Study Guide

Pride and Prejudice Pride

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Charlotte Lucas

"His pride," said Miss Lucas, "does not offend me so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself. If I may so express it, he has a right to be proud." (5.18)

It looks like Charlotte agrees with Mr. Darcy: some people really do deserve to be proud. Of course, notice that she doesn't say anything about his character. She thinks he has a right to be proud because he's good looking and comes from a rich family.

Mary Bennet and Kitty Bennet

"Pride," observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidity of her reflections, "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 other, real or imaginary. 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." (5.20)

Mary is our Greek chorus girl, parroting the advice manuals that were popular in the early nineteenth-century. (It's like going around and quoting self-help books.) Sure, she sounds like a real stick-in-the-mud. At the same time, isn't she kind of right? There is a difference between pride and vanity—and it's a lesson that Lizzy and Darcy both have to learn.

Mr. Darcy

"Where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation." (11.18)

When Lizzy needles Darcy about his pride, he fights back: it's fine to have a big ego if you actually have the skillz to support it.

I was given good principles, but left to follow them in pride and conceit. (50.24)

Ooh, get out the highlighter, because this is the first time that Darcy admits some of his pride might not have been justified. In fact, it may have been a lot more like conceit.

A fortunate chance had recommended him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant; and the respect which he felt for her high rank, and his veneration for her as his patroness, mingling with a very good opinion of himself, of his authority as a clergyman, and his right as a rector, made him altogether a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility. (15.1)

It's one thing when Mr. Darcy struts around feeling good about himself, because, as we know, he's awesome. It's quite another for gross Mr. Collins, who has literally nothing to be proud of.

He spoke well; but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed; and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority—of its being a degradation—of the family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit. (34.5)

Mr. Darcy's marriage proposal is more about himself than about Elizabeth—and that makes two for Lizzy, since Mr. Collins' was just a grosser version of the same thing. With options like that, no wonder she keeps saying no.

Mr. Gardiner, whose manners were very easy and pleasant, encouraged her communicativeness by his questions and remarks; Mrs. Reynolds, either by pride or attachment, had evidently great pleasure in talking of her master and his sister. (43.23)

Mrs. Reynolds is the housekeeper at Pemberley, and she seems to take more pride in the Darcy family than he does. But from what she says, there's a lot to be proud of. Is this a case of justifiable pride?

Mr. Wickham

"It has often led him to be liberal and generous, to give his money freely, to display hospitality, to assist his tenants, and relieve the poor. Family pride, and filial pride—for he is very proud of what his father was—have done this. Not to appear to disgrace his family, to degenerate from the popular qualities, or lose the influence of the Pemberley House, is a powerful motive. He has also brotherly pride, which, with some brotherly affection, makes him a very kind and careful guardian of his sister, and you will hear him generally cried up as the most attentive and best of brothers." (16.38-40)

Even Wickham admits that Darcy's pride has some good characteristics: he's got family pride, which means that he's careful not to do anything that would disgrace his father. Gee. It's a shame Wickham doesn't have a little bit of that, too.

Elizabeth Bennet

"How despicably I have acted!" she cried; "I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable mistrust! How humiliating is this discovery! Yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself." (36.10)

Ouch. Who needs enemies when you've got yourself for a friend? Here, Lizzy berates herself for her "vanity"—not the vanity of thinking she's hot stuff or anything, but the vanity of thinking that she's actually a good judge of character (her "discernment"). Instead, she's been swayed by Wickham's pretty face and his flirty attentions.

"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)

Elizabeth doesn't use the word "pride" here, but that's exactly what she's talking about: acting in a way that's consistent with her own (high) opinion of herself. And that's got to be a good feeling.

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