Pride and Prejudice

Discretion and Design in Pride and Prejudice

The concept of "design" and calculation plays a prominent role in Pride and Prejudice. Design is used as an indicator of values, particularly in marriage, and presents the characters with a challenge in balancing scheming and morality in its use. Already in the opening lines we can see the presence of design in the narrators fervent declaration that "a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." That Bingley is seen as an object to be won from the outset indicates the predatory attitude of society, which will use any means necessary to make things work according to the design of its members. Mr. Bennet also refers to Mr. Bingleys "design in settling here (5)," making it clear from the opening of the novel that design is an influential part of this society.

This propensity for design does have a foundation. The characters live in a static financial situation. As none of them labor, there is no opportunity for the acquisition of money and power outside of design. The decline of accumulated family wealth, as is clearly demonstrated in the novel, is a central concern for individuals of the gentry. Social stigmas against labor keep these families from returning to the...

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