Pride And Perception Essay, Research Paper
Pride and Perception
Jane Austen’s society values impressions, and considers them an important aspect of their culture. A first impression determines the entire perception of that person. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet learns a hard lesson by basing her perception of other characters completely on their first impressions. “The comedy is concerned with a heroine who must be educated out of a condition of self-deception brought on by the shutters of pride into a condition of perception when that pride had been humbled through the exposure of the errors of judgement into which it has led her” (Watt, 98). Through occurrences within the novel Pride and Prejudice, the perception based on first impressions of Wickham and Darcy in Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes alters.
Elizabeth’s first impressions of Wickham and Darcy come from social interaction. At a ball in Meryton, Darcy’s “character was decided. He was the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world, and everybody hoped that he would never come there again” (Austen 11). This quick opinion of Darcy’s character opposes the opinions of Wickham. He appeared “far beyond them all in person, countenance, air and walk.” Wickham also seemed, “the happy man towards whom almost every female eye was turned” (Austen 66). Elizabeth makes a quick judgement of both the characters and personalities of Darcy and Wickham. “Elizabeth is completely taken in by the almost transparent duplicity of Mr. Wickham regarding himself and his relations with Mr. Darcy and the Darcy family” (Moler, 25). These drastic perceptions affect her feelings for Darcy. Elizabeth chooses to befriend Wickham, and in turn learns much about Darcy
from him. “Elizabeth found the interest of the subject increase [and] Mr. Wickham began to speak on more general topics” (Austen 69). She begins to take a general interest in their friendship, and in turn her opinion of Darcy becomes more atrocious.
Elizabeth learns that “all his [Darcy's] actions may be traced to pride; and pride has often been his best friend” (Austen 71). Wickham continues his conversation and eventually tells Elizabeth that Darcy threw him from his household into a life of poverty. “Most important, of course, is Elizabeth’s misjudgement of Darcy’s character: the overreaction to his pride and reserve that makes her unable to see what lies beneath it” (Moler, 26). Wickham’s actions and words lead Elizabeth to a harsh perception of Darcy and a kind perception of himself. This same perception of Darcy eventually leads her to confront him about his abuse of Wickham. “He has been so unlucky as to lose your friendship, and in a manner which he is likely to suffer from all his life” (Austen 80). At this point Elizabeth’s original perceptions of both Darcy and Wickham reach their climax, and slowly begin to decline.
Now, the second perception of Darcy and Wickham begins to alter the first. A letter written to Elizabeth by Darcy reveals the real intentions of Wickham. “Mr. Wickham’s chief object was unquestioningly my sister’s fortune, but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a strong inducement” (Austen 172). After discovering this information Elizabeth slowly ceases her relationship with Wickham. “The major ?action’ of the story, concerns her recognition of her wrong- headness regarding [Wickham] and her reevaluation of the man, Darcy, she has
scorned” (Moler, 28).
While traveling the country she receives a letter from Jane saying that Lydia ran off with Wickham. They understood “that his belief that Wickham never intended to go there, or to marry Lydia at all” (Austen 229). Elizabeth, after getting over the initial shock, also learns that Darcy helps to force Wickham into a marriage with Lydia. This action not only alters Wickham’s influence over Elizabeth, but alters Elizabeth’s perception of Darcy. “How much I like him. His behavior to us has in every respect been as pleasing as when we were in Derbyshire” (Austen 272). This final act completes Darcy’s alteration of perception in Elizabeth’s eyes. Wickham suffers one last downfall before fading out of Elizabeth’s life. He gets Lydia to write to Pemberly asking for money. “I am sure Wickham would like a place at court very much, and I do not think we shall have quite money enough to live upon without some help” (Austen 325). At this point Wickham falls from all respect in Elizabeth’s eyes, and his alteration of perception concludes.
Elizabeth learns during the course of the novel that first impressions should not
determine a person’s complete perception. “Austen engages us both intellectually and emotionally in [Elizabeth and Darcy's] painful progress toward greater self-awareness, toward recognition of their different kinds of pride and prejudice, and thus toward greater perceptiveness regarding those around them” (Moler, 6). Elizabeth sees her fault in the original perception of Darcy and Wickham, and willing recognizes and alters those first perceptions.