Pride and Prejudice can be considered as a psychological masterpiece, dealing with the nature of human psychology, its growth and individual accomplishment. In the novel, Austen provides a profound reflection on the truth of human life and action, through the psychological development of her protagonists. In the text, Austen reviews the inner complexities of Elizabeth and Darcy and the change they undergo, through self knowledge. Darcy undergoes inner development redeeming himself from his pride and arrogance resulting from Elizabeth’s continuous indifference towards him. While the psychological growth in Elizabeth results from the truth that is revealed to her in his letter about the flaws in herself and her family. This letter acts as a driving force for Elizabeth’s psychological growth which frees her from all her prejudices against Darcy making way for their relationship to blossom.
In this novel, Austen depicts a psychological journey through her characters. Although there are other characters in the novel, however this thesis will mainly focus on the two main characters, namely Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy for the purpose of psychoanalytic interpretation. This work will deal with the psychological growth of Elizabeth and Darcy through self discovery and attaining their individual accomplishment.
Elizabeth, who prides herself for her keen perceptive abilities to judge people on first impression, is befooled by her own judgment about herself. Her perceptive abilities fail her frequently because her judgments are influenced by vanity, which prevents her from reasoning objectively and seeing the truth of the situation. Darcy, who appears to hit her pride at their very first meeting, becomes the object of her prejudice. She nurtures her prejudice against him until towards the end of the novel when she is confronted with truth about her own self and the truth about the people around her; hence undergoing a psychological change of knowing herself. Darcy likewise faces several insults and indifference from Elizabeth which leads to his growth. Elizabeth’s continuous criticisms and bashing makes him realize the flaws in him and compel him to make amendments for them.
Incidents in the story establish the relationship between personality, psychological growth and personal accomplishment. This thesis will analyze the stages through the process of psychological growth which this two characters undergo and the incidents that results into the accomplishment.
Social Evolution, as we see has a vital role to play in shaping up the character of an individual. This work will also give an insight into this aspect. The thoughts, attitudes, and actions of the individual reflect the time of the society in which they take place. The time Austen wrote this novel, Victorian society was going through a transformation. Society opened up the scope of elimination for class distinction from the society. This evolutionary process is reflected in every thought, sentiment and action in the story and is a key to understanding the forces that lead to individual development. The product of such an evolutionary process is the marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy, members of two different classes.
Pride and Prejudice: The Story in Brief
The main plot of the novel Pride and Prejudice revolves around its two main characters, namely, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Elizabeth, the second of the five Bennet daughters is offended by Darcy, a proud man, at their very first meeting at Netherfield Ball. He makes an adverse comment upon her, which she overhears and becomes strongly prejudiced against him. From then on she strongly disliked this man, who happens to develop a weakness for her, whom he regarded as tolerable only at their very first meeting. Her dislike for him turns into hatred when Wickham falsely accuses Darcy of being unjust towards him. She believes his lies at the instance, leaving no sign of doubt that Darcy might not be guilty of charge. Here we see the flaw in her judgment. For the fact that she develops softness towards Wickham, she takes his lies at face value and continues to hate Darcy. However, Darcy starts to feel strongly attracted towards Elizabeth. Despite the fact that she started to gain a strange pleasure in criticizing him, him intense feelings compels him to propose marriage to her. But unfortunately, by the time he made his proposal, Elizabeth’s mind was already poisoned by Wickham, and the truth about Darcy’s interference in her sister’s relationship with his friend Mr. Bingley was revealed to her by his cousin Fitzwilliam. In addition, Darcy being a proud man belonging to the aristocrat society did not realize that his manner of proposing to her was quite insulting and it was as if he was casting a favor upon her by making this proposal. Elizabeth, being already prejudiced against him rejected his proposal of marriage outright and spoke her mind about the complains she had against him. Her rejection came out as a big blow to his self confidence. Darcy could never imagine that his proposal could be rejected. Thus, in order to justify himself against the charges raised by Elizabeth, he wrote a letter to her. In the letter, he revealed the truth about Wickham’s character which turned out to be something Elizabeth could have ever guessed. He also pointed out that he was disgusted by the objectionable behavior of her mother and sisters and that his interference in the relationship of his friend Bingley and her sister Jane was done for the best. Even though the tone of the letter was quite insulting and rude, Elizabeth went through the letter over and over again until she came to realize her own flaws and felt a deep sense of regret for her past behavior. Darcy, likewise felt ashamed of writing the letter in such a rude manner and realized that he had been wrong, insolent and proud. Her continuous indifference towards him made him realize that he needed to make amendments in his personality and she too felt the same. Darcy makes a display of the brightest side of his character in helping the Bennet family to come out of the disaster that was cast upon them by Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. He pays Wickham a large amount of money and makes sure that he marries Lydia by being present at their wedding. But his generosity lies in the fact that he does all this secretly. He does not make a display of his benevolence to win Elizabeth rather he preferred to keep it within himself. When Elizabeth comes to know of the truth about Darcy’s involvement in Lydia’s marriage, she begins to respect him and develop a sort of weakness for the man she hated so intensely. Upon Elizabeth’s and the Gardiner’s visit to Pemberley, the praise of the tenants and the servants of Darcy, and his courteous behavior towards them softens Elizabeth’s mind and she realizes that he still loved her. Both of the character undergoes psychological changes in them resulting in the change in their attitude towards each other. The boldness with which Elizabeth faces his aunt, Lady Catherine De Burgh, helps Darcy realize that she might as well share the same feeling as his. He finally proposes to her in a more decent manner and this time Elizabeth gladly accepts it. Both of them undergoes through different stages of psychological growth, realizing their own share of misjudgments and flaws in themselves, correcting them and making them eligible for each other. Darcy and Elizabeth, who seemed to be poles apart from each other at the outset of the novel ends up together in the divine relationship that we term marriage.
Character Sketch of Elizabeth Bennet
“I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least I do not know”
(Jane Austen, Letter to Cassandra, Jan. 1813)
The second among the five daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth Bennet is a complex creation of author Jane Austen. There is little doubt that Austen’s portrayal of Elizabeth is quite fascinating. Austen layers her character with different shades but what interests us is her psychological framework. Elizabeth has strength in her character with moral integrity, great intelligence and has an attractive personality. Yet her character is not free from flaws. Elizabeth is well aware of her knowledge and wit and her ability to think quickly and thus she is habitually proud of her ability and skill at discerning characters. She believes herself to be very intelligent and her attitude throws an impression that she can never be wrong. Elizabeth has pride in her ability to perceive the truth of situations and of people’s characters. However, perceptive abilities fail her frequently as she is influenced by vanity and judges people rashly. We find her to be a little too selective of the evidence she uses, upon which her judgments about people are based. Elizabeth seems to have inherited her father’s wit and his sarcasm as well and enjoys mocking the life around her. At the very first meeting with Darcy her pride is wounded by his haughty remark that she is only tolerable but not handsome enough to tempt him. From then on Elizabeth found perverse pleasure in teasing Darcy and later confesses to Jane that she made a conscious effort to dislike him for the joy of having someone to laugh at. Elizabeth mistakes in believing that everyone should hold the same view of life as she does and thus she finds Charlotte’s decision to marry a man like Mr. Collins unacceptable. Her psychology is built in such a way that it is impossible for her to accept the fact that one can marry someone for the sake of financial and social security. She disregards the fact that Charlotte was twenty seven and given by her age she was in no position to reject this proposal rather it was an opportunity for her to settle down than to spend the rest of her life as an old maiden. All throughout the story until toward the end we find her nurturing her prejudice again Darcy. Even after Darcy’s several efforts to win her, Elizabeth remains firm in her position in holding a strong dislike for this man. After her conversation with Wickham, and listening to his accusations against Darcy, her dislike turns into hatred. She takes his false charges at face value and turns even more critical about him. Therefore, when he makes a proposal of marriage to her, she refuses. It is only a little later that she comes to know of the true colors of Wickham from Darcy’s letter to her and by the fact that he elopes with her younger sister casting a mark of shame upon her family. She undergoes a sharp psychological change in her having confronted with the reality through Darcy’s letter to her. By the time Darcy proposed to her the second time, she is a changed person. Elizabeth has endured insults, embarrassment, disillusionment, public disgrace and private self-condemnation. Through this process she has grown psychologically and it is that growth which makes possible her ultimate marriage to Darcy.
Character Portrayal: Darcy
Darcy, as we first meet him in the novel is portrayed as a very proud man. He is described as a tall and handsome young man belonging to an aristocratic family. All the ladies present at the Netherfield Ball, where he was first introduced admired him initially, for his good looks but soon as they came to realize his proud and arrogant nature, they move away from him. We find a picture of his arrogance and his class conscious attitude in his conversation with Mr. Bingley at the ball. When suggested to dance, Darcy’s reply to Bingley was as such:
“I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.”
Other than all the ladies present at the ball it was Elizabeth who becomes the victim of his proud nature. In reply to Bingley’s suggestion of dancing with her, he says:
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”
Taking these remarks by him into concern, Darcy can very well be considered as a proud, arrogant and a class conscious snub. He does not make a pleasant display of him in front of the crowd at the ball. It was Mrs. Bennet who disliked him the most.
“for he is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with!”
However, Darcy did have a good sense and judgment to realize his mistakes and make corrections for it. Soon afterwards he realizes that Elizabeth’s face looked very intelligent because of the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. In addition, he found her figure and her manners to be pleasing as well. This way he got more and more attracted to her every time he met her until he fell in love with her. He realizes that he had never been so charmed by any woman other than Elizabeth. The only thing that was coming in his way of proposing marriage to her was her social inferiority to him. However, his feelings for her became so strong in the course of time that he was compelled to push her social status aside and propose to her. But Elizabeth rejects his proposal right on the spot. This rejection comes as a big blow to his self esteem. In order to raise himself in her eyes and to defend himself against the charges she brought against him that his treatment towards Wickham was cruel and unfair, that he prevented Bingley from marrying her sister Jane and that his manner of proposing marriage to her was disrespectful, he wrote a letter. Even though, the tone of his letter was insulting but it was a driving force for the psychological change that Elizabeth undergoes, making her realize her own share of mistakes. As the novel proceeds further, we find a man in Darcy, completely different from what he was at the first part of the novel. He helps Elizabeth’s family to come out of the disaster that was cast upon them by Lydia’s elopement with Wickham. He pays a large amount of money to Wickham to meet his demands, and made sure that Lydia gets married to Wickham. The best part of his generosity, as we see, was that he did all this secretly. If he wanted he could have made a display of his kindness to win Elizabeth’s heart and we could say it certainly could have worked. But Darcy preferred to keep it a secret from everybody. This action shows that he owns a noble heart. He does all this for the sake of his love for Elizabeth. When she came to know of the truth about Lydia’s marriage he rose greatly in her estimation. Therefore, when he finally attained the psychological growth, he proposed Elizabeth in a more convincing manner which she gladly accepts.
Austen portrays Darcy as a grave or serious minded man. We do not find anything frivolous or flippant in his disposition. We find him to be a loving brother and as being kind to his tenants and servants. Elizabeth’s continuous indifference towards him sheds the final traces of defects in him, namely his pride. He gets rid of his proud nature and regrets deeply for what he has been. Near the end of the novel he admits that it was Elizabeth who had a great influence in him and it was that influence which changed him to a completely different person. It is again the display of his noble heart which holds the courage to admit his own defects and give credits to someone for having corrected it.
Let us now examine the stages through which Elizabeth passes in the process of attaining psychological growth.
Initially, Elizabeth is found to gain pleasure in teasing and criticizing Darcy for having insulting her at the ball, but from a distance. However, after hearing Wickham’s story, she becomes bold enough to tease him openly and provoke him while they were dancing and to laugh at him during her stay at Netherfield. Elizabeth could never imagine that he was attracted to her or herself being attracted to him. Darcy did not exist in her social setup; rather he only remained for her as a distant subject for critical assessment.
Elizabeth had already formed an impression that Darcy was at least partially responsible for the sudden departure of Bingley from Netherfield and Jane not being able to meet him in London. During a walk at Rosings, Darcy’s cousin Fitzwilliam confirms that Darcy did intervene in the Jane-Bingley affair which turns her earlier dislike for him into intense anger. When Darcy proposed marriage to Elizabeth for the first time, his way of proposing provided a suitable occasion for her to express her sense of being offended by his behavior, her anger regarding Jane – Bingley affair and her dislike because of his treatment towards Wickham. At this point, Elizabeth rises to a peak of self-justification and self-righteousness.
Darcy’s first proposal of marriage marks the turning point in Elizabeth’s psychological development. Till now, Elizabeth was acting by confidently asserting her inherited personality with full force. However, from this point forward, self-awareness begins to emerge in her; she becomes progressively more conscious of her own errors and deficiencies and eventually feels a deep sense of regret. The passage from confident self-assertion to self-conscious regret is the path of her psychological progress. Elizabeth undergoes a painful transition which ultimately qualifies her for high attainment and brings about the conditions necessary for her accomplishment.
Elizabeth’s honesty and frankness of character are displayed powerfully in her response to Darcy’s letter. She recognizes the vanity, folly and absurdity of her own behavior and feels totally ashamed of it. Elizabeth had doubts after reading Darcy’s letter at first regarding what he said about Wickham was true or not. Darcy’s effort to further justify his interference in Bingley’s relationship with Jane makes her even angrier. However, she was forced to admit gradually that she had been wrong about Wickham and was rashly unjust in judging Darcy’s character. She begins to re-evaluate her own sense of judgment, which she had been so proud of. Elizabeth was compelled to admit that Darcy’s descriptions about the behavior of her mother and sisters were true. She also admits that her father was irresponsible enough to keep their shameless vulgarity in check. Lydia and her mother’s insistence to allow Lydia to go to Brighton and her father’s refusal to prevent it compelled her to believe that the objections raised by Darcy regarding her family were very much true. Perhaps, Elizabeth also realized that her initial dislike for Darcy was partially because his presence reminded her of the real inferiority of her connections.
“How despicably I have acted! I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blamable mistrust! How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation! Had I been in love, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! But vanity, not love, has been my folly. Pleased with the preference of one, and offended by the neglect of the other, on the very beginning of our acquaintance, I have courted prepossession and ignorance, and driven reason away, where either were concerned. Till this moment I never knew myself.”‘
Elizabeth’s visit to Pemberley washes away the final traces of her prejudice against Darcy. The way the housekeeper praised about her master, the magnificence of the estate and the gracious courtesy of Darcy towards her and the Gardiner’s, removed the slightest sign of it. Above all, she was moved by a deep sense of gratitude towards him for the fact that he still loved her and it was so strong that he was willing to forgive her for her rude behavior at Rosings.
Elizabeth undergoes a sharp psychological change; however, that mental reversal was not sufficient as a deeper problem remained. She was not yet prepared fully to accept the truth of her own family origins from her subconscious or to reconcile it with her attraction towards Darcy.
Her sister, Lydia’s elopement with Wickham provided her the occasion for that deeper introspection and reversal. The worst accusation that Darcy made about her family turned pale in front of this shameless act and the public disgrace that would ruin the marriage prospects and lives of the five sisters. When Elizabeth was confronted by this situation she realized that she had a share in the disaster that was cast upon her family. She realized that she should have revealed the truth about Wickham right after she came to know about it which would have prevented the disaster from happening. The pain of public humiliation and personal loss was sufficient enough to awaken in her a keen sense of her own deficiencies and as well as of her family. Elizabeth feels a deep regret for her poor judgment and foolish behavior in the past.
Elizabeth undergoes this deeper psychological change which was not confined in thought or in action but in the depths of her emotions as well. Elizabeth’s innate capabilities or natural abilities did not make her eligible to marry Darcy. It was the genuine psychological effort that she made to recognize honestly what she was.
The large gap in the social position between Elizabeth and Darcy was a real obstacle for their marriage. It required great strength of personality for Elizabeth to overcome that obstacle and qualify psychologically for the marriage. Lady Catherine provided her that occasion. Elizabeth displayed tremendous courage, strength and psychological effort to face a woman of such a higher social position, like Lady Catherine. Lady Catherine shared the details of their conversation with Darcy. From the way she responded to Lady Catharine, it became clear to him that there was a chance that her feelings for him might have changed. As a result, when he proposed marriage to her for the second time, she was a completely changed person and accepted his proposal gladly.
In the case of Darcy, the path of development began with a similar process of psychological introspection, self-knowledge and regret for what he was and what he had done. However, it did not stop there. He not only recognized his deficiencies but also took conscious efforts to change both his attitudes and behavior and express those change in ways that made him confront all in him directly that resisted his growth. The fact that Darcy and Elizabeth did ultimately marry overcoming all the obstacles that was on their way is a dramatic and true to life representation of the power of psychological reversal.
At their very first meeting, Darcy’s attitude towards Elizabeth was a well display of his proud and arrogant nature. His initial perception about her was in terms very near to her initial perception about him. He rejected the idea of dancing with her judging her low social standard which made her appear to him as being tolerable only. Due to his class conscious attitude, what he first observed was the objectionable sides in her family background and failed to judge the opportunity she represented for his own happiness. Therefore, without any hesitation he shamelessly remarked that Elizabeth was only tolerable but not enough to tempt him. He was so arrogant that he completely ignored the fact that Elizabeth was sitting right behind him and that she could hear the remark he made about her. However, we find that as he falls for the beauty of her fine eyes and her keen intelligence, he becomes so blindly preoccupied by his own sense of self-importance and his own view of the situation that he does not consider for a moment that she might find him objectionable or refuse his proposal. It does not occur to him that he should expose Wickham’s lies before proposing to her, even after knowing that Elizabeth’s mind had been already poisoned by Wickham. Darcy was very well aware of the fact that he had interfered in Bingley’s relationship with Jane, but he never gave it a thought that Elizabeth might resent or refuse him on that basis. His haughtiness and arrogance shows their true faces once again when he proposes to Elizabeth for marriage for the first time. Darcy seemed to be completely unaware of the fact that his manner of addressing Elizabeth was very rude until she rejected the proposal boldly and expressed her true feelings. It was ignorant enough from his part that he did not realize that the woman he was proposing to might have a view different from his own.
Darcy’s path to psychological growth began in ignorant self-immersion and an arrogant sense of his own self-importance. Initially, Darcy was repelled by the unfit behavior and vulgarity of Elizabeth’s mother and sisters. However, his attraction for her was so strong that it compelled him to propose to her inspite of his intense distaste for her family. Rather than resolving the conflict within himself, he simply decided that his need for her was greater than his objections to her family. But this urge was not sufficient for him to win her. His growth began when he realized the fact that he could desire something which might be considered objectionable from another point of view. But his process of growth required much more from him. First, he had to realize that he might face rejection and consider the fact if he was desired as a marriage partner by the woman he wanted to marry. Her rejection was a big blow on his self-esteem. After he justified himself fully in the letter he wrote to her at Rosings, he was forced to reflect on his own behavior and admit to himself that it was far from being perfect. When a person grows psychologically, what once appeared to be right or appropriate to him or her turns out to be wrong or inappropriate. Darcy believed that he was calm and cool when he wrote the letter to Elizabeth. Even though he knew that she would get hurt, he firmly believed that it was necessary for him to tell her the truth about her mother and sisters’ behavior. He did not feel the need to apologize to her for what he said. Rather, he declared emphatically in the letter that the fact that he did not inform Bingley about Jane’s presence in London was done for the best.
By the time Darcy came to propose to Elizabeth for the second time, he was sorry for writing that letter. He was ashamed of it and wanted the letter to be burned. He realized that a gentleman who points out the defects of another person cannot be considered as a gentleman.
Darcy undergoes this change in him and realizes that rather than correcting others mistakes one should try to correct their own. The intensity of Darcy’s attraction towards Elizabeth grew over time which compelled him to examine his own character and behavior more closely. He became conscious of the gap between the ideals with which he had been raised and his actual behavior. Like Elizabeth, he too genuinely regretted for his behavior. However, Darcy went further by making efforts to change himself. When he met Elizabeth and the Gardiner’s at Pemberley, he was courteous towards them and impressed the two ladies by his graciousness. Darcy’s changed behavior made Elizabeth realize that he still loved her and his feelings for her remained the same as he expressed at Rosings. As, he went through this change, he no longer struggled against his own better judgment or concerns for social propriety. Darcy made up his mind that he loved Elizabeth and he was ready to accept her even after his disgust for her family. The psychological change that took place inside him helped him to ignore this disgust and accept Elizabeth in her own right.
Darcy and Elizabeth were at a point of life when they both were at the verge of accepting each other as their life partners. However, life demanded a little more from both of them to complete this process of growth and make themselves eligible for each other. In other words, what both of them had consciously come to accept as desirable, remained a point of subconscious contention. The fact remained that Elizabeth’s mother and sisters were far from acceptable. The fact remained that Darcy expressed it and Elizabeth was herself fully aware of it. Their conscious attempt to reconcile was prevented by the continued presence of subconscious conflict.
The elopement of Lydia and Wickham brought the subconscious issue to the surface. None of them could ignore it any longer. This incident was a threat to ruin Elizabeth’s life and permanently cancel any prospect of their marriage. It was not sufficient that Darcy was willing to graciously overlook the obstacle. He was forced to do more. He was forced to actively embrace what had formerly disgusted him. He was compelled to actively work to save Lydia from disgrace and spend his own money so that Lydia could marry Wickham. Darcy was brave enough to save the situation secretly. Elizabeth was completely unaware of the fact as to why Darcy was present during Lydia’s marriage to Wickham. However, Darcy had still to reverse his earlier interference in Bingley’s marriage to Jane.
Darcy’s path to accomplishment was by deep psychological change. He had to awaken to and accept his own deficiencies, regret them and adopt a completely opposite attitude and behavior. It was not enough for him to admit that he had been wrong. He went to the extent of accepting that Elizabeth had been totally right and her rebukes were justified and he dedicated himself to become a person who truly deserves her respect and appreciation. Darcy went through a psychological growth that made him a completely different person.
Society plays a vital role in shaping up the character and psychology of a human being. A person develops his character following the norms and cultures of the society he is brought up in. Therefore we often see that the people of the upper class follow a similar pattern in their behavior because they have been brought up in the upper class society. The same tradition is true to the lower class people. Their culture and status does not match to that of the upper class. Hence Darcy, being a member of the upper class society is portrayed as being proud and haughty. On the other hand, Elizabeth’s personality is such that she was not willing to consider herself as being inferior in comparison to the people of the upper class, especially Darcy. We find that she boldly faces Catherine Bingley and Mrs. Hurst’s contemptuous attitude of towards her. Due to the class conscious nature of the people belonging to the upper class society, they did not hold any interest in making friendship or think of any prospect of marriage within a class inferior to their own. However, the time Austen wrote this novel, Victorian society was undergoing a major change. Several revolutions and wars took place in the society to resolve the clashes among classes and society was stepping into a new phase where class distinction was on the verge of elimination. The fact that Darcy and Elizabeth, the member of two different classes did ultimately get married is a symbol of that elimination.
Darcy’s psychological growth was made possible by the scope that society opened up for him. He realized that his proud and arrogant nature was coming in his way of proving himself worthy in front of the woman he desires to marry. In addition, he realized that his attitude towards Elizabeth had been wrong which helped him to make conscious efforts to change what was undesirable in him. Likewise, Elizabeth’s prejudice against him was to some extent for the fact that Darcy’s presence continuously reminded her of her own social inferiority. Because of the rejection of her own inferiority in her subconscious mind, she started taking pleasure in insulting and criticizing Darcy every way possible. However, the psychological change that they undergo follows like an interconnecting link. Due to the former structure of the society where class distinction was prevalent, Darcy grew up as an arrogant and proud member of the upper class society, despising the people belonging to the lower class. His attitude towards Elizabeth at their very first meeting at the Netherfield Ball was a shameless display of his class conscious attitude. When he first proposes to Elizabeth, it was based on the strength of his wealth and social position and he seeks to win her on that basis. But, he fails to do so as she boldly refuses to accept his proposal. to but he could never imagine that she might refuse his proposal. Darcy seeks to win her on the strength of his social character but he fails. However, her refusal helps him to shifts his identification from his outward position to his inner character. Darcy transforms his arrogant pride into humility, accepts the truth of her scorn, and acts magnificently to save Lydia.
His behavior triggers both her sense of inferiority and its rejection at the same time in Elizabeth’s mind which makes her prejudiced against him. Darcy’s changed attitude and his psychological development is the product of the changed value of the society. And Elizabeth’s growth is made possible by Darcy. Darcy justifies himself in a letter against the objections raised by Elizabeth while refusing his proposal. This letters helps her to confront with the truth about herself and the objectionable behavior of her family members. She realizes that she had been wrong in judging Darcy and Wickham and that the objections raised by him against her family members were very true. She realizes her flaws and corrects them. She regrets for her past behavior and transforms into a newly developed character.
If we consider the formidable obstacles that were on the way of Darcy in his aspiration to marry Elizabeth, it seems impossible for the two of them to come close to each other to tie the knot. Firstly, Elizabeth bore sheer dislike for Darcy due to his discourteous remarks about her to Bingley which she overheard at the Netherfield ball when they first met. Secondly, Elizabeth’s attraction towards Wickham and her strong dislike for Darcy made her willing to believe Wickham’s slanderous lies about him. In addition, the fact that Fitzwilliam accidentally disclosed the truth during a walk with her at Rosings, about his active interference in Bingley and Jane’s relationship, made things even worse. However, all this problems turns into apparent insignificance when compared to the profound insulting manner with which Darcy makes his first proposal of marriage to Elizabeth and her rude rebuttal that he was the last person she would ever marry. To justify his actions and behavior, Darcy moves further in writing a letter to her in an insulting manner exposing the vulgar behavior of her younger sisters, mother and her father. All these obstacles were already more than sufficient to reject any possibility of their marriage, when an incident like Lydia’s scandalous elopement with Darcy’s worst enemy takes place viewing which one might say it surely ends all speculation. However, the fact that Elizabeth and Darcy did get married at the end of the novel is due to the psychological development that both the characters undergo.
Both Elizabeth and Darcy pass through several stages of growth. Firstly, she realizes the mistakes of her own judgments. Secondly, the deficiencies in her own family and her own personal behavior come clear to her. Elizabeth realizes that what was most disagreeable and distasteful to her earlier was now what she desired most in her life. She changed her aggressive behavior and abandoned her false sense of pride in her judgment and prejudice against others. She gave up blaming others for her misfortune and learned to accept responsibility for the events that took place, and developed a deep sense of regret for them. Darcy likewise, goes through a similar path of development. In his case, Elizabeth’s rude refusal compels him to peep through his own character. Her continuous indifference and criticisms made him realize his own mistakes and make amendments for it. Upon facing rejection from Elizabeth for the first time, he wrote a letter to her justify himself against the charges she bought against him, but the tone of that letter being even more rude. But soon afterwards he comes to realize that his behavior was far from being perfect. Even his perception about himself appears to be completely wrong. He realizes that he needs to make him worthy of being a desirable man in front of the woman he desires to marry.. He goes to the extent of correcting his own deficiencies and proud nature. As a result, when he transforms into a completely changed person, upon proposing for the second time in a more decent and polite manner, Elizabeth gladly accepts it.
Austen beautifully portrays this psychological development in these two main characters of her novel. The psychological growth of Darcy and Elizabeth as find in the novel, are interlinked. They both needed each other to achieve this development. Even though it was not a deliberate effort made by the two, but they did help each her to realize their own deficiencies and their misperception about themselves. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen can therefore be considered as a psychological masterpiece portraying the psychological development of her characters through her mastery in writing.