Pride and Prejudice

From Contempt to Love: Elizabeth and Darcy’s Evolution

The need to reconsider first impressions runs throughout Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Both Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy judge one another harshly based on first impressions, while Elizabeth also forms judgments of Mr. Wickham and Miss Darcy. Throughout the novel, as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy see each other and others in a new light, more accurate opinions based upon fact and understanding replace their first opinions based upon impressions, rumors, and prejudices. Because they allow their ideas to evolve throughout the novel, they open themselves up to the possibility and reality of love.

Mr. Darcy’s initial contempt of Elizabeth is evident when he forms an immediate impression of Elizabeth the first time he sees her at a ball. He says, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” (Austen 7). Mr. Bingley suggests that Darcy take Elizabeth as a dance partner, but Darcy declines on the grounds that she lacks beauty. He also says that he does not want to stoop so low as to dance with a girl all of the other men at the ball reject. After that, he persists in criticizing her and will not allow himself to see her as pretty. However, his attitude toward her changes fairly rapidly. By chapter six, he finds that...

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