should stop however he still praises her ability and taste, which in turn boosts Mary Bennet’s ego massively and intern she is unaware of the reason why others wish her to stop, making her naive in regards to her ability.

An obvious example of ignorance and pride is of course when Elizabeth Bennet declines Mr Collin’s marriage proposal and then goes on to add;

“I do assure you, sir, that I have no pretensions whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart.” [2] 

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By refusing Mr. Collin’s offer it could be interpreted that Elizabeth is selfish in declining after all Austen highlights the importance of the girls marrying well, and Mr. Collins is set to inherit the Bennet’s estate. Showing that Elizabeth is ultimately putting herself first rather than assisting her family, however it can be said if Elizabeth was to except, we would more than likely sympathise with her character as Austen portrays Mr. Collins to be somewhat dim and weak compared to the other men in the novel.

Although Elizabeth’s response is clear in rejecting Mr. Collins’ proposal, he however, chooses himself to reject and ignore her refusal and believes it to be part of her feminine behaviour. He also completely refuses to believe that she couldn’t possibly love him. However is it really love that Mr. Collins is searching for? It can be considered that love is something Mr Collins doesn’t necessarily feel in regards to Elizabeth, as his character stress’ throughout the novel, that it is the wish of his patron Lady Catherine de Bourgh, that he finds a wife. This suggests that it is not his decision that he does so. Also after Elizabeth’s rejection the speed in which he then asks Charlotte Lucas after Elizabeth’s refusal re-enforces this argument that it’s merely a mission of his to find himself a wife to please Lady Catherine de Bourgh who in the novel, is the ultimate power in society in regards to class and finance.

The concept of “good breeding” is a major aspect of Elizabeth’s dealings with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Knowing through Austen’s descriptions of Elizabeth being handsome, it can be presumed that her ladyship would find Elizabeth as a threat. Her continuous questions to Elizabeth enquiring on her family show contempt towards the Bennet’s position. For example Lady Catherine de Bourgh asks about Elizabeth’s siblings. She asks;


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