While Pride And Prejudice is demonstrably concerned with the subject of love, from Lydia's physical passion for Wickham, through Jane's slightly too patient and undemanding feelings for Bingley, to Elizabeth's final "perfect" match with Darcy, it would be doing the novel and its author a great injustice to assume that it is merely a love story, and has no other purpose or design. The scope of the novel is indeed much wider than a serious interest in who will marry who and who will have the manor that is worth the most money, or even the less shallow subject of women trying, failing, and succeeding at finding their perfect mates on a romantic level. While the investigation of love in its many forms is by no means a completely trivial exercise in and of itself, Pride And Prejudice does not confine itself to that one topic, but while presenting a story that details several love affairs and the variously intelligent, mistaken, and idiotic views of diverse characters towards the subject, Jane Austen also gives the reader insight into issues that range from moral questions of pride and lack thereof, to individual and class prejudice, to the expected roles of women eighteenth and nineteenth century society.
"Whether we like it or not, she [Jane Austen] was... a moralist," writes Gilbert Ryle. "...she wrote what and as she wrote partly from a deep interest in some perfectly general, even theoretical questions about human nature and human conduct," (Ryle 106). This concept of Austen as moralist, but "not, however, to say that she was a moralizer," (Ryle 106), is not one of the more common views, especially concerning Pride And Prejudice. The title itself, however, is a direct st...
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... examination of social and moral issues, the deft touch of satire and sincerity used in portraying not only Elizabeth, but her time and place, the attitudes toward her and toward people like her, make it a larger work. It may be overall a love story even when taking these into account, if one were to view it as Jane Austen's love affair with the examination of human nature- but on no account can Pride And Prejudice be described as merely a love story; given its scope, it isn't merely anything.
Austen, Jane. Pride And Prejudice. London: Penguin, 1972. First published 1813.
Ryle, Gilbert. "Jane Austen And The Moralists." Critical Essays On Jane Austen. Ed. B.C. Southam. London:Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968.
Wright, Andrew H. "Feeling and Complexity in Pride and Prejudice." Ed. Donald Gray. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1966. 410-420.
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