Study Guide

Pride and Prejudice Prejudice

Prejudice

Mr. Wickham

"His pride never deserts him; but with the rich he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honourable, and perhaps agreeable—allowing something for fortune and figure." (16.47)

There's that word "liberal" associated with being just, sincere, and rational—all the qualities that are exactly the opposite of being prejudiced and refusing to see the world and people as they actually are.

Elizabeth Bennet

"I remember hearing you once say, Mr. Darcy, that you hardly ever forgave, that your resentment once created was unappeasable. You are very cautious, I suppose, as to its being created."

"I am," said he, with a firm voice.

"And never allow yourself to be blinded by prejudice?"

"I hope not." (18.28-30)

Well, this isn't actually true. But we have to say, Darcy might just be the least prejudiced person in the novel. Sure, he doesn't take to Lizzy immediately—but he's definitely right about her family being complete fools.

Mr. Wickham's society was of material service in dispelling the gloom which the late perverse occurrences had thrown on many of the Longbourn family. They saw him often, and to his other recommendations was now added that of general unreserve. The whole of what Elizabeth had already heard, his claims on Mr. Darcy, and all that he had suffered from him, was now openly acknowledged and publicly canvassed; and everybody was pleased to know how much they had always disliked Mr. Darcy before they had known anything of the matter. (24.30)

The people of Meryton are congratulating themselves for deciding that they hated Mr. Darcy on sight. Okay, guys. Don't strain your shoulders patting yourselves on the back about being prejudiced idiots, or anything.

With a strong prejudice against everything he might say, she began his account of what had happened at Netherfield. (36.1)

Lizzy finally has the chance to learn who Mr. Darcy really is, but she's not interested—not at first. It takes a couple readings of his letter for her prejudices to start to fall away.

As to his real character, had information been in her power, she had never felt a wish of inquiring. His countenance, voice, and manner had established him at once in the possession of every virtue. (36.4)

When she thinks back, Lizzy admits that she was totally prejudiced toward Wickham. It's a good reminder that prejudice doesn't always mean disliking someone ahead of time; it can also mean deciding to like someone without any good reason.

She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd. (36.7)

Ouch. We do not want to be Lizzy right now; this kind of self-awareness is super uncomfortable. She's admitting to herself that she's been exactly the kind of silly, prejudiced person she's always mocked.

Elizabeth was shocked to think that, however incapable of such coarseness of expression herself, the coarseness of the sentiment was little other than her own breast had harboured and fancied liberal! (39.15)

When the Bennet sisters are talking about Mary King, Wickham's one-time girlfriend, Lydia says some pretty nasty things about her. It's a big wakeup call to Lizzy, who realizes that she's just as prejudiced as Lydia—she just knows better than to say it out loud.

Elizabeth listened, wondered, doubted, and was impatient for more. Mrs. Reynolds could interest her on no other point. She related the subjects of the pictures, the dimensions of the rooms, and the price of the furniture, in vain. Mr. Gardiner, highly amused by the kind of family prejudice to which he attributed her excessive commendation of her master, soon led again to the subject; and she dwelt with energy on his many merits as they proceeded together up the great staircase. (43.47)

Even servants have family prejudice—but is it really prejudice? A housekeeper would definitely see a family at their absolute worst. So, if Mrs. Reynolds really has nothing but good things to say, maybe Darcy actually is a good guy.

She explained what its effect on her had been, and how gradually all her former prejudices had been removed. (50.19)

Little by little, Lizzy has dropped her prejudices against Darcy. Do you think that she's learned her lesson about not judging people? Or is this a one-time-only deal? (We like to think that she's learned her lesson.)

This naturally introduced a panegyric from Jane on his diffidence, and the little value he put on his own good qualities. Elizabeth was pleased to find that he had not betrayed the interference of his friend; for, though Jane had the most generous and forgiving heart in the world, she knew it was a circumstance which must prejudice her against him. (55.50)

Okay, but really: is it actually prejudice to not like your brother-in-law for breaking you and your boyfriend up? Or isn't that just good judgment based on observable fact?

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