Jane Austen discusses human nature at length in “Pride and Prejudice”. Initially, the novel was published with the title “First Impression”. Subsequently, it was changed and a new title “Pride and Prejudice” was given to it which has much significance. In fact, the title summarises the whole novel. It is a story of two persons who have nothing in common neither class nor thinking. However, common human nature can be observed; both main characters hate each other; both have pride and both are prejudiced.
Significance of the Title “First Impression”:
It is a truth that one cannot get a second chance to make a first impression. As discussed above, the first title of the novel was “First Impression”. Perhaps, it was given to it when Darcy meets Elizabeth and her family for the first time at a ball. Darcy makes his first impression and so as Elizabeth. Nonetheless, the impressions of both persons were too bad. Elizabeth thinks that Darcy possesses too much pride and to some extent she is true. His remarks “she is not handsome enough to tempt me” make Elizabeth prejudiced. The first impression in fact was so bad that it creates hatred. This title although relevant yet describes only a part of the novel.
Significance of the Title “Pride and Prejudice”:
If the title “First Impression” did not suit the novel then a more suitable title was required. Jane Austen knew the significance of human nature, therefore, she changed the title of the novel to “Pride and Prejudice”. Indeed, it describes the whole story. Pride, especially of Darcy’s, starts from the beginning and ends with the climax. Similarly, Elizabeth’s opinions also change at the end of the novel when she says yes to Darcy’s proposal.
Mr Darcy is a class-conscious person. Everyone at the ball feels his arrogant behaviour. Mr Bingley, as compared to him, seems friendly. He welcomes everyone and talks politely. Mr Darcy’s comments for Elizabeth show that he considers her inferior to him; both in class and in attractiveness. Furthermore, when he purposes to Elizabeth he does not change his attitude.
He does not want to marry girls who are from the lower middle class. When he proposes to Elizabeth he seems arrogant and opinionated. He clearly insults her and frankly discusses the class difference between them. It is the reason that Elizabeth refuses his proposal. Besides, Mr Darcy in his letter to Elizabeth, in which he tries to defend himself, does not lower his ego. He tries to defend himself but at the same time tries to maintain his self-respect.
If Mr Darcy has Pride then Elizabeth is also not different from him. Her preconceived opinion is not based on reason or actual experiences. On different occasions in the novel, she misjudges Mr Darcy. It is because she was offended at the very beginning of the novel. Even when Mr Wickham told her the fictitious, she believes without any scrutiny. She, on an occasion, says:
“I could easily forgive his [Darcy’s] pride, if he had not mortified mine.”Pride and Prejudice
It is easy to understand the term pride but prejudice has broader meanings. However, a short definition of prejudice should be kept in mind i.e. preconceived opinion that is not based on reason and actual experience.
Similarly, Jane Austen clears in the novel the difference between vanity and pride in the following words:
“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”Pride and Prejudice
Hence, pride is what we think of ourselves, vanity is what others think and prejudice is creating false opinions without knowing a person.
Title Pride and Prejudice Theme Significance:
Besides other themes of Pride and Prejudice, its title is the primary theme of this novel along with the theme of love and marriage. Mr Darcy is not the only person whom Elizabeth misjudges. She expresses her biased opinions against many other characters too. For instance, her reaction towards Mr Collins is much more arrogant. No doubt, she is right in her rejection because of Mr Collins’s absurd and ridiculous behaviour but she calls him the most disagreeable man in the world. When Charlotte Locus accepts his proposal Elizabeth does not support her. She continuously expresses her adverse opinions against him. It shows Elizabeth’s prejudice.
The climax ends with Pride and Prejudice of both characters. Eventually, after the experience, they learn that first impression is not enough to know a person completely.
The title “Pride and Prejudice” shows real controversy between two persons, therefore, it has much significance. It is revealed at the end of the novel that there was nothing between them except pride and prejudice. In short, the novel discusses two human traits in detail, therefore, we can say that Jane Austen was not in hurry in choosing the title “Pride and Prejudice” for her novel. Though the title “First Impression” also suits yet “Pride and Prejudice” is attractive because it has much significance and it elucidates the whole story.