Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in Jane Austen's novel “Pride and Prejudice” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “Pride and Prejudice” offer a short summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Elizabeth’s Pride and Darcy’s Prejudice
The pride and the prejudice referred to in the title of this Jane Austen novel prepare the reader for the character flaws of the main characters, Elizabeth and Darcy. Elizabeth’s pride and Darcy’s prejudice prevent the two from recognizing and admitting their love for one another. Write an explanatory or expository essay on “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen in which you detail how these character flaws are managed so that the characters can overcome the judgments and opinions that they have formed about each other and ultimately experience love together. You may wish to also reflect upon the social and historical factors which made these character flaws so common, identifying, for example, the role that social status played in relationships at that time.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Contesting Social Propriety: The Women of Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice takes place in a society and in a historical moment that defined women’s roles and abilities narrowly. A woman was expected to be and behave a certain way, and deviations from the social norm were rebuked, often severely. Examine the various female characters and the small and large ways in which they challenge these strict social roles that have been assigned to them. You may wish to consider one character and go in depth, or to consider a wide range of characters and multiple transgressions. Be sure to include the consequences of these transgressions. Make a case for what you believe Austen’s motive to have been in presenting these episodes to her reader.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Function of Journeys and the Contrast Between Indoors and Outdoors
The settings of the events that take place in Pride and Prejudice establish tone, mood, and an orientation to the social class and conditions of the characters. The settings also serve important symbolic functions, however. Consider the ways in which indoor and outdoor settings are contrasted in this novel and identify the function that each type of setting plays and meaning it represents. Be sure to explain how the various journeys between these spaces signify certain developments in the novel. In particular, be sure to discuss how journeys represent and precipitate transitions in the characters’ relationships.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Jane Austen’s Satiric Treatment of the Wealthy
Social class is an important marker of the characters’ conditions and the quality of their relationships in Pride and Prejudice. Austen seems to reserve her satiric wit for an especially critical treatment of wealthier characters. Choose one or more of these characters and compare/contrast how Austen treats them versus how she treats the characters from other social strata. Explain whether the outcomes of the novel support an overall statement with respect to Austen’s opinion about the wealthy.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: The Rejected Title
Before the novel was published as Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s working title for this text was First Impressions. Consider which title is more evocative and effective in supporting the thematic development of the novel. Once you have chosen the title you prefer, write an argumentative essay in which you defend your choice. Explain why the title you have chosen is most effective.
This list of important quotations from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Jane Austen's novel listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes from “Pride and Prejudice” alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Jane Austen they are referring to.
“[Mrs. Bennet] was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news." (226)
“Mr. Darcy walked off; and Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. She told the story however with great spirit among her friends; for she had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous." (230)
“[Mr. Darcy] is a most disagreeable, horrid man, not at all worth pleasing. So high and so conceited that there was no enduring him! He walked here, and he walked there, fancying himself so very great! Not handsome enough to dance with! I wish you had been there, my dear, to have given him one of your set downs. I quite detest the man." (231)
“…Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she was herself becoming an object of some interest….Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticize. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes." (236)
“Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and inspite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness." (236)
“…when nothing better offered, a walk to Merryton was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for the evening; and however bare of news the country in general might be, they always contrived to learn some….." (239)
“I have faults enough but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for….I cannot forget the follies and vices of others as soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion, once lost, is lost for ever." (257)
“These is, I belief, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome." (257)
“And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody…. And yours,…is willfully to misunderstand them." (257)
“Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation, and when at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter." (361)
Reference: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. In The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. New York: Penguin, 1983
In which ways is Elizabeth different from the rest of the Bennet family? What does the contrast reveal about her character?
Elizabeth is one of the only characters in Pride and Prejudice who changes significantly over the course of the story. Her distinctive quality is her extreme perceptiveness, which she uses to assess others at the beginning of the novel and understand her own flaws at the end. Most of the other Bennets are stuck in their ways - Jane is eternally optimistic, Lydia and Mrs. Bennet are frivolous, Mr. Bennet is sarcastic and cynical, and so on - but Elizabeth regularly reflects on the events in her life. She learns to question herself whereas most of the others act as though they have settled on a certain worldview. Elizabeth is therefore a true individual who adapts to the world around her, and seeks constantly to better understand her desires so that she can find happiness.
Overall, do you believe Austen has a conservative or radical approach to the issue of class? Why or why not?
Ultimately, Pride and Prejudice takes a moderate stance on class differences. Austen never posits an egalitarian ideology. However, she does criticize the society's over-emphasis on class instead of individual moral character. Darcy's journey from extreme class-consciousness to prioritizing manners over money is the best example of Austen's criticism. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is affected upon visiting Pemberley. The grand estate does have an impact on her already changing feelings towards Darcy, which is one example of Austen justifying the appeal of the upper class. Overall, Austen accepts (and even appreciates) the existence of class hierarchy, but also offers a warning about how class-based prejudice can poison society.
Explore Austen's portrayal of the women in the novel. In what ways does she sympathize with their plight, and in what ways is she unsympathetic?
Austen's attitude towards women is quite complicated. Generally, Austen is critical of the gender injustices present in 19th century English society, particularly in the context of marriage. She is able to voice this criticism through characters like Charlotte Lucas (who marries Collins because she needs security) and even Mrs. Bennet (who, though ridiculous, is the only one to speak out against the entailment of Longbourn). Furthermore, Austen's caricatured portrayal of the younger Bennet daughters is evidence of her disdain for frivolous women. Her opinion was perhaps more in line with Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth, or even the dour Mary. While Austen seems to accept the limitations of her gender, she criticizes a society that forces women to emphasize their least flattering characteristics.
Elizabeth has a markedly different attitude about marriage than other characters - notably Charlotte and Mrs. Bennet - have. To what extent is she unfair in her assessment of their attitudes, and to what extent might they benefit from employing her perspective?
Charlotte and Mrs. Bennet both believe that marriage is a business transaction in which a woman must be the active party in securing a good match for herself. This pragmatic assessment stands in stark contrast to Elizabeth's more romantic worldview. However, at this period in history, at least in certain higher classes, if a man chose not to marry, he only risked loneliness and regret. Meanwhile, a woman in the same situation could lose her financial security. Therefore, it is understandable why Charlotte and Mrs. Bennet believe that a woman must consider employing manipulation for the sake of her future. Charlotte deliberately draws Mr. Collins's attention in order to secure a proposal. However, Jane does not follow Charlotte's advice and nearly loses Bingley's love in the process. Lydia takes a drastic action that forces her marriage to occur. It is only Elizabeth who operates entirely outside the societal norm, but Austen makes it clear that her situation is quite unique.
Some critics applaud Austen's ability to craft psychologically complex and believable characters, while others believe she mostly creates well-drawn comic stock characters. Which argument do you support?
Though this question asks for an opinion, a strong thesis would be that Austen straddles the line between comic stock characters and psychologically complex ones. Elizabeth Bennet has a magnetic and singular personality, as does Darcy. They are arguably one of the most beloved literary couples of all time. On the other end of the spectrum, Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine are almost trapped in their exaggerated personality traits, which Austen often uses for comic (and satirical) effect. However, Austen reveals a keen perception of human psychology, even through these supposedly two-dimensional characters. Mr. Collins, for instance, reflects the truth of a class-obsessed society. Mrs. Bennet embodies the desperation of women to find a good marriage. Therefore, Austen does create unique stock characters that emphasize certain aspects of human psychology while also providing comic relief.
Austen's original draft of this novel was titled First Impressions. Explain why this title makes sense, as explore the reasons why Pride and Prejudice is more apt.
First Impressions describes the main romantic conflict - will Elizabeth and Darcy end up together despite their first impressions of one another? However, Pride and Prejudice suggests a much deeper psychological struggle, more fitting to the complexity of Austen's novel. Whereas First Impressions only implies a story of corrected perceptions, Pride and Prejudice describes a story where the characters must investigate themselves, addressing the unconscious impulses that work to prohibit self-awareness. Finally, the final title is all-encompassing, reaching beyond just Elizabeth and Darcy. It offers a comment on the novel's larger themes like class and the role of women.
Darcy is initially attracted to Elizabeth's "fine eyes." Analyze this symbol, and explain what it shows about both Darcy and Elizabeth.
Despite Elizabeth's obvious coldness toward him, Darcy finds himself increasingly attracted to her, particularly her beautiful dark eyes. The darkness of her eyes also represents Elizabeth's main weakness: the pride and prejudice that cloud her perception. Elizabeth prides herself on her ability to judge others and uncover their motives. However, her prejudgment of Darcy makes her blind to his admiration. In the conversation about Darcy at Netherfield, Elizabeth offers that Darcy's defect is "a propensity to hate everybody," while Darcy perceptively replies that hers is "willfully to misunderstand them." Indeed, while Elizabeth judges Darcy for over-valuing his first impression of her, she exhibits the exact same shortcoming. Ultimately, the darkness of her eyes reflects the complexity of Elizabeth's prejudice, but that complexity is very much what draws Darcy towards her in the first place.
In what ways does Austen portray the family and community as responsible for its members?
Though Pride and Prejudice is largely a story about individuality, Austen portrays the family unit as primarily responsible for the intellectual and moral education of children. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's failure to provide a proper education for their daughters leads to Lydia's utter foolishness. Elizabeth and Jane manage to develop virtue and discernment in spite of their parents' negligence, though it is notable that they have other role models like the Gardiners. Darcy shares both his father's aristocratic nature and the man's tendency towards generosity, while Lady Catherine's daughter is too frightened to speak. This attitude extends to the larger community, as well. Lydia's time in Meryton and Brighton bring out her worst impulses. Similarly, the community around Pemberley respects Darcy's generosity and follows his lead in being kind and trustworthy.
Though undoubtedly a comic character, Mr. Collins reflects some rather unattractive qualities of his society. Explain this statement.
Mr. Collins is defined by his rambling speeches of excessive formality and his boorishness disguised as faux-politeness. And yet, Mr. Collins is also a reflection of a society obsessed with class, a monster engendered by this singular pressure. Mr. Collins comes from modest means and likely always dreamed of a respectable position. When he attracted an aristocratic patroness like Lady Catherine, he saw only her rank, which made him blind to her harsh and condescending attitude. He compensates for his insecurity by pretending to act like Lady Catherine and those of her class. In this way, Collins and Lady Catherine are examples of the societal acceptance of class without manners but not the opposite.
Explain why Austen ends her novel with a line about the Gardiners, even though they are minor characters in Pride and Prejudice.
The Gardiners are important because they are a middle-class couple that behaves reasonably and virtuously. Mrs. Gardiner is a great role model for Elizabeth, though she reveals little unique personality of her own. Mr. Gardiner proves to be instrumental in saving Lydia from her scandalous elopement. They both acknowledge the importance of class and education, but place a greater emphasis on personal conduct. The Gardiners also externalize Darcy's inner struggle. When Darcy treats the Gardiners well at Pemberley and then later works with Mr. Gardiner to rescue Lydia, it indicates that he has internalized Elizabeth's view of personality and class. The novel thus ends on the Gardiners because is offers a final illustration that Elizabeth and Darcy have reached a happy medium between class and behavior beyond the barriers of pride and prejudice.