Prudence vs. Inclinations in Pride and Prejudice
In the novel, Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth and Jane both achieve lasting happiness with their respective partners -- Darcy and Bingley, after a series of misjudgments, misunderstandings and obstacles. Indeed the heroine's (Elizabeth's) tumultuous relationship with Darcy forms the bulk of the novel, and the focal point of interest for the reader while Jane's relationship with Bingley adds variety and interest to the novel.
Elizabeth's and Darcy's relationship is filled with trials and tribulations, misjudgments and prejudice, eventually culminating in a blissful union of two complementary souls. Their relationship begins at an inauspicious starting point when they first meet at the Meryton assembly, with both receiving unfavorable first impressions. Elizabeth thinks Darcy a proud, cold man as a result of his reserve and his slighting her ("tolerable, not handsome enough to tempt me"), and this "remained with no very cordial feelings towards him." Her assessment of his character, given her limited exposure to him, in those unfortunate circumstances is most natural and understandable.
Darcy, on the other hand, is to be blamed for his lack of prudence and his pride, which leads him to criticize Elizabeth most unfairly in that first encounter. This indeed, jeopardizes his prospects of a "lasting happiness" with Elizabeth, as he leaves an indelible first impression which colors Elizabeth's later judgments of his character.
However, as the novel progresses, Darcy shows enough flexibility and good sense to change his opinion of Elizabeth. Thus, his first inclination of scorning her is erased as he becomes enamored of Elizabeth as a result of her witty intelligence and spirit, such that he began to find that "her eyes were" rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression." After repeated meetings and verbal parries with Elizabeth, Darcy's first impression of her is completely replaced by ardent affection, as he sees in her a comrade [kindred] spirit. It is his prudent judgment and flexibility which temper his inclination to corn and criticize, such that he is able to recognize in Elizabeth a worthy wife and companion, despite her social standing [never so much of an obstacle as the family's behaviour] and Lydia's elopment. Therefore, we must credit his prudent judgement for his remarkable change in opinion, which paves the way for his future happiness with Elizabeth.
Unfortunately, Elizabeth displays little of her prudent judgement and astute assessment with regard to Darcy. It is for this singular reason that her relationship with Darcy is fraught with difficulty. After her first meeting with Darcy, Elizabeth determinedly preserves her prejudice against Darcy, even after repeated incidents which attest to his credibility of character, displaying uncharacteristic lack of intelligent and careful judgement.
When Elizabeth meets...