Why the Classic Pride and Prejudice Is Still So Popular

Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, teaches important lessons that remain relevant to modern readers. Let’s explore its most enduring themes!

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Elizabeth and Darcy standing close and staring at each other.

Pride and Prejudice is a classic novel that is still popular today. Its timeless themes and how they’re entwined with the characters have captivated millions of people since its publication over 200 years ago. Some of the best themes are discussed below, so read on to learn more.

Pride

Elizabeth and Darcy are both prideful, though Darcy is the worst. For example, he thinks the Bennets are beneath him for their social status, and he treats them poorly for a while. He extends this belief to many other characters as well and acts upon them — such as separating Jane and Bingley — and this is why Elizabeth rejects him. He does learn and change toward the end, but his pride got in the way a lot for him and the others.

Darcy walking alone in a misty field.
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Pride is a natural human emotion. It’s just as necessary, but sometimes it’s hard to control or to deal with in others. That’s why seeing it in both regards is important in this book; we see how Darcy can’t get close to people because of his pride, and we see how others are affected by his pride. We also witness how he overcomes his pride and gets the chance to truly learn about others and change his own future.

Prejudice

Elizabeth shows a lot of prejudice through the novel, mostly toward Darcy. She is prejudiced against him for his wealth, and she assumes that because he is rich, he must also be shallow and rude. His actions, due to his pride, confirm Elizabeth’s feelings, and she spends much of the novel thinking poorly of him. Such prejudice affects her feelings and thoughts toward others, such as immediately believing Wickham when he lied about Darcy depriving him of his inheritance.

Elizabeth Bennet standing alone in a misty field.
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Prejudice is also an unfortunate human experience, whether toward individuals or groups. Recognizing and working to overcome it is especially important. For that reason, it was so important to see Elizabeth overcome her own prejudice and change her life. Her journey shows not only can it be overcome, and but that life may be better for it.

Love

For many characters, marriage was more of a social or business arrangement than about love. Mrs. Bennet, for example, wanted to see her five daughters married off to rich men so they would be cared for, and Charlotte Lucas married Mr. Collins so she could live a comfortable life. But for some, like Elizabeth and Jane, money or social status wasn’t enough — they also wanted love and a true partnership.

Elizabeth and Darcy touching foreheads and nearly kissing
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Different characters have different reasons for marriage, and that’s true for people in real life as well. Some people marry because it’s expected, because they want to live comfortably, or for any number of reasons. But some will hold out for love, even if it risks comfortability or societal acceptance. Even though society and customs may have changed, people, it seems, are still much the same.

Social Standing

One’s position in the social hierarchy was very important during the time period the novel was set in. The Bennets were looked down upon by those of higher status, such as some of the members of the Bingley and Darcy families. Miss Bingley, for example, didn’t want her brother to marry Jane because she didn’t want the Bennet family connected to theirs. The Bennets are allowed to socialize with higher society, but it is clear that they are treated as inferior.

Party scene from 'Pride and Prejudice' 2005 movie Elizabeth and Darcy dancing.
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Austen exaggerates social class differences in her novel, but not by much. While there isn’t as much distance between social classes now as there once was, some wealthy people, even now, are reluctant to — or even refuse to — interact with those of lower class. This isn’t always the case, and even in the novel, Mr. Bingley and Darcy ultimately reject the idea that they must marry someone of their own class.

Gender

Gender roles and expectations are very strict in the novel. Women were expected to marry, not allowed to own any property, and not allowed to work because of their social status. Marriage was the only way these women could live a comfortable life. But their ability to marry relied a lot on their reputation. That was why it was so terrible when Lydia eloped with Wickham; living with a man she wasn’t married or related to could have forever ruined her reputation.

The Bennet family, from left to right: Lydia, Mr. Bennet, Jane, Mrs. Bennet, Kitty, Elizabeth, and Mary.
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Gender roles and expectations are not as strict as they once were, and women have more freedom. However, they still exist and are pushed onto women, more in some countries and cultures than others. For example, women are expected to be mothers and take care of the house, and working mothers are often criticized for not taking care of their families. While the expectations for women aren’t the same now as they were 200 years ago, women today can still empathize with the women in Pride and Prejudice.

There are, of course, more great themes that didn’t make it on this list, but the timelessness of the themes above exemplifies why Pride and Prejudice remains a beloved story today.


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