Pride is one of the main themes in the novel.
Mr. Darcy's pride gets in the way of his attraction towards Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy feels that his pride is justified due to his social class; "Where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation".
Elizabeth takes pride in her ability to judge others, making her stubborn about her views towards Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham; “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine”.
While Pride and Prejudice implies that no one is ever completely free of pride, it makes it clear that with the proper moral upbringing one may overcome it to lead a life of decency and kindness.
Many, if not all, of the characters in Pride and Prejudice judge each other on their first impressions. As the title of the book suggests, this often goes hand in hand with pride.
Elizabeth is particularly subject to prejudice. She judges both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham on their first impressions; Mr. Darcy appears to be elitist and snobby, and Mr. Wickham appears to be trustworthy.
It becomes difficult for Elizabeth to overcome her judgements. When Mr. Darcy attempts to explain himself in a letter, Elizabeth is stubborn about her previous judgement of him; "With a strong prejudice against everything he might say, she began his account of what had happened at Netherfield".
When Elizabeth finally learns that she was wrong, she feels horrible about her prejudice; "She grew absolutely ashamed of herself. Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think without feeling she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd".
The opening line of the books is "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife".
The main events of the story are centred around the Bennet sisters getting married.
At the beginning of the story, the Bennet sisters can't inherit Longbourn and need to get married to find somewhere to live.
Marrying Mr. Collins solves a similar problem for Charlotte.
When Lydia elopes, the only way to save the family's reputation is by getting Mr. Wickham to marry her.
Though marriage is a more central theme, love is also important to discuss.
Only some of the marriages in the book are based on love; Jane and Mr. Bingley, and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
Even though Mr. Darcy loves Elizabeth, his first proposal is rather insulting; "In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you".
It is love for Elizabeth that pushes Mr. Darcy to pay off Mr. Wickham.
Elizabeth is often mocked by her mother for wanting love in a marriage rather than money.
Society and Class
There are very clear social hierarchies seen throughout the novel. Lady Catherine de Bourgh has the highest rank, and Mr. Wickham has the lowest.
The difference in class between Mr. Darcy and the Bennets is what makes Mr. Darcy unwilling to show his feelings to Elizabeth. He knows he shouldn't marry to someone of a lower class. “Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”
If Lydia were to elope with Mr. Wickham without marrying him, the family would be mocked by society.
When Lady Catherine insults Elizabeth about her class, she argues that she is, in fact, in the same class as Mr. Darcy; "In marrying your nephew, I should not consider myself as quitting that sphere. He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal".
Family is the predominant social unit in Pride and Prejudice.
Family determines the social class and education of each generation in the novel. For example, Mr. Darcy would have received more education than Mr. Wickham.
However, family does not determine the characteristics of each character, this is seen with the Bennet sisters in particular. Elizabeth is mature and intelligent while Lydia is immature and reckless.
Families are very connected in this era, a disgrace to one family member would affect the reputation of the entire family. This is why Elizabeth asks her father not to let Lydia go to Brighton.
In Pride and Prejudice, a woman's reputation is one of her most important features. Stepping outside the social norms makes her vulnerable to rejection from society.
When Elizabeth walks to Netherfield, arriving with muddy stockings, Caroline Bingley is shocked and embarrassed.
The ridiculous actions of Mrs. Bennet to get her daughters married gives her a bad reputation.
Lydia eloping with Mr. Wickham is a huge threat to the family's reputation. If they didn't get married, it would have been next to impossible for the other Bennet sisters to find husbands.