Appearance vs. Reality in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the theme of appearance versus reality is recurrent. Austen seeks to prove that often one’s appearance hides one’s true character.
This thematic concept is clearly evident in the case of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham and how they appear to Elizabeth Bennett. From her first impressions of both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, Elizabeth comes to misguided conclusions about their true character.
Elizabeth spends most of the novel reevaluating her stance regarding both of these characters. She later comes to realize that her respective judgements of Mr.Darcy and Mr. Wickham are profoundly inaccurate and incorrect. In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Austen demonstrates that an individual’s true character can often be hidden by appearances.
Elizabeth’s first impressions of Mr. Darcy are based on an appearance of his character rather that a realistic assessment of his decorum, background, and history. The very first time Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy she becomes prejudiced toward him. Elizabeth is introduced to Darcy at the Meryton Assembly and although the general impression is that he is quite handsome, her opinion suddenly changes to an unfavorable disposition towards him. She perceives his behavior as cold and uninterested in her friends and family.
Along with the rest of the people in Hertfordshire, she decides that he is “ the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world” (41). His air of superiority does not impress Elizabeth and she observes that he does not converse with anyone who is outside his party. She grows particularity hostile towards Darcy when she overhears him say,“ She [Elizabeth] is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” (42). Elizabeth comes into contact yet again with Mr. Darcy when Jane Bennett becomes ill while visiting Mr.
Bingley and Elizabeth goes to stay with her at Netherfield. Elizabeth’s dislike of Darcy’s stoic and unfriendly manner increases; while spending time with the Bingley party. Elizabeth believes every single move of Darcy to have ill intentions. She notices Darcy frequently gazing at her and concludes “she drew his notice because there was something about her more wrong and reprehensible, according to his ideas of right” (86). Elizabeth is blinded of Darcy’s true character, which is hidden by his appearance. She is unable to sense Darcy’s real feelings because his introverted demeanor does not allow him to express them. Elizabeth’s blindness is blatantly obvious when Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance and she denies by saying:
“You wanted me, I know, to say ‘yes,’ that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste; but I always delight in overthrowing the kind of scheme, and cheating a person of their premeditated contempt. I have, therefore, made up my mind to tell you, that I do not want to dance a reel at all- now despise me if you dare (86). At this point in the novel, any contact Darcy...