Prejudice Quotes: Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, 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, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

– Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 3. This describes the reaction to Fitzwilliam Darcy and his friend Charles Bingley at the Meryton ball, attended by the Bennet sisters and their mother. Aside from Darcy’s handsome looks, what makes a big impression on the ballgoers is that he is wealthy and worth ten thousand pounds a year. But very quickly they make up their minds from Darcy’s manner that he is insufferably proud and behaves as if he is superior to those around him. From the start they develop a dislike of and a prejudice against him. He is "unworthy" to be compared to his friend Charles Bingley, they decide. Darcy is believed to be partly based on Irish politician and lawyer Thomas Lefroy, who had a flirtation and spent some time with Jane Austen during a break from studying law. Austen’s lack of wealth is believed to have played a part in the pair not ending up together. After Lefroy died in 1869 one of his nephews wrote to Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen Leigh to say: "My late venerable uncle…said in so many words that he was in love with her, although he qualified his confession by saying it was a boyish love."

Elizabeth was much too embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, "You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever." Elizabeth feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand, that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure, his present assurances.

– Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 58. If at first your don’t succeed…the climax of Austen’s classic story of love and misunderstanding arrives with Mr. Darcy’s famous second proposal and Elizabeth’s acceptance of it. Moments before Elizabeth learned that Darcy intervened to save Lydia because of his affection for Elizabeth. She is speechless with embarrassment, and Darcy uses the opportunity to propose again. Elizabeth clearly wasn’t ready to receive Darcy’s first proposal and his declaration of "how ardently I admire and love you." That proposal was also clumsily presented by Darcy, who spoke of how he struggled to repress his feelings and referred to Elizabeth’s inferior social position and family obstacles. But what an insulted Elizabeth didn’t understand then was that Darcy was trying to explain how he loved her in spite of her position and family connections. The second time round when Darcy proposes and Elizabeth accepts, it is more a conversation of equals instead of one or the other thinking that they are superior. Class is not a barrier. Also Darcy’s less prideful second proposal suggests no expectation on his part that Elizabeth will automatically accept him, as clearly was the expectation first time round. Elizabeth sees Darcy in a different light now as well, her stubbornness and prejudice against him having given way to a deeper understanding of his true character: honest and noble and a person of integrity. She has matured and grown to this point where she is ready to accept him.
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