studier of character

Vol 1, Chap 9

Elizabeth prides herself in being a studier of character, so it is ironic that she misunderstands Mr. Darcy and lets herself be misled by Wickham’s charm (influenced by her own prejudice).


But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them forever.

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy both change quite significantly as the novel progresses; but arguably they are the only characters in the novel that show any change in personality. Their ability to change and improve themselves (and overcome their pride and prejudice) make them the most likeable, and the most complex characters in the novel.

there is meanness in all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation.

Vol 1, Chap. 8

Mr. Darcy directs this to Miss Bingley; he knows that she is vying for his hand in marriage, not because of a great love but because of the benefits of having a wealthy aristocrat as a husband. Miss Bingley ironically criticises Elizabeth for undervaluing her own sex in recommending herself, but she does the same in condemning Elizabeth. Through this, however, Austen does show Mr. Darcy’s awareness regarding the danger of his position as a highly sought after ‘treasure’. His pride, in a way, is his defense against the ‘treasure-hunters’ seeking to gain his hand in marriage for material and social gain; and later on Elizabeth recognises that it is not an “improper pride”.

A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and modern languages […] air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions

Volume 1, Chap 8

Caroline Bingley lists her requisites for the “accomplished woman”, clearly believing herself to fulfill these requirements (and that Elizabeth does not). Darcy, however, also adds that she needs to show the “improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” Elizabeth’s intellect and sparkling with clearly outshines that of Miss Bingley’s, and this is one major reason why Darcy is attracted to her.

Charles, when you build your house, I wish it may be half as delightful as Pemberley. 

Vol 1, Chap 8

The Bingleys are part of a new rising social class – they do not own their own estate and are not of the landed gentry. They are instead part of the nouveau rich, a class that earned their fortune and reputation through trade. Austen depicts the dynamic social hierarchy in her time – this is a society where wealth was starting to bring social status. (Technically Mr. Bennet is a gentleman, so he would be of a higher social standing if not for his lack of wealth.)

But it must very materially lessen their chance of marrying men of any consideration in the world.

Vol 1, Chap 8

The importance of family and social class is exhibited here as Mr. Darcy matter-of-factly states that Elizabeth’s relations lessens her chance of a good marriage. He refers to her uncle that lives in Cheapside, clearly a less affluent part of London as Austen’s chosen name for the neighbourhood suggests.

Her mother attended her to the door with many cheerful prognostics of a bad day. […] Till the next morning, however, she was not aware of the felicity of her contrivance.

Vol 1, Chap 7

Austen also uses the weather to further the plot; the weather works to Mrs. Bennet’s favour. In Mrs. Bennet’s endeavour to marry Jane off to Mr. Bingley, she does so without shame or heed of Jane’s health. Here Austen uses irony in her icy condemnation of Mrs. Bennet’s plan. The unfortunate outcome for Jane is described as the “felicity of [Mrs. Bennet’s] contrivance.”

rendered intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes.

Vol 1, Chap 6

Austen’s mix of omniscient narratorial understanding with dramatised dialogue here reveals Mr. Darcy’s growing interest in Elizabeth to the readers. What Darcy likes about Elizabeth is the wit and intelligence that can be seen in her eyes; unlike other women, she expresses her own views and she is strong, independent, and smart. 

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.

Vol 1, Chap 6

The function of marriage, at least for Miss Lucas, is to obtain financial security. Happiness and love, for her, are simply added benefits – but she knows her place in life and her expectations of marriage are wildly different from Elizabeth’s. She is neither pretty or wealthy – indeed, Mrs. Bennet says of her (quite maliciously): “he did not admire her at all: indeed, nobody can.”