The Character Of Lady Catherine De Bourgh In Pride And Prejudice

1311 words - 5 pages

Although typically overlooked by the inattentive reader, the minor character can serve a myriad of literary roles from adding to the overall story elements to distinguishing the character’s impact on the plot. In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, minor characters play a paramount role in advancing the plot, reinforcing Austen's tone, and uniquely contributing to the work as a whole. Surprisingly, the impact of a certain minor character upon the work is illuminated as well as expatiated when analyzed. Lady Catherine de Bourgh has a much greater impact on the plot, characters, and theme of Pride and Prejudice that her minor role would suggest. In this way, she advances the plot, emphasizes the theme of social expectations, and provides a satirical image of the aristocracy.
The character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh is an integral element of the plot, contributing to, as well as influencing, the final outcome of Darcy's marriage and the various factors associated with it. Lady Catherine, a prominent and influential noblewomen in the English aristocracy, thrusts her domineering predilections onto her family, friends, and acquaintances, starting with the pompous clergyman she patronizes, Mr. Collins. Lady Catherine exerts her influence upon Mr. Collins by frankly telling him that he "must marry ...a gentle woman for [her] sake" (92). This effectively causes Collins to peruse Elizabeth, the daughter of the man whose estate he will inherit. After being rejected by Elizabeth, Collins marries Elizabeth's childhood friend Charlotte. On a trip to visit the newly married couple, Elizabeth finds herself and Lady Catherine's nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy, at a dinner party hosted by Lady Catherine herself. At the dinner party, Lady Catherine chastises Elizabeth, and Darcy, "ashamed of his aunt’s ill breeding" (149), defends her. As time progresses, Lady Catherine grows increasingly leery of her nephews apparent preference to marry Elizabeth instead of her own daughter Anne. She visits Longbourn in an attempt to assuage her fears by confirming with Elizabeth that any intent to accept a future proposal by Darcy is simply a "scandalous falsehood"(303). However, Lady Catherine's visit inadvertently prompts the opposite outcome when Elizabeth denies to make "any promises of the kind "(306) to reject a proposal. In fact, Lady Catherine's visit rekindles Darcy's hopes that Elizabeth would be receptive to his proposal rather than "absolutely, irreproachably decided against [him]” (315), as he thought she was before Lady Catherine informs him of Elizabeth's response to her inquiry. Much to her chagrin, these events involving Lady Catherine directly push forward Darcy and Elizabeth's eventual marriage.
Lady Catherine also conveys the theme of social expectations by exemplifying the underlying social mores present in the English aristocracy, as well as the author’s attitude towards them. Throughout the novel, Lady Catherine sets the standard for what she...

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