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Self Knowledge And Happiness In Pride And Prejudice, By Jane Austen

1571 words - 6 pages

Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen is centred on characters that either gain self awareness and knowledge or possess none at all. Happiness is found even when one has no understanding of selfhood but the most happy and satisfied people in the novel are those who have self knowledge. People that possess self knowledge understand their strengths and weaknesses and characters that gain self knowledge are able to decipher these characteristics and act upon them. As marriage was seen as a great achievement for women in their society, happiness in Pride and Prejudice relates to whether one is happy or unhappy in their marriage.

Lydia, Mr WIckham and Lady Catherine de Bourg have no self awareness and are unhappy in the novel. The marriage of Lydia and Mr Wickham is one of the unhappy marriages. Mr Wickham and Lydia are both very similar and are both unaware of their faults; they are both careless with money and see no problem with asking their relatives for money. Lydia as the youngest daughter is well accustomed to having other people look after her and she is dependent on other people. Lydia’s lack of self awareness doesn’t affect her greatly; she is happy and claims that she loves Wickham. She is very fond of him but he is not fond of her and quickly loses interest, “Wickham’s affection for Lydia, was just what Elizabeth had expected to find it; not equal to Lydia’s for him.” Lady Catherine de Bourg has no self knowledge. She is full of herself and sees herself very highly; it is obvious she is lacks self knowledge. She makes discourteous comments about other people without thought to their opinions and she also enunciates comments about how she views herself. Lady Catherine de Bourg is unhappy because she is disappointed that she cannot control everyone despite her position.

Austen shows us that people can be happy in different ways through the relationship of Charlotte and Mr Collins. Both Charlotte and Mr Collins do not find comfort in the company of each other and they do not find pleasure in conversing. They are not very intimate and do not display much affection. Mr Collins wanted to marry one of the Bennet girls because they were his cousins and he was entailed to receive the property. He has no knowledge of himself and this is evident when his proposal of marriage to Elizabeth is refused. Mr Collins did not particularly care who his wife was, he just needed to marry because he is an Anglican parish-man and needs a wife for status. He is incapable of contemplating why Elizabeth would refuse his hand when there are so many economical and social benefits of being his wife, “He thought too well of himself to comprehend on what motive his cousin could refuse him”. He was so sure of himself before his rejection that he still cannot contemplate the concept still after Elizabeth has made her refusal quite clear, “…I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on first application, and perhaps you have even now...

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