Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is a surprisingly interesting novel that allows any reader to feel the atmosphere of life in the English society of the late 18th century. The author describes a relationship between the rich and poor classes of the English nobility. It lets the reader see the features of social life of the British two centuries ago. Another distinctive feature of this story is that it allows observing the inner development of the main character Elizabeth Bennet. This process is presented against the background of her relationship with Fitzwilliam Darcy. These heroes are characterized by intelligence and wit. However, as the author shows after a while, they realize that they were wrong with respect to those or other people. Elizabeth Bennet is one of the most interesting heroes in the novel. The reason is that she has a number of advantages such as intelligence, kindness, and sense of humor. Nevertheless, on the other hand, she tends to evaluate people based on her first impression. In turn, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a representative of the wealthy English estate who understands that he must marry a rich girl. Ultimately, Elizabeth overcomes her tendency to prejudice and realizes what was wrong in relation to Mr. Darcy. Meanwhile the latter one understands that the love of Elizabeth is all that he needs. Money does not have a special meaning for him.
The inner development of Elizabeth Bennet takes time. In the very beginning of this novel, this character appears as a woman completely confident in her opinion of others. Elizabeth Bennet is the second daughter in the Bennet family. She is distinguished by her intelligence and wit. She is a favorite daughter of her father, while her mother does not like her due to her sharp tongue. In all likelihood, her Mum is well aware that life in the English society requires women to keep their mouth shut and not say anything superfluous. In this sense, she is right because Elizabeth does not think of being quiet if she has something to tell. One of the distinguishing features in her character is straightness. Despite the fact that it is evaluated as a positive quality though it can cause many problems. A person must be able to be considerate in some situations. Elizabeth does not think that she should comply with tact and tries to be straight all the time. It is primarily due to the fact that she likes to laugh at foolishness, “I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can” (11. 80). The girl despises ignorance and pomposity and always demonstrates her negative attitude to those people who have these qualities. In most cases, the heroine gives rather a fair assessment of people around her. In particular, she adequately provides a negative assessment of behavior of her family members. Elizabeth correctly calls Mr. Collins a fool and Lady Catherine a tyrant. However, in her evaluation towards other people, she can go too far. In particular, her overconfidence leads her to such a belief that Fitzwilliam Darcy is a villain who does not deserve her attention. Her tendency to jump to some conclusions about other people is playing havoc with her. It deprives her of an opportunity to be happy. The girl considers Mr. Darcy an arrogant snob who is capable of despicable acts for the sake of his own interests. Initially, Fitzwilliam fits perfectly into the image that Elizabeth has created for herself. However, after a while, she realizes that she was wrong in relation to him. As it turns out, Fitzwilliam Darcy is a positive character being able to rethink his own actions and his attitude to other individuals. His behavior is directly related to the fact that he is a representative of the wealthy English class. Therefore, his demeanor must conform to some generally accepted standards.
As a representative of the socially higher rank, Fitzwilliam realizes that Elizabeth is not a worthy match for him. He is full of pride for his high social status and financial situation, “His pride never deserts him; but with the rich, he is liberal-minded, just, sincere, rational, honorable, and perhaps agreeable - allowing for fortune and figure” (16. 116). The man realizes that his wife must be a rich woman as he is wealthy. For this reason, he and his woman should have the same level of financial status. At first, this fact plays a decisive role in his life. It does not allow the hero to focus primarily on his feelings. Fitzwilliam tries to fight against his emotions to Elizabeth as his social class pride requires it. Ultimately, he realizes that he cannot struggle against his love for the main character. The further relationship with Elizabeth also leads to the inner development of Fitzwilliam. He begins to realize that he is a self-confident and narcissistic person. This fact deserves a special attention. The young man has an opportunity to show his beloved one the depth of his feelings to her. When he realizes that his behavior is wrong and ugly, Mr. Darcy opens the way for a mutual understanding between him and Elizabeth. The day when she rejects his proposal to marry him, the hero comes to the idea that he has become a victim of his upbringing:
I was spoilt by my parents, who, though good themselves (my father, particularly, all that was benevolent and Pride and Prejudice 563 of 593 amiable), allowed, encouraged, almost taught me to be selfish and overbearing; to care for none beyond my own family circle; to think meanly of all the rest of the world; to wish at least to think meanly of their sense and worth compared with my own. (58, 500)
Comparing the images of these major heroes, it is possible to ensure that they are similar. The main similarity is that both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are full of pride for their personal qualities. The heroine feels quite smart and sharp-witted. She believes that she has the right to express her opinion about all people. Mr. Darcy is also characterized by his assertive behavior since he believes that as a representative of the rich class, he has to think about his social status. The relationship between these characters defines their inner development. They both realize of being wrong. This awareness comes amid a frank conversation between the characters when Elizabeth realizes that Mr. Darcy is not a villain and bastard. The realization that they were both wrong and suffered from their pride opens a way to their happiness. Each of them is able to demonstrate the power of love to each other. Elizabeth’s inner transformation is amazing. No one could foresee that she is able to admit her guilt in relation to other people. Nevertheless, the meeting with Mr. Darcy facilitates her inner transformation. She understands that her opinion of other people can be wrong. It means that not all rich people are scoundrels and jerks.
To sum up, the development of the main character’s image is cardinal. At the beginning of the novel, Elizabeth is presented as a self-confident and straightforward person who does not care about what other people think of her. She laughs at all those whom she considers foolish, including the persons around her. Despite her intelligence and wit, Elizabeth’s behavior is too independent and even tactless. Her main problem is that she tends to jump to the conclusions about people. Mr. Darcy becomes the victim of her prejudices. Her opinion on him is based on the stereotypes about the representatives of the rich English class. These are the people who are not capable of noble deeds. It must be admitted that at first Mr. Darcy gives her a reason to verify the correctness of her ideas about him. Similarly to the main heroine, he is full of personal pride and conceit. It gives grounds to the girl to believe that he is a pompous snob devoid of human qualities such as kindness, decency, and honesty. However, their further communication leads Elizabeth to the realization that she was wrong concerning Mr. Darcy. As it turns out, he is a man who is capable of passionate romantic feelings. For the sake of senses, Fitzwilliam forgets that he is a representative of the higher English class and must marry only a rich girl. Love is what motivates his actions now.