Essay Topics on "Pride & Prejudice"

"Pride and Prejudice" is an enduring classic that is perennially assigned in high school and college English classes. Doubtless the novel has been the subject of enough essays to paper over Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s vast estate, many times over. Jane Austen wove a dense tapestry of character, social convention and events that lends itself easily to the kind of unpacking and interpretation that form the foundation of interesting essay topics.

Boundless Facades

Explain how facades were used in "Pride and Prejudice." This is a topic that works on multiple levels. Socially, the characters in the novel are preoccupied with keeping up appearances and presenting a good face to be accepted for marriage, invitations and inclusion in the activities of a social class. Emotionally, Elizabeth Bennet and the others hide their real insecurities, sorrows, disappointments and motives from the other characters, and even from themselves. The trappings of wealth and class and the pride and prejudices that shape responses are at the heart of the novel.

Marriage Musings

Compare and contrast Elizabeth’s rationale for marriage with Charlotte’s. A central issue in "Pride and Prejudice" is making a proper marriage. Elizabeth is driven by her own romantic notions and by a bright mind that is more independent than is typical for her time. Charlotte is older, plainer, less gifted and far more pragmatic. Through marriage Charlotte will acquire a secure place in society. Elizabeth seems to fear that a secure place in society will bury her alive. Both women have good reasons for their choices and both have flaws in reasoning that affect the outcome of the marriage question.

Pride and Prejudice

How did the pride and prejudices of the individual characters affect their personalities and their choices? Elizabeth mistakes Darcy’s reticence for aloofness, although she homes in on his unconscious class prejudice. She values herself more highly than her place in society dictates, and she refuses to compromise. Mr. Darcy, who entertains an unexamined class prejudice, mistakes Elizabeth’s spirited rejoinders for disinterest and rejection. Jane hides her broken heart in controlled resignation and believes Mr. Bingley looks down on their poorer family. Mr. Bingley believes Jane is beyond his reach, partly due to the class-driven sniping of his sisters. Lady Catherine embraces the idea that money and position give her more worth, and entitlement, than the Bennet family. The novel’s title predicts and sums up the entire book.

Inheritance Issues

Discuss the practice of entailment and how it drives significant choices and the actions of key characters. A system of keeping property in the patrilineal family, the entail dictates the terms of a will in "Pride and Prejudice." Mr. Bennet has no son, so his estate will go to his next living male relative upon his death. That happens to be the unfortunate Mr. Collins. Mrs. Bennet is desperate to marry her daughters well to avoid being turned out of her home should her husband die before she does. Mr. Collins believes his claim on the estate logically includes a claim on one of the five Bennet daughters in marriage. Charlotte has no prospects of a secure life without marriage to a man of property, however odious or imperfect a choice he may be. There is constant tension throughout the novel as choices involving marriage and property surface.

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