Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice, was originally to be titled First impressions. Austen suggests she chose the original title late in the novel, after Elizabeth has seen the change in Darcy's manners at Pemberley and feels it can only be due to her influence. However, in 1801 another novel was published using that title so Austen renamed and published her novel, Pride and Prejudice, in 1813. (Stovel “A Contrariety”). The former title accurately depicts the attitudes of several characters toward main themes of the novel. The most illustrated themes are family, love, pride and social class. Through Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen illustrates the differences between social classes, pride and vanity, families and men and women during 19th century.
The differences between social classes create tension and extreme prejudice. Similar social classes usually interact, socialize, and eventually marry each other. Wealthy men and women tend to keep their boundaries from men and women of lower classes, therefore creating a well understood social ladder. During the 19th century it was unlikely for people to stray from their social class to try to attract the attention of a potential mate from another class. In the beginning of the novel Mr. Darcy, a wealthy and handsome main character, abides by the social ladder and see’s everyone at the ball he and his friend, Mr. Bingley, are attending as a lesser. When Bingley asks him to dance with Elizabeth Bennet, Darcy replies bitterly, "I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, it would be insupportable. Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with" (Austen 14). Darcy comes off as arrogant, claiming it would be a punishment to dance with someone in a lower class, illustrating the true feelings towards those not as well to do. In regards to serious relationships the same feelings apply. When Miss Bingley, who secretly has feelings for Darcy, realizes Darcy may be having a change of heart towards Elizabeth Bennet she tries to sabotage his growing feelings. Miss Bingley often tries to remind Darcy of the social class differences, notably during one conversation with him. She says,
‘I hope you will give your mother-in-law a few hints, when this desirable event takes place, as to the advantage of holding her tongue; and if you can compass it, do cure the younger girls of running after the officers...’
‘Have you anything to propose for my domestic felicity?’
‘Oh! Yes- Do let the portraits of your uncle and Aunt Phillips be placed in the gallery at Pemberley. Put them next to your great uncle the judge. They are in the same profession, you know; only in different lines. As for your Elizabeth’s picture, you must not attempt to have it taken, for what painter could do justice to those beautiful eyes’ (46).