Pride and Prejudice

Moral Hierarchy: Society and Love in Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Moral Hierarchy

by Katherine Shepherd

April 11, 2002

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice captures the essence of English Regency society while using unique characterizations to illustrate the effects of society on the individual. The evolution of one of Austen's most prominent characters, Fitzwilliam Darcy, highlights the difficulty of overcoming society's rigid class distinctions, proving that any attempt to thwart love is in vain. Over the course of the novel, Darcy undergoes a remarkable transformation. The pressures of the strictly regimented, class-governed society form the foundations of Darcy's contemptuous character at the start of the novel. As he finds himself challenged by the power of love, however, Darcy begins to abandon his need to maintain superior societal status and allows himself to be persuaded by his natural inclinations. Darcy's evolution continually challenges our initial perceptions, offering a vivid depiction of the inner struggle between vanity and morality. His character serves to illustrate Austen's belief that while social forces may hinder love, an individual can be free to experience love's splendor if he is able to overcome his prejudices. Ultimately, it is Darcy's...

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