Pride and Vanity in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Vanity in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice


Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us. In her novel, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen makes the point that an excess of pride or vanity is indeed a failing.

Pride, observed Mary, . . . is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed, that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or another, real or imaginary.
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Mr. Collins possesses a definite sense of vanity. He is in no way concerned about his own opinion of his character, for as we see his character leaves much to be desired. All he cares about is what others think of him. He always needs the approval of his present company. When he gives Elizabeth the grand tour of his nothing-spectacular home, he is looking for her approval of his position and possessions. It is not important to Mr. Collins for people to like him as a person, they just had better be impressed his status in life and his connections.

Mr. Darcy, as one of the main characters, is for the better part of the novel a focus of the theme of pride. His pride is very obvious. It is a part of his nature and is seen in his mannerisms and in his speech. Darcy has such a high opinion of himself that he does not care what others think of him or his prideful actions. He believes that he is the best in every way possible and finds that his standing in society gives him the right to be critical of those not as perfect as he.

Elizabeth Bennet, the other main character of the novel, is just as guilty of being proud as any of the other characters in the novel. She prides herself on being unprejudiced and rational in the judgement of others. Yet, this is an imaginary quality as she learns that her preconceived notions of both Mr.…