In Pride and Prejudice it is clear that some people feel that they are more important than others, that they are a different class. In some ways maybe this is true. In this essay I am going to explore the issue of social class difference in Pride and Prejudice (up to Chapter 35).
What class you are depends on a couple of things: – How much money you get every year, where your money comes from and where you live. Let’s use Darcy as an example, he gets about 10,000 a year and his money is old money, (not new money) which makes him feel superior when he first arrives. Old money is simply inherited wealth, money that has been passed down through a family e.g. Darcy. New money is money that has been earned, e.g. Bingley; his money was acquired through his father’s business activities. When Darcy is first introduced in the novel (Netherfield Ball) he looks down on everybody as if he too good to be where he is, as if everyone is a lower life and he is the superior being. My first impression of Darcy is that he is a very high up, aristocratic person. As the novel progresses we go on to find out that Darcy has a split personality, like two sides of a coin, the public man and the private man. When Darcy first meets Elizabeth he shows no like for her at all, maybe he feels he is too good for her. As we turn the pages of Pride & Prejudice Darcy starts to show feelings for Elizabeth, he starts to care for a person that is lower down in the class system than he is.
“Darcy had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by her.”
Bewitched is a magical word, its meaning is, attract and fascinate; cast a spell over. It is as if Elizabeth has cast a spell over Darcy and he is spellbound by her. He can’t overcome his feelings for her. This to me also suggests that Elizabeth is some sort of witch, maybe that’s why she is almost too good to be true.
These feelings that Darcy shows begin to get greater and greater as he knows more of Elizabeth. It builds up inside him until he can’t control his feelings anymore. One day Darcy arrives at Elizabeth’s house and lets his feelings out. After Darcy proposes to Elizabeth it makes me think that maybe he’s not that aristocratic person he is made out to be, maybe he likes to give people that impression so that they will respect him more in the long run. Another possibility could be that Darcy is changing, or coming out of his shell. When he first arrived he might have been acting so that he could be a looked upon as a very high person in the new community he is entering.
The surnames of the people in the novel actually give an indication of their social and economical wellbeing. The English surnames in the novel are all of the people who want to marry into the more important, well-off families. These are: – Bennet, Bingley, Wickham, Lucas, Collins, Gardiner, and Phillips. These are also the people who posses new money, they also may have something to do with trade or professions. The other names in the novel like Darcy (d’Arcy) or de Bourgh have the most important social and economical roles in the book. These names have a French Origin so they sound different, more important and also posh. These names are also long established landed families who can be traced back about half a century or maybe more which means their money is old money. Because they have this old money these people feel more important than others, which is why they think are further up the class system than others in the novel. Other people who don’t own old money also look up to people like Darcy because of the fact he has old money, it’s as if because you own a lot of money you have more freedom to do what you want.
“He likes to have his own way very well… But so we all do. It is only that he has better means of having it than others, because he is rich, and many others are poor.”
The characters with English surnames want to marry into a family with more money than what they have e.g. Wickham. He can be used as a perfect example of how far a person would go to get his hands on some money. Georgiana, Darcy’s sister obviously has a lot of family money. She is also single and young (Perhaps too young?) and to Darcy a very special person. This to Wickham would be an easy target. He is an older man and maybe Georgiana would like this, if not anything else about him. Wickham and Georgiana start to build up a relationship, from her side the relationship it is for love and from his side it is for her money. Georgiana doesn’t seem to notice this and decides to go along with an elopement planned by the pair.
At this time she was only 15 years old, which to me seems a bit too young for this kind of activity. However, at that time there were children working in cotton mills, woollen mills, coal mines and elsewhere. Children weren’t looked upon in the same way as they are today and the laws that apply in the twenty-first century did not apply in those days. Darcy at this time had been a patron to Wickham for a long while and Wickham decides to stab Darcy in his back and elope with his precious sister for the simple reason of her family money. The reason Wickham tries to do this is because with money he would feel more important and different. It would make him think that because of this money he could look down on people without as much money as him. Money has a lot to do with where you stand in the class system and that is why it has so much importance to so many people. Money nowadays is just as, if not more important than it was in those days.
Sir William Lucas in his younger days was a tradesman; he had to work for the money he earned. As he feels now he would rather forget about his recent experiences because he doesn’t want to be part of the trade class, he wants to be higher up along side people like Darcy. The only reason for this is because he looks at Darcy and people similar to him and admires him in a way that he wants to live their life as opposed to his own.
In Pride and Prejudice it is clear that there are people of a different class, or people that think they are a different class. What makes the difference between the classes is how much money you own, if you have a lot of money, you are automatically important. If you have a lot of old money you are looked upon as a rich, posh person. Money is the key element in what class you are.