Pride and Vanity in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Vanity in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us. In her novel, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen makes the point that an excess of pride or vanity is indeed a failing.

Pride, observed Mary, . . . is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or another, real or imaginary.

Pride and/or vanity is exhibited in different forms by each character. Those characters who can recognize their flaw emerge as the true heroes of the story.

In many minor characters of the novel, pride is a common characteristic. Mrs. Bennet, for instance, is extremely proud when it comes to her daughters marriages of mercenary advantage. She is so concerned that her neighbors have a high opinion of her that her own vanity will not even allow her to think of her daughters love and happiness. This is best shown with the case of Elizabeth Bennet's proposed marriage to the esteemed Mr. Collins, a man she did not love. Mrs. Bennet was so upset when her daughter refused Mr. Collins offer that she would not speak to her for passing up such an opportunity.

We can see an example of pride for imaginary qualities in Mary Bennet who was herself the speaker of this passage. To the embarrassment of her family, Mary would take every chance she could to put on a show whenever in a public sit...

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...s a flaw in their respective characters. Darcy realizes that he must check his pride in order to be seen in a good light by others. Elizabeth, the object of his affections, is so turned off by his prideful ways that a touch of vanity enables him to change himself for her. Elizabeth, while observing the transformations of Darcy, realizes that she, too, has been guilty of too much pride. She sees that she was indeed prejudiced and that she must come to terms with the failings of her family. Darcy and Elizabeth are able to overcome their pride which enables them to live happily ever after.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. 1813. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993.

Johnson, Claudia L. "Pride and Prejudice and the Pursuit of Happiness." Pride and Prejudice. By Jane Austen. Ed. Donald Gray. New York: Norton and Co., 1993. pp. 367-376.
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