The characters found in the novel, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, are easily contrasted. While some characters are likeable, we have others who are seen as silly and petty. Thus, we have strong differences between the various characters, who present to us the nature of society in those times. The reflection of the 19th Century through the characters, does not detract from the novel in any way, but actually increases its complexity.
Elizabeth, is clearly one of the most likeable characters in the novel. With her wit, charm and charisma she is in all senses an accomplished woman. Elizabeth is a strong-minded and courageous character, who was not afraid to stand up to others. ” I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.”, (Ch. 34) she exclaims in response to Darcys initial proposal. However, with all her strong-mindedness, her courage is still shown when she admits that she is wrong after she read Darcys letter of explanation and said: “But vanity, not love, has been my folly.” Through this realisation, we see that Elizabeth does not have the stereotypical nature of the majority of the people in her society, who, in contrast are unable to recognise their own faults.
Vastly contrasted to Elizabeth, we have the comical Mr.Collins, who lacks the self-reflection and self-awareness that is evident in Elizabeth. One trait Mr. Collins surely portrays is that of self-importance. It never occurred to him that Elizabeth would refuse his marriage proposal, and when she does, he can only say: “it does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy your acceptance”. Mr Collins proposal was extremely serious, as he really believed that he was a good catch, and therefore he was mortified when Elizabeth turned him down.
Mr.Collins continually amuses the reader with his ironically wise discussions in which he attempts to convey his prestige in Rosings. In a letter to the Bennets after the scandal with Lydia and Wickham, he writes: I am truly rejoiced that my cousin Lydias sad business has been so well hushed up, and am only concerned that their living together before the marriages took place, should be so generously known. Mr.Collins is so ironically naive that he incessantly thinks that his opinion will be respected and deemed correct, by all. His absurdity lies in his exaggerated formality, the sincerity of his opinions, and his mock humble arrogance.
To outsiders, Mr.Collins appears to be a man of dignity and worth a clergyman. However, this is just the role he plays in society. He is in fact a fool, who is only taken at face value by the other foolish characters in the novel. Mr.Collins is the prime example of the differences in appearance and reality. What one seems to be, is not necessarily what one is.
Jane Bennet, is without doubt a very straightforward person, who is extremely sweet tempered, and does not contain prejudice or pride. She is an angelic character who strives to see only the good in others. Charlotte Lucas describes her as guarded, one who does not easily reveal her emotions to others, and who is shy to reveal her affection for Mr.Bingley. This character trait resulted in the separation between her and Bingley and consequently, the reader begins to wonder whether being the perfect person, is indeed something to wish for. Jane is disillusioned in the book because of her being unable to perceive the wrong in others This is related in the book, when Jane finds out from Elizabeth the truth about Wickham. What a stroke was this for poor Jane! who would willingly have gone through the world without believing that so much wickedness existed
In direct contrast to Jane, we find a caricature of aristocratic vanity – Lady Catherine De Bourgh an overbearingly proud and arrogant woman, who is only too aware of her social status, “Miss Bennet, do you know who I am?” Unlike Jane, Lady Catherine easily finds the bad in, and looks down upon, others. She tells Elizabeth that she is: ” a young woman of inferior birth, of no importance in the world, and wholly unallied to the family.” (Ch.56). Not only does Lady Catherine acknowledge the bad in Elizabeth, she is unashamed to say it to her face. Lady Catherine is the prime example of those in society who allowed their aristocratic nobility to cause excess pride and vulgarity.
Throughout the novel, the many vastly different personalities engage the readers full attention in their specific roles. Through both the ironical, and the sensible figures, the reader is able to understand the different components of the English society of the 19th Century. These diversely different characters, are catalysts in engaging the readers absolute attention throughout the entire book, through their witty comments and ironical behaviour. Pride and Prejudice is a book of intricate design and detail, which is enhanced with the diversity of its characters and its intriguing plot.