Pride and Prejudice
Class has been a preoccupation of British life and in turn, British literature throughout the ages. During the Regency period a social hierarchy was firmly in place and one’s position was strongly determined by family history, wealth and occupation. Royals enjoyed the highest rank and social standing.
Romantic Love and Marriage
The politics of marriage are a central theme in Pride and Prejudice and other works of fiction written during the Regency period. Young women raised during Jane Austen’s time were constantly aware of their duty to ensure financial stability for themselves and their families. In many cases, romantic love could not be a consideration in the decision to marry. Jane Austen, however, argues through her characters that a successful union may only be possible when the couple has genuine affection for one another.
Pride and Prejudice seems as though it is a simple story about young love. It is important to note however, that there is complexity in the many different perspectives held by the characters at different points in the story. Most notably, Elizabeth’s first impression of Mr Darcy colours his actions as seen from Elizabeth’s perspective. Mr Darcy’s proud disposition offers a lens to the audience through which to see his perspective. Often these perspectives are at odds with one another but the audience is able to get a good sense of each character’s viewpoint due to Austen’s deftness at creating fully realized, three dimensional characters whose perspectives are illustrated through their actions.
Similar to the theme of class, reputation has been an enduring preoccupation in British society and literature. In Pride and Prejudice, most characters, perhaps with the exception of Lydia, are acutely aware that their reputation is being scrutinized. Some characters have a false sense of their own positive reputation (Mrs Bennet, for example, believes she and her family are well respected, when in fact many find fault and criticize them behind their backs), while others are in tune with what others think of them and work very hard to earn and/or maintain their good reputation.