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Elizabeth Bennets pride and prejudice gives her inaccurate first impressions of Fitzwilliam Darcy. In the beginning, Elizabeth judges Darcy as "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world" (Austen 8). This denotes the beginning of Elizabeths prejudice against Darcy, which further increases after he insults Elizabeth by calling her "tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me" (Austen 9).
Although this is insufficient basis for her prejudice against Darcy, when she hears the awful stories about Darcy from Wickham, she is given more reasons to develop her prejudice against Darcy and even deepens her dislike of Darcy to the point that she views Darcy as having "such malicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity" (Austen 71).
Elizabeths prejudice of Darcy is also further fuelled when Colonel Fitzwilliam implies that Darcy has intentionally broken up the relationship of Mr Bingley and Jane, Elizabeths eldest sister; Darcy does not want Mr Bingley to suffer "the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage" (Austen 165). Since Elizabeth is a proud person and she dislikes being wrong in her judgements, she never expresses her views of Fitzwilliam Darcy.
However, Elizabeth is wrong on two counts. Firstly, Wickham tells Elizabeth a fictional story about Darcy. She discovers that after Darcy writes a letter to Elizabeth after his failed first marriage proposal to Elizabeth, explaining the reasons and truths behind his own actions regarding his friendship with Wickham. Elizabeth feels ashamed, "feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, and absurd" (Austen 185). Secondly, Darcy misjudges Elizabeths sister to be indifferent to Mr. Bingley and he fears for Mr. Bingleys happiness; but Elizabeth corrects Darcy about her sisters feelings toward Mr. Bingley. Elizabeth finds this out in Darcys letter to her. Elizabeth has shown pride in herself, guarding her judgements and impressions of people, that she is blinded by her own prejudice.
Fitzwilliam Darcy is not the only person of whom Elizabeth Bennet has the wrong first impression; she also has the inaccurate first impression of Wickham. In the beginning of the story, he is introduced as a handsome soldier:
His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address. The introduction was followed up on his side by a happy readiness of conversation - a readiness at the same time perfectly correct and unassuming (Austen 64).
Wickham appears to be the complete opposite of Darcy. Elizabeth responds well to that kind of character, because she is already prejudiced against Darcy, a different kind of character; also, Wickham does not offend her pride. Wickham appears to be a friendly person, and Elizabeth immediately befriends him. When Wickham tells her his story about his acquaintance with Darcy, Elizabeth "honoured him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than ever as he expressed them" (Austen 71). This increases the effects of her pride and prejudice against Darcy. Wickham manipulates Elizabeths pride and prejudice in a way that makes him seem an honourable person in comparison to Darcy.
However, Elizabeth is also wrong about Wickham, because Darcy writes her a letter explaining his past acquaintance with Wickham and the reasons behind the end of their friendship. Elizabeth is astonished when she reads a passage in Darcys letter:
Mr Wickhams chief object was unquestionably my sisters fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me, was a strong inducement. His revenge would have been complete indeed (Austen 180).
Elizabeth is thrown into an emotional confusion as she tries to examine Darcy by his letter and his behaviours. She realizes at the end that Wickham has instilled a sense of falsehood concerning Wickhams acquaintance with Darcy. Elizabeth changes her mind about Wickham and views him differently after reading the letter from Darcy. Elizabeths pride and prejudice influences her to think good of Wickham in the first place because he is the polar opposite of Darcy.
In addition, Elizabeth Bennet is not the only character with pride and prejudice. Fitzwilliam Darcy is another example of a person proud and prejudiced. Fitzwilliam Darcy is described as:
Darcy was clever. He was at the same time haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting. In that respect, his friend had greatly the advantage. Bingley was sure of being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offence (Austen 13).
The quote describes how the people in Hertfordshire, including Elizabeth, views Darcy. He acts in this manner because he is a proud and wealthy person. Charlotte Lucas explains the reason for Darcys actions: '"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" (Austen 16). Darcy is proud because he has everything he could ever ask for, such as social connections, fortune, social status, and friends. He views Elizabeth as an inferior because of her family, her connections, and her wealth. Because of Darcys pride, he becomes prejudiced towards Elizabeth.
Despite his prejudice against Elizabeth, he begins to love her. Darcy "really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger" (Austen 45). Darcy is sure that Elizabeth will have bewitched him if she has social connections and wealth, but Darcy does not realize that he has already begun to love her. His love is blinded by his own pride and prejudice. As the story progresses, Darcy finds it hard to resist Elizabeths charm to the point that Darcy proposes to her. However, this is an emphasis on Elizabeths inferiority in Darcys views:
He spoke well, but there were feelings beside those of 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 a family obstacles which judgements had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit (Austen 168).
Darcy proposes marriage to Elizabeth, reminding her about her familial and social connections. This shows that Darcy is conscious of Elizabeths social and financial status. Darcy is concerned about himself; however, he is partially willing to throw away his pride for his love of Elizabeth.
Nevertheless, Elizabeth does not accept Darcys proposal and explains her reasons. Darcy is forced to re-examine himself and recognize his wrongful actions. When he realizes that he is too proud and prejudiced, he experiences a massive character transformation. After his self-examination, Darcy appears a different man and less prejudiced. He helps Elizabeths family by bringing Bingley and Jane back together, and finding Lydia and Wickham. He makes sure Wickham will marry Lydia even though the situation does not directly affect him, because4 he knows that will make Elizabeth happy and relieved. Elizabeth plays an important role in Darcys life; because of Elizabeth, Darcy is able to overcome his pride and prejudice.
On the contrary, Elizabeths first impression of Mr. Collins is correct, although Mr. Collins is an easy person to decipher. Mr. Collins is a predictable character, a nervous person, and one who obviously admires his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Collins has stayed as a guest at Elizabeths family home to solve the disagreements between Mr. Bennet and Mr. Collins father. Since he is not a complex character as Darcy and Wickham are, Elizabeth can figure him out:
It now first struck her, that she was selected from among her sisters as worthy of being the mistress of Hunsford Parsonage, and of assisting to firm a quadrille table at Rosings, in the absence of more eligible visitors. The idea soon reached to conviction, as she observed his increasing civilities toward herself and heard his frequent attempt at a compliment on her wit and vivacity; and though more astonished that gratified herself, by this effects of her charms, it was not long before her mother gave her to understand that probability of their marriage was exceedingly agreeable to her (Austen 78 - 79).
Elizabeth Bennets mother hints at Mr. Collins real purpose for visiting the Bennets. This information from her mother influences Elizabeth in a way that she develops her first impression of Mr. Collins before he even comes to visit. Therefore, Elizabeths first impression of Mr. Collins is untrue, she does not develop her opinion of him on her own as she has with her opinions of Darcy and Wickham.
In conclusion, first impressions of people are influenced by a persons pride and prejudice. Elizabeth Bennets pride and prejudice influences her first impressions of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Wickham, and her first impressions are wrong; the same can be said for Fitzwilliam Darcy. Therefore, the characteristic traits of pride and prejudice are the central role in Jane Austens Pride and Prejudice.