Pride and Prejudice

The Theatre in Society

In Pride and Prejudice, society features as an important aspect of every individual’s life. Each character is inextricably enmeshed in the web of society, and must perform various roles in accordance with the demands of society. In the comic mode of the novel, society reinforces its continuance by tending toward conformity and the status quo. Characters with personalities not entirely in congruence with the roles demanded of him or her experience a tension between their private and public selves. For example, Darcy and Mr. Bennet choose to adhere to the integrity of their private or “true” selves, and end up compromising their civility. Other characters never experience such a tension, and their behavior does not vary in either public or private settings. It is Elizabeth, the heroine of the novel, who achieves the most satisfying balance between fidelity to the integrity of the private self and the civil demands of society – a trait that Darcy must eventually learn in order to gain Elizabeth’s respect and love.

Mr. Bennet is described by the narrator as a “true philosopher,” deriving amusement from others “where other powers of entertainment are wanting.” As a complex character incarcerated in a mindless provincial society, Mr....

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