Pride and Prejudice
How we cite our quotes:
"If it was to be secret," said Jane, "say not another word on the subject. You may depend upon my seeking no further." […] Jane's delicate sense of honour would not allow her to speak to Elizabeth privately of what Lydia had let fall; Elizabeth was glad of it;—till it appeared whether her inquiries would receive any satisfaction, she had rather be without a confidante. (51.28-35)
For a character who is often kind of dismissed for being overly nice and trusting of everyone, Jane actually has a fairly complicated moral code. First, the idea of never prejudging a situation and giving everyone as much benefit of the doubt as possible—and now this, the ability to repress curiosity entirely. Impressive!
"You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?[…] You are then resolved to have him?"
"I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me. […] Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude," replied Elizabeth, "have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment's concern—and the world in general would have too much sense to join in the scorn." (56.64-69)
Here, in the totally ridiculous person of Lady de Bourgh, we actually get one of the main philosophical questions of the novel. How much should someone bow to the demands of the surrounding society? How much emphasis should be put on the happiness of the individual? Does the novel resolve this question? Or does the ending kind of sidestep this issue after raising it here and there?
"I have given him my consent. He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything, which he condescended to ask. I now give it to you, if you are resolved on having him. But let me advise you to think better of it. I know your disposition, Lizzy. I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior. Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage. You could scarcely escape discredit and misery. My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life." (59.36)
This is kind of interesting, as far as we can get a sense of Mr. Bennet's views on partnership as a necessary part of marriage. The idea itself is kind of confused, though—which should Elizabeth want, equality of intelligence, since she would be miserable in an "unequal marriage"? Or does Mr. Bennet still think that in a relationship the man must be smarter than the woman, so that she would think him "a superior"? If it's the latter, then shouldn't his own marriage be totally awesome?