Consider Mr. Wickham’s function in Pride and Prejudice in terms of the geometry of desire. What is the source of Elizabeth’s attraction to in Mr. Wickham? What role does he play in her attraction to Mr. Darcy? What is the significance of his own amatory adventures? Pride and Prejudice is stylized in the 18th century tone. The novel introduces us to some very strong characters that brilliantly play their roles. Be it the despair of the Bennet family seeking wealthy, eligible bachelors for their girls or the pompous glamour of Mr. Bingley and Mr.
Darcy, never do we find an instance where a character misfits the theme laid down by Austen in this novel. Mr. Wickham is a handsome militia officer out in search of fortune. An articulate young man, Mr. Wickham finds it easy to stand out in social gatherings and make friends. His looks and charm are enough to make any woman desire for him. However, there is a lot more to Mr. Wickham than this. Treacherous, deceptive ways and immoral, fortune-hunting intentions rest behind a mask of friendliness and righteousness. While expressing his views about Mr. Wickham, Mr. Darcy said: Mr. Wickham is blessed with such happy manners as may ensure his making friends— whether he may be equally capable of retaining them, is less certain. (Chapter 18 of Volume I)
Mr. Wickham lays refuge in the Bennet neighborhood where he manages to establish connections with the Bennet ladies and gain considerable popularity amongst them. Elizabeth, the wisest of the five sisters, is instantly drawn by Mr. Wickham’s pleasantry ways and amiable manners. Elizabeth enjoys conversing with this attractive man and gets more and more involved in him. Mr. Darcy is the son of a wealthy, well established family.
He is also the master of the great Pemberley estate. Austen characterizes Mr. Darcy as Elizabeth’s male counterpart. At the onset, Elizabeth detests Mr. Darcy owing to many reasons that include Mr. Wickham’s treacherous plot. Mr. Wickham fools Elizabeth and the rest of the townsfolk into believing that he is an honest man who has been cheated out of career and wealth by Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth’s earliest view of Mr. Darcy was formed at the first ball when she decided that he was the “proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everyone hoped he would never come there again” (Chapter 3 of Volume I)
When Mr. Darcy first proposed to Elizabeth, she replied: 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, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and 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. (Chapter 36 of Volume II)
However, as we scan further through the pages of this narration, events take an abrupt shift and impressions earlier rooted on deception are silenced by waves of truth and Elizabeth eventually realizes how Mr. Wickham had misguided her into loathing Mr. Darcy and how unacceptable her behavior towards Mr. Darcy had been. True, the awakening in Elizabeth was based on many grounds. However, Mr. Wickham’s role contributed significantly towards this progress. Had Mr. Wickham not deceived Elizabeth, she would never have discovered the truth about Mr.
Darcy and understand that he was her ideal match. Mr. Wickham’s amatory adventures added to Elizabeth’s fondness of Mr. Darcy. When she discovered that the brute had run away with her younger sister Lydia, causing a lot of panic and upheaval to the Bennet family, it was Mr. Darcy who had been besides her. Mr. Darcy also rescued Lydia, and the Bennet family from utter disgrace. Having done so much for Elizabeth and her family, Mr. Darcy eventually wins Elizabeth’s heart and she grows very fond of him. Q2.
How do issues of class get raised in the Pride and Prejudice? How does the novel resolve these issues? What role does gender play in how Austen engages issues of class in the novel? ‘It is universally acknowledged, that any single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’. (Chapter 1 of Volume I) This staggering first-liner develops into what is today studied and recognized as one of the most important narrations ever written on social classes and their impact on mankind. Pride and Prejudice is an intriguing novel of the classic times.
It focuses on the nadir and zenith of the social class and brings the two together in what can be called an interesting encounter. Austen does not stop here but goes on to highlight the gender issues of the times and their impact on the social strata set and accepted by mankind. The complete novel revolves around social roles and Austen paints her characters to ably manifest the main theme. Right at the outset, Austen sets the stage for the grievances faced by the Bennets who are ‘burdened’ with 5 daughters. Issues of heritage are highlighted as Mr.
Collins is declared the rightful heir to the Bennet’s minor fortune simply because they have no ‘son’ of their own. Instead of opposing these restrictions imposed by the society, the Bennets focus on marrying at least one of their daughters to a wealthy family. Wealth, here, is perceived as the ultimate source of happiness and security. In this context, Mrs. Bennet’s excitement is clearly displayed on the news of Mr. Bingley’s visit to the town as she plans ways of establishing connexion with the Bingleys in hopes of his marriage to one of her five daughters.
Distinction between the classes is also found all over the novel. The Bingley sisters look down on the Bennet daughters, except for Jane because of her beauty and charm. The jealousy in Bingley’s sister is evident as Mr. Darcy attempts to converse with Elizabeth. She dissuades him of his intent by reminding him of Elizabeth’s social status and saying, ‘with such a father and a mother, and such low connections’. Elizabeth further hears the two discussing cancelation of a marriage to an unfit bride which Elizabeth perceives to be her sister Jane.
Social class is given a lot of significance in the novel. The complete plot is based on its importance. The main character, Elizabeth, goes through immense trouble to find a husband who will not only give her happiness, but more importantly, endow her with social status. The gender issues within the novel are also highly significant. It would not be wrong to term Pride and Prejudice as a classic novel based on women who believe they have to marry to live a happy life. It criticizes on how women of the times were treated. A woman was no more than a burden on her parents.
She was not an entity until she married. Elizabeth, the main character of the narration, refuses to yield to this belief and finds happiness in her marriage. Here, Jane Austin emphasizes that marriage for sake of marriage can never create happiness. On the contrary, marriage for love enables true happiness. Q3. Why does Austen call Elizabeth by her first name and Mr. Darcy by his last name throughout the novel? What is the effect of this naming? What are its social implications? Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are the main characters around whom the entire plot of Pride and Prejudice is staged.
Their roles signify the social classes which marked the classic times. In order to better understand the reason for calling Elizabeth by her first name and Mr. Darcy by his last name, we need to take a look at the setting of the novel itself. The 18th century novel speaks of the social imbalances that prevailed the Western society in those times. Women were considered nothing unless they were married. Mothers sought eligible men from the higher classes for their daughters. Heritage was only the lawful right of sons and the only fortune women could make was by marrying to the wealthy of the society.
Elizabeth Bennet is the second daughter in the Bennet family, and perhaps the most quick-witted and intelligent. She is the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice and is amongst the most renowned female characters in English literature. She has many admirable qualities; she is clever, lovely, honest and articulate. Her wit and virtue allow her to stand out in her spiteful, class-bound society. However, her tendency to make quick impressions of others often leads her astray. Elizabeth comes from a humble family, and the little fortune which her father has will eventually end up with Mr.
Collins as the Bennets do not have a male-heir to the property. She acknowledges this fact and seeks a loving husband who can take care of her. Jane Austen wrote the following about Elizabeth in a letter to her elder sister Cassandra Austen: I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know. (The Critical Heritage – Jane Austen Volume 1) Mr. Darcy is the son of a well-established family. He is the master of the great Pemberley estate. He is the male-counterpart of Elizabeth.
He is over proud of his high birth and wealth, and overly conscious of his social status. Like Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy too has a tendency to make haste perceptions of others. Considering the social differences between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, it is quite obvious why Elizabeth is referred to by her first name whereas Mr. Darcy by his last. This is one of the many endeavors that Austen has made to highlight the distinction in the social classes of the times. Elizabeth was a ‘nobody’, an ordinary girl with no standing in the society whatsoever. No one knew her. The wealthy were not ready to accept her in their circles.
She was looked down upon by Bingley’s sisters. Even Mr. Darcy did not refrain from expressing his haughtiness over her when he met her for the first time. When he proposed to her, he stressed more on how unsuitable a match she is than on her beauty and charms. Her rejection humiliated him as he was turned down by a ‘lowly’ girl. By calling Mr. Darcy by his last name, Austen tries to display the respect that power and wealth bring to man. He is offered respect owing to his higher status. In doing so, Austen criticizes the social distinctions which pervaded the society in the 17th & 18th centuries.
Secondly, if we take a look at the character map of Pride and Prejudice, there are five Bennet sisters. Referring to any one as Ms. Bennet would make it difficult for the readers to comprehend which of the Bennets the writer is referring to. Calling Elizabeth by her first name makes it clearer for readers to understand specifically which sister is being referred to. As for Mr. Darcy, there is no other important character in the novel that can be referred to as Mr. Darcy. For this reason, calling Mr. Darcy by his last name does not create any confusion.
This latter argument can not, however, be termed as very strong because we see similar setting in several other novels by Austen wherein females are referred to by their first names while males are called by their last. Keeping this in mind, it would be best to infer that the social disparities prevalent amongst the classes of the times accounted for the difference in manner of referring to males and females, and wealthy and poor. Works Cited Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Smith, Lori. A Walk with Jane Austen. Southam, B. C. The Critical Heritage – Jane Austen Volume 1
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