Themes in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is regarded as one of Jane Austen's greatest works, and its popularity is due in large part to the book's outstanding personalities as well as to Austen's distinctive writing style. The Victorian era, during which the book was written, was marked by numerous customs that shared a variety of characteristics. This essay's goal is to thoroughly examine the various themes that have been used in the book and the various roles that the characters have played in setting the themes. Themes, in general, are the central ideas explored by an author in communicating the message of his or her work, most probably wrapped around events that occur at the time of writing. Pride and Prejudice was written in the year 1813, and the story revolves around the Bennets, particularly Elizabeth Bennet who is going through various issues in her life such as marriage and education as well as the relationship with the family. The prominent style used by the author in this novel is narrative technique characterized by free indirect speech. In several ways that Jane Austen presented her ideas, the readers can quickly identify the various themes like love, class, reputation and marriage and this will be discussed in the following parts of the paper.

Literature Review

The Theme of Love

The most common theme that is evident in this novel is love, and Jane Austen has been adored for the idea that she wrote one of the most sorted literature when it comes to the theme of love in the nineteenth century. The theme of love is mainly seen in the courtship of Darcy and Elizabeth and in realizing and accepting the love that the two had for each other, there are a number factors that were involved in the process. This is a common aspect in many love stories where the two characters destined for each other must face some obstacles, or have a relationship that begins with tension caused by the lovers' different personalities (Hayman & Rabkin, p 241). As the story begins, Elizabeth has pride, and because of this, she quickly misjudges Darcy on the grounds of the first impression that was relatively poor. Darcy, on the other hand, has a prejudice against Elizabeth based on her social standing and this for some time blinded him on the many virtues of Elizabeth. At the same time, one can easily state that Darcy was guilty of pride and Elizabeth, on the other hand, is guilty of prejudice at the beginning of their relationship as the title is equal in both ways.

From the moment where the two encounter, the author sets some obstacles in their to challenge the characters in assessing what makes the love that the two will eventually have. Some of the barriers put on their path of love include the attempts of Lady Catherine in controlling her nephew, Mr. Bennet's idiocy, the deceit of Wickham and Miss Bingley's snobbery attitude (Zimmerman, p 65). In each of these circumstances, the desire to have better social connections as well as the anxiety connected to the social relationships challenges their desire for love. The fact that Darcy and Elizabeth realize of the mutual love is an implication that the author viewed love as something that is free from such social constructs, and that love is only something that one can experience if he or she frees themselves from the existing effects of hierarchy. At the same time, Jane Austen illustrates what typically drives people to marriage and that in most cases; people do not marry because of love but because of the status in the society. At the beginning of the story, Jane Austen (p 6) states that "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." This can be owed to the fact that at the time when the author was writing the novel, marriage was an issue, and many men only married because they had gathered enough fortune and women would always marry someone because of his status and this undermined love in marriages.

As previously mentioned, the attitudes of both characters were the obstacles in love, and this is because Elizabeth filled with pride never liked Darcy thinking that he was unfriendly, while Darcy misjudged Elizabeth for coming from a poor background. Jane Austen using this technique communicates the idea that for two people to realize that they are in love, then both partners need to step out of the social classes that define the different roles in the society. The author through Darcy and Elizabeth, including all other characters in the novel, makes it clear that love is the thing that breaks down the barriers that we have erected around us and that dictate who one should marry or not marry (Birk & Gymnich, p 142).

Additionally, on the same point, the author reveals to the readers of what is fake love, and this is the case where characters follow the introduction line of the book stating that a man in possession of great wealth is a sign that he is looking for a wife. The type of love illustrated by this statement is the one defined not, but one's true self but identified by wealth. Charlotte Lucas exemplifies this idea when he talks about their marriage with Mr. Collin, he says, "I am not romantic you know, I never was, I ask only a comfortable home, and considering Mr. Collin's character, connections and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair” (Austen, p 42). The relationship between Charlotte and Mr. Collin is an example of fake love or absence of love because Mr. Collin and Charlotte are not in love with each other, and she married him because of his money; this dictates that in this era, marriage was never a matter of the heart. However, with the story mainly revolving around Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane Austen demonstrates the two different perspectives that society has towards love and extends to explain that love is a force that exists on its own and that cannot be determined by the society as it conquers even the most complex circumstances.

The Theme of Class and Reputation

The novel Pride and Prejudice clearly draws a distinctive line that exists between different classes in the society, and the journey of Darcy and Elizabeth is the most basic example. This is a manifestation of the events in England during the time of the publication of the novel. The Bennets were from middle class but only mingled with the upper class, but even in events where the two classes met, they felt inferior and were in a real sense treated in such a manner. Elizabeth's pride and prejudice originated from the idea that he assumed Darcy was arrogant because of his social class and never wanted to associate with him because of this. Darcy as well thought of Elizabeth as uneducated mainly because she was from a lower class than him and saw no need to finding comfort in Elizabeth. The same is witnessed in Mr. Collins who felt inferior towards those who were more affluent than him such as Lady Catherine. Miss Bingley too practices the idea of social reputation, as she hated anyone who was not socially accepted in her eyes.

People in this society are portrayed to be struggling and working hard for the sake of climbing the social ladder as clearly seen in the life of Wickham who is ready to go to any extent and do extraordinary things just so that he can be accepted in the social class. Nevertheless, the author uses elements such as love and happiness gained through marriage were able to free people from the already established social classes.

The novel illustrates that most women in that time were forced to marry people who they were not attracted to for the sake of reputation and social class and as a way of gaining social and financial security. Charlotte Lucas is the ideal character who displays this theme because she was even ready to mess up with her life for the sake of marrying a rich man who would ensure her financial stability. Jane Austen though condemns this idea. At the same time, Mrs. Bennet organized suitors who would marry her daughters because of her financial inequality, and this is evident in what Elizabeth says of her sister Jane, she states, "If Jane should die, it would be comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley” (Austen, p 98).

The author of the novel goes to great length to explain the idea of reputation, and this is much portrayed in the concept that reputation, particularly in women was of great significance. It meant that women were expected to behave in particular ways and a woman who stepped out of the dictated norms would make her vulnerable to ostracism (Yu, p 680). The first encounter of this theme is when Elizabeth arrived at Netherfield with a muddy skirt, and this shocks Miss Bingley and her associates since this is not what is expected of women. On the same page is Mrs. Bennet is scorned because of her ill manners and unusual behaviors around the Darcys and the Bingleys.

Jane Austen uses Wickham as an agent of breaking the set standards of reputation. In the book, Lydia elopes with Wickham and starts life with him out of wedlock, and Jane in this context treats reputation as a matter of grave concern because, by Lydia allowing herself to become Wickham's lover when the two are not in an actual sense married, Lydia puts herself outside the designed social construct. The disgrace that she has placed on herself threatens the Bennet family. The fact that the choices made by Lydia puts the lives of the Bennet sisters at risk of not being married an ideal reason as to why reputation was a concern during this time.

It is important to understand that the concept of reputation in the book is closely tied to the idea of pride because the two operate in the same ideology that it is pride that governs reputation.

The Theme of Prejudice

Jane Austen also extensively uses the theme of prejudice in the novel where several characters undermine other people because of the education or even their economic status. Elizabeth is one of the characters used to exemplify this theme particularly on her first encounter with Darcy. Darcy is portrayed as a character who is stable economically but the constant prejudice that he receives, especially from Elizabeth, hurts him and alters his perspective towards Elizabeth and her family. It also took Elizabeth time to overcome the constant prejudice that she was receiving from her lover, Darcy, that was followed with snobbery and arrogance. Though Elizabeth is illustrated as a caring character, she was mainly hated in the story based on the things that Darcy said concerning her and her family that was somewhat belittling (Smith, p 89). Prejudice being one of the core elements in the novel by Jane Austen, the author used it as a way of challenging the perspective of the two main characters to explore the idea that people often hold concerning about others should not be what bars them from falling in love.

Additionally, the author used this theme of prejudice to show the character that causes division in the society among people, such as the rich often undermining the lower class people, while those in the lower class hating on the rich because they feel they are arrogant. Such are issues that the author of the book, communicated in depth, as they were the defining factor in the time the book was being written. People only associated with others from the same class, and it was because of the prejudice, the promoted idea that people are only as similar as their class in the society and therefore, the rich were not to associate or marry the poor because they were assumed to be stupid. Hence as portrayed in the book, the one thing that hindered the progress of love between Elizabeth and Darcy is the idea that they never belonged to the same class and therefore they assumed that they are not fit for each other.


The book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen has explored various themes of the society in the nineteenth century, and these themes are prone to different interpretation based on the perspective of the reader. Undeniably, the author vividly illustrates the themes of love, marriage, pride and prejudice so that the message of the story could be understood entirely. In the end, the author shows that love dominates all and conquers all and not even pride or prejudice could hold Elizabeth and Darcy back from falling in love with each other. Based on how the plot has been developed and how the characters have been created to relate with each other, the above-discussed themes are conspicuous throughout the novel, by either standing out alone or closely connected to each other. It is the design and the plan of the novel on how it communicates the discussed themes that make Pride and Prejudice an excellent novel even today.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Pride and prejudice: a novel. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1988.

Birk, Hanne, and Marion Gymnich. Pride and prejudice 2.0. Interpretations, adaptations and transformations of Jane Austen's classic. Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015.

Hayman, David, and Eric S. Rabkin. Form in fiction; an introduction to the analysis of narrative prose. 2nd ed., New York, St. Martin's Press, 1974.

Smith, Leroy W. “Pride and Prejudice: No Improper Pride.” Jane Austen and the Drama of Woman, 1983, pp. 87–110., doi:10.1007/978-1-349-17184-2_5.

Yu, Xiaoping. “Character-Driven Theme Analysis in Pride and Prejudice.” Journal of Language Teaching and Research, vol. 1, no. 5, Jan. 2010, pp. 678–681., doi:10.4304/jltr.1.5.678-681.

Zimmerman, Everett. “Pride and Prejudice in Pride and Prejudice.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 23, no. 1, 1968, pp. 64–73., doi:10.2307/2932317.

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