What Role Do First Impressions Play in “Pride and Prejudice”?
“Pride and Prejudice” is the story of human souls which is easily and gracefully told by the famous English writer Jane Austen. Having stood the test of several epochs, the novel remains one of the best in the world literature. The original title of the novel is “First Impressions” which embodies one of the main themes of the book: first impression can be deceiving. From the opening and to the closing line the author shows that it is not appropriate to judge a person on first acquaintance. The main character of the novel Elizabeth is misled by her former impression: throughout the main part of the book she hates a man who in the end turns out to be the only person worth to be lived for: “… I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” (Austen, 1813)
People always tend to take at face value words of a person with pleasant appearance and manners, and do not want to understand those who are not accomodating enough. Young Elizabeth misjudges Mr. Darsey at the beginning of their acquaintance as she hears his about her appearance: “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me”(1813). Here can be traced a reciprocal antipathy based on the first impression: “From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others … ”(1813) – ElizabethHowever, their misjudgments change as they learn more about each other.
The deceptiveness of first impression pursues not only the characters of the novel but the reader as well. From the first description of Mr. Darcy one learns that “… Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien…”(1813). By contrast, in the same chapter appears that “… The ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust, which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company…”(1813). Elizabeth’s mother says of her second daughter: “Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humored as Lydia”(1813). However, soon the reader gets to know that Elizabeth is a charmingly beautiful and deep person.
“You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”(2008), says James Uleman, a psychology professor at New York University. However, it is possible to make a good second impression as people can change their opinion about others. In “ Pride and Prejudice” Jane Austen shows the reader that the first impression is not always correct, in fact, it is deceptive. At the beginning of the acquaintance Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are prejudiced against each other. However, it turns out that their first impressions are mistaken. It is necessary to remember that not only a bad impression can be wrong but also a good one: “Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind.” (Vonnegut, 1986)
Austen.J. (1813). Pride and Prejudice.
Vonnegut. K. (1986). Breakfast of Champions.
Uleman, J. S., Saribay, S. A., & Gonzalez, C. M. (2008). Spontaneous inferences, implicit impressions, and implicit theories. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 329–360.
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