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The theme of love is presented in Pride and Prejudice through three main ways; firstly through the personalities of the characters, for example whether the character in question believes that love should play a larger part in the coming together of two people than the possible benefits, like wealth or societal position. Secondly, how love is presented in the actions of the different characters, this is to show what each of the characters actually does to display the individual opinions of love in the novel.
I will show this through key dialogues and actions from the characters. And thirdly, I will comment on the change of the priorities in the mind of Mr. Darcy.
Firstly, I will talk about the personalities of the characters. Mrs. Bennet is an obvious place to begin as she holds the most obvious state of mind in the novel. “And all the others equally well married; I shall have nothing to wish for.” Her clear desperation for the marriage of her daughters is backed up by a motive, that, when her husband dies the Bennet estate will be taken out of her hands because of an absence of a male heir.
This gives Mrs Bennet a need for at least one of her daughters to be married.”
In the beginning of the book, she is speaking to her husband about the coming of a man to the estate; “Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year.
What a fine thing for our girls!” Her comment on the large fortune does indeed show that she appears more interested in the benefit of his wealth over whether her daughter will be happy. She then mentions beauty, “I certainly have had my share of beauty,” this shows that Mrs. Bennet may also be slightly swayed by the physical appearance of Mr Bingley’s figure. In the first chapter, there is no mention of his personality at all, showing that Mrs. Bennet falls firmly on the “wealth” side as opposed to the characters who favour “love.”
Elizabeth, despite being the daughter of Mrs. Bennet, does in fact fall on the “love” side shown more prominently in her refusal of Mr. Collins’ hand in marriage. “You are too hasty sir,” she cried. “You forget that I have made no answer. Let me do it without farther loss of time … but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them (proposals.)” Mr Collins’ is not a good example of an honourable person shown especially in his arrogant persistence to win Elizabeth’s hand. Despite this, Elizabeth remains firm, showing her individuality and self-confidence as she follows through with what she says. “Really, Mr Collins,” cried Elizabeth with some warmth “you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as may convince you of its being one.”
Secondly, I will talk about the actions of the characters. Mr Collins displays his preference of marriage but not for the usual wealth reason, he wants to marry to make himself seem more important, “the subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect,” which seems to be his aim throughout most of the novel. We see his clear desperation for marriage when he proposes to Charlotte two days after proposing to Elizabeth. This is not a nice thing to do and it shows that Mr. Collins had no real regard for Elizabeth and is also likely to have limited regard for Charlotte either. Mr Wickham is also an example. He tells Elizabeth a lot about his suitability to marry and also spreads a lot of tales concerning Mr. Darcy which demonstrates that he may not be very concerned with love within a couple. “I should take him, even on my slight acquaintance, to be an ill-tempered man.”
Finally, I will talk about the change in Mr Darcy. Elizabeth first meets Mr Darcy at the ball and because of a poor first impression, she then thinks him to be a rude man who she should not associate with, “the is meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation,” while Darcy’s prejudice against Elizabeth’s social standing blinds him, for a short while, to her many virtues. Austen, meanwhile, poses countless smaller obstacles to the realization of the love between Elizabeth and Darcy, including Lady Catherine’s attempt to control her nephew, Miss Bingley’s snobbery, Mrs. Bennet’s idiocy, and Wickham’s deceit.
The way he dismisses Elizabeth for her social class, “she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me,” shows that Mr. Darcy does not care much for the personality aspect of different people. However, later in the novel after speaking to her, Mr Darcy recognises her beauty and proposes to her and she rejects him. This shows a huge change in Mr Darcy as he recognises that he must love her to ask her again to marry him. The second time, Elizabeth accepts and the novel reaches its climax when Elizabeth Bennet becomes Elizabeth Darcy. Mr Darcy has married her for her love which shows the change inside him.
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