All of us view the world and other people from the perspective of our own lives, values, attitudes, opinions, interests and preferences and judge what we view in terms of how far it is in consonance or dissonance with our personal standards and expectations. We feel comfortable and accept what conforms and react with varying degrees of disapproval or disturbance to what conflicts with our own personal perspective without knowing or perceiving that behind each contradictory experience lies a wealth of truth and an opportunity for greater personal growth and social accomplishment.
In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth present such contradictory perspectives to each other and the story depicts how by the progressive resolution of those opposing viewpoints life opens up unprecedented opportunities. When they first meet, they view one another from the perspective of their relative social positions and personal egoistic attitudes. Elizabeth finds Darcy cold, aloof, arrogant and self-important. She is offended by his offensive pride and his off-handed comment about her indifferent appearance. He is offended by the lack of breeding of the Meryton community and the vulgar exhibitionism of Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters, which is aggravated as Bingley develops particularly interest in the eldest daughter, Jane, and as Darcy finds himself increasingly attracted to the charms of Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s natural prejudice against Darcy’s overt display of social superiority and disdain is augmented by the false reports she hears from Wickham about Darcy’s mean conduct, by Fitzwilliam’s disclosure of Darcy’s hand in the separation of Bingley and Jane, and by the crude manner of Darcy’s proposal to her at Hunsford. His pride clashes with her prejudice from diametrically opposite perspectives.
The rest of the story is a progressive dissolution of their contradictory positions leading ultimately to complete reconciliation, deep admiration and marriage. The process of resolution is psychological. The physical action only comes to confirm the psychological change and to ensure that it becomes sufficiently deep and complete. At each step in the process of reconciliation one or the other of them comes to recognize and concede a partial truth in the other’s viewpoint which they had hitherto rejected as false.
Darcy’s original indifference to Elizabeth’s beauty quickly terms to admiration when he is confronted with her mature manners, the spark of defiance in her eyes and the aggressive inquisitiveness that set her off from the crowd as a one with a strong character, developed mind, keen intelligence, cutting wit and formed individuality. Her concern for her sister’s health when Jane falls ill at Netherfield, the marked contrast between Elizabeth’s poised and proper conduct and the rudeness of Caroline and later his own aunt, Lady Catherine, her singularity disregard for stale conventions and formal appearances in deeming to walk in the muddy fields, and even the accusation she levies against his behavior toward Wickham, which, though false, exhibits the basic values of her personality – all go to modify his cursory initial opinion of her.
Elizabeth undergoes a similar process of re-evaluation that commences with Darcy’s letter to her at Hunsford and the revelation of Wickham’s dastardly behavior toward Georgiana. It is enhanced by the testimony of Darcy’s housekeeper and by the overwhelming physical grandeur of his position which she witnesses during her visit to Pemberley as well as the graciousness with which he receives both herself and the Gardiners during that unexpected encounter and his conduct when he and Georgiana call on her at Lambton and when she returns the call to their estate.
By this time both of come to adopt diametrically opposite views of each other than what they held upon first encounter. At each stage in the dissolution of their contradictory and confrontational views of each other, a corresponding change occurs in their own personalities. Each veil of illusion that is removed regarding each other loosens and dissolves a knot of resistance, insistence, falsehood or offensiveness within their own personality. The recognition that Darcy’s accusations against her mother, sister and even her father are justified by their conduct humbles her pride and sense self-righteousness. The realization that her judgment of Wickham’s character was totally in error helps dissolve Elizabeth’s proud faith in her own mental discrimination and her prejudicial view of other people. Darcy’s realization that Elizabeth was right to be offended by the manner of his marriage proposal at Hunsford alter his understanding and opinion of his own character and lessens the false divide that separates him from other people. He comes to recognize his own selfishness and arrogance.
The alteration in the consciousness of each toward one another is completed at the level of substance when Lydia’s elopement forces Elizabeth to accept as physical and social fact that truth of Darcy’s assessment of her family and when Darcy accepts the crisis as an occasion to translate his new attitude toward himself and the world into concrete acts that embody his total acceptance, not only Elizabeth, but of Lydia, Wickham and Mrs. Bennet as well.
The process of progressive mutually self-awareness and reconciliation continues back and forth like a dance in which each gesture of one’s partner calls for a corresponding movement in response. At each step judgment, condemnation and rejection of the other gives way to greater self-awareness, self-criticism, sincerity, regret, and humility leading eventually to appreciation and then gratitude toward one another. By the process the relative falsehood of each egoistic perspective of the other gives way to a recognition of absolute value in the other person. The relative becomes the Absolute.
When each concedes a degree of truth in the other person’s position, in that measure the other person gives up a corresponding degree of falsehood in their own position. The relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth can be viewed as a reciprocal dance in which each begins diametrically at odds with the other and condemning the other as wrong and progressively each learns to accept layer after layer of truth in the other person whereby they become more true in themselves until the dance finally ends in their total reconciliation and unity. This is the process of the relative becoming absolute.
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