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Pride and Prejudice: A Look at Society

             "She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me - In Pride and Prejudice, the author Jane Austen delineates the nature of the society in which she lives through several parties and balls that her characters attend. Mr. Darcy epitomizes rich, discriminatory noblemen while Miss Elizabeth Bennett symbolizes the deserving, socially inferior young woman of the period. Through Darcy, Lizzy and other characters' interactions at balls and parties, Austen vividly portrays their society and its flaws, namely the penchant of the wealthy to scorn those of lower class, and the obsession of the upper class with reputation.
             The contempt that the wealthy had for their social inferiors is revealed through the balls that Elizabeth attends with Bingley and Darcy in attendance. Early on in the first dance, Darcy affirms that aside from Jane, "there is not another woman in the room who it would not be a punishment for me to stand up with."" Darcy's comment begins to expose the haughty nature of the very wealthy, as it has already been established that his income is around ten thousand pounds a year. Darcy's proud, prejudiced nature becomes even more apparent when, after being offered Elizabeth's hand, he says to her face that she "is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me."" Darcy's callous arrogance in this one instance contributes to the purpose of Pride and Prejudice by providing a caricature which represents the wealthy. Through Darcy's almost exaggerated conceit, Austen draws attention to the disdain of the wealthy for their social inferiors. At a different ball, Austen furthers this sentiment by relating Miss Bingley's snide comments about the "country- society. Attempting to guess the reason for Darcy's pensive state, she declares -how insupportable it would be to pass many evenings in this manner "in such society I was never more annoyed! The insipidity and yet the noise; the nothingness and yet the self importance - Miss Bingley's characterization of the middle class adds another facet to Austen's gem of a novel.

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