Pride and Prejudice: Literary Criticism

When asking typical child who their hero or heroine is, a common answer would be Superman, Batman, or Cat Woman. To these kids, a hero is defined as someone with extraordinary physical strength and the bravery to fight any villain, such as the Joker, without any personal benefit or reward. Although their view of a hero is very childish and uninformed, they are in a way correct. Although a hero may not always need to physically battle villains, they must have emotional strength, bravery, and perseverance to overcome whatever troubles their respective villain brings forward.
In the novel, Pride and Prejudice, author Jane Austen portrays her view of heroes, heroines, and villains in a satirically love story. Andrew H. Wright has written a literary criticism essay, titled “Heroines, Heroes, and Villains in Pride and Prejudice”, in which he states his opinion of Austen’s purpose. Although critic Andrew H. Wright states that some people are simply destined to be heroes, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen features characters that are capable of overcoming their own weaknesses that rise as heroes due to their own perseverance and those who interfere with a potential-hero’s progress become villains. Although Andrew H.
Wright dismisses this key point Austen makes, Pride and Prejudice introduces characters that are able to overcome their own flaws that rise as heroes. First off, Wright states how he believes Elizabeth to be the heroine of the story. In the first paragraph he quickly states: “Elizabeth is definitely the heroine: not only does she explicitly represent one of the words of the title of the story; she quite thoroughly dominates the action” (Wright 97). Wright misinterprets the reason that Elizabeth is a heroine. It’s true that Elizabeth dominates the action throughout, though that is only a result of being the main character.

By no means is her development as a character influenced by the number of mentions she receives in the novel. On another note, Wright is incorrect in saying that Elizabeth only represents one of the words of the title of the story, as Austen intends her to represent both. An example of this occurs when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth: “Elizabeth’s astonishment was beyond impression…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” (Austen 185). This quote is a rime example of how many interpret the title of Pride and Prejudice, believing that Darcy is intended to be the “pride” and Elizabeth is intended to be the “prejudice”. In actuality, both characters exhibit both of the traits. In observing Darcy’s excessive pride, Elizabeth is very prejudiced. In disgust with Darcy’s proposal, Elizabeth goes onto say that: “From the very beginning, from the very first moment I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others” (Austen 188).
Elizabeth’s nasty comment about Darcy confirms that she, before even getting to know Mr. Darcy, deems him as snobbish, showing her prejudice. Darcy is very prejudiced in making judgments on Elizabeth based on her family and wealth. An example of Darcy’s prejudice occurs when Elizabeth rejects his first proposal: “I did everything in my power to separate my friend from your sister, or that I rejoice in my success” (Austen 187). Darcy believes that by separating Mr. Bingley from Jane, he is doing what is best for his friend.
It should not be Darcy’s concern to be involved in his friend’s relationship, and Mr. Bingley should know what is best for himself. Wright is misguided in saying that Elizabeth only represents only one of the words in the title, thus making her the heroine, when Darcy and Elizabeth represent both these characteristics. Elizabeth ultimately overcomes her own flaws and is able to be happily with Darcy, yet she first had to deal with villainous characters. The villains in Pride and Prejudice disrupt a potential-hero’s progress, yet this is misinterpreted by Wright.
Once again, Andrew H. Wright understands what the basic theme Jane Austen intends to share, but he misunderstands the reason why it is true. In his critical essay, Wright discusses: “George Wickham is at once the most plausible and the most villainous of Jane Austen’s anti-heroes: he is handsome, persuasive, personable” (Wright 108). Indeed, this is all true, yet not once does Wright mention why Wickham is a villain, other than the fact that Elizabeth was attracted to him.
Wright ignores the fact that Wickham is a sick man because of what happened with Darcy’s sister. In the novel, Darcy reveals to Elizabeth in his letter: “Mr. Wickham’s chief object was unquestionably my sister’s fortune, which is thirty thousand pounds; but I cannot help supposing that the hope of revenging himself on me was a strong inducement” (Austen 196). Without a doubt, Wickham interferes with Elizabeth’s marriage with Mr. Darcy to entertain himself and bother Darcy. Elizabeth’s chances of realizing her inevitable love for Darcy are this delayed.
It is important to note that perhaps Elizabeth expresses feelings at first for Wickham’s character, described a handsome and personable, because of her prejudice. At Meryton, Elizabeth first observes Wickham as beyond all the other officers “in person, countenance, air, and walk” (Austen 75). Elizabeth notices him to be different from the other officers, and associates him positively because he is an officer. Wickham’s irresistible characteristics attract Elizabeth away from Darcy because her prejudice forces her to dismiss any chance at him being flawed upon first meeting him.
The final reason Wickham is a villainous character is because of his elopement with Lydia, leading to a misunderstanding between Elizabeth and Darcy. As Elizabeth tells Darcy of her discovery of Wickham and Lydia’s elopement, Darcy begins “walking up and down the room in earnest meditation; his brow contracted, his air gloomy. Elizabeth soon observed and instantly understood it. Her power was sinking; every thing must sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an assurance of the deepest disgrace. (Austen 264). Elizabeth greatly misunderstands this situation thinking that Darcy leaves because he no longer wants to be connected with the family’s suddenly poor social status. In actuality, Darcy is going to London to fix the situation for the Bennet family. Due to this misunderstanding, Elizabeth assumes that Darcy is no longer interested in her. Wickham’s villainous act of running off with Lydia causes great trouble for Elizabeth, separating her from Darcy and causing great worry about her social status.
Wright only acknowledges Wickham’s villainy for being attractive and simply another relationship for Elizabeth, and not for one which interrupts her inevitable relationship with Darcy. As shown in Pride and Prejudice villains are a blocking force of a potential-hero’s progress. Even though critic Andrew H. Wright believes that some people are simply destined to be heroes, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen features characters that are capable of overcoming their own weaknesses that rise as heroes due to their own perseverance and those who interfere with a otential-hero’s progress become villains. Elizabeth Bennet outlines Austen’s definition of a hero, as Wickham does as a villain. Through the tough times brought upon her by villains, and her own weaknesses which she must overcome, Elizabeth becomes Austen’s definition of a hero by overcoming her weaknesses. Her prejudice and excessive pride are the qualities which lead her to trouble and confusion in her relationship with Darcy. It is clear why Austen first titled the novel First Impressions, because as this story’s heroine learns, they can be quite deceiving.

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