Pride and Prejudice Quotations

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." (Chapter 1)

      The opening line of the novel, this sets the tone for everything that follows. Not only does it establish the central concern of the novel-marriage-but it also establishes a sarcastic tone that will resurface at many points Jane Austen makes this statement as a rather tongue-in-cheek observation, laughing at the idea that a man with money could only ever be thinking of marriage.

"But no sooner had [Darcy] made it clear to himself and his friends that she hardly had a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. 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 in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness." (Chapter 6)

      This quote appears early in the novel. Only pages before, Darcy had remarked to his friends that Elizabeth was "barely tolerable," or hardly pretty at all. However, no sooner does he say this than he realizes there is actually more to Elizabeth than his first impression of her. After spending more time around her, he realizes her intelligences, her playful personality, and he realizes that he is actually drawn to her.

"Though Bingley and Jane meet tolerably often, it is never for many hours together; and, as they always see each other in large mixed parties, it is impossible that every moment should be employed in conversing together. Jane should therefore make the most of every half-hour in which she can command his attention. When she is secure of him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses." (Chapter 6)

      Charlotte makes this statement while discussing Jane's future with Elizabeth. Here, Charlotte states that Jane should be making the most of her time with Bingley and snatch him up with she can. She asserts that you can fall in love after marriage, showing her view that love isn't a detriment to marriage. This establishes the question of whether love is necessary to marriage early in the novel. And since Charlotte marries the utterly ridiculous Mr. Collins, it is easy for the reader to discern that Charlotte's view may not be so logical after all.

"My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced that it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly-which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. [...] But the fact is, that being, as I am, to inherit this estate after the death of your honoured father (who, however, may live many years longer), I could not satisfy myself without resolving to choose a wife from among his daughters, that the loss to them might be as little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place-which, however, as I have already said, may not be for several years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter myself it will not sink me in your esteem. And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection." (Chapter 19)

      Mr. Collins makes this statement in his proposal to Elizabeth. He reasons for marriage seem to encompass everything but love. He believes he should marry because 1) He needs to set the example of marriage, 2) that it will give him some sort of generic happiness, and that 3) Lady Catherine told him to get married. He also seems to think that he will be doing the Bennet daughters a favor since he will inherit the estate. Mr. Collins certainly seems to have used his head more than his heart when it comes to marriage. His final statement is even laughable when he assures Elizabeth he must tell her in "animated language" of the "violence" of his affection. This is ironic given then nothing about his very logical proposal is affectionate or passionate at all. This will serve as a stark contrast to Mr. Darcy's proposal later on.

"Charlotte herself was tolerably composed. She had gained her point, and had time to consider of it. Her reflections were in general satisfactory. Mr. Collins, to be sure, was neither sensible nor agreeable; his society was irksome, and his attachment to her must be imaginary. But still he would be her husband. Without thinking highly either of men or matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. This preservative she had now obtained; and at the age of twenty-seven, without having ever been handsome, she felt all the good luck of it." (Chapter 22)

      In this quotation, Charlotte accepts Mr. Collin's proposal. In at least some ways, she seems to be a match for Mr. Collins because she considers marriage a matter of the head instead of the heart. She recognizes she has no attraction to Mr. Collins at all-even calling him "irksome". However, she believes marrying him is her only option for a stable future. Though Charlotte's actions are certainly less than admirable, this at least seems to be Austen's way of pointing out the unfairness of a society where a woman feels pressured to marry simply for security.

"[Elizabeth's] father, captivated by youth and beauty, and that appearance of good humour which youth and beauty generally give, had married a woman whose weak understanding and illiberal mind had very early in their marriage put an end to all real affection for her. Respect, esteem, and confidence had vanished for ever; and all his views of domestic happiness were overthrown...This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given. Elizabeth, however, had never been blind to the impropriety of her father's behaviour as a husband. She had always seen it with pain; but respecting his abilities, and grateful for his affectionate treatment of herself, she endeavoured to forget what she could not overlook, and to banish from her thoughts that continual breach of conjugal obligation and decorum which, in exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children, was so highly reprehensible. But she had never felt so strongly as now the disadvantages which must attend the children of so unsuitable marriage, nor ever been so fully aware of the evils arising from so ill-judged a direction of talents; talents, which, rightly used, might at least have preserved the respectability of his daughters, even if incapable of enlarging the mind of his wife." (Chapter 42)

      Here, Elizabeth refleccts on the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Sadly, the narrator describes a relationship in which love faded very early on. Though Mr. Bennet has been a likeable character throughout the novel for all his teasing of Mrs. Bennet, he is clearly very flawed. He neglects his duties as a father and a husband, though Elizabeth is prone to turning a blind eye to it. In fact, Elizabeth feels that the children of a loveless marriage are at a distinct disadvantage. This, perhaps, might explain her own desire to marry for love. Additionally, this could once again be Jane Austen commenting on marriage. In her eyes, a loveless marriage is not only bad for the couple involved, but also the resulting children.

"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you." (Chapter 34)

      This, the opening line of Darcy's proposal, is a clear contrast to Mr. Collins' emotionless proposal from earlier in the novel. In this short line, Darcy speaks of everything Mr. Collins says he feels but doesn't show. The first words out of Darcy's mouth in his proposal are of his love and admiration for Elizabeth. Even though Elizabeth rejects him, it is easy to see that his feelings are true.

"He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority-of its being a degradation-of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit." (Chapter 34)

      This quotation follows Darcy's proposal. And, though his proposal is a good deal more passionate and heartfelt than Mr. Collins, it is still flawed. Darcy's extreme pride comes through here, as he confesses to Elizabeth that he actually didn't want to propose to her because of her "inferiority" in terms of social status. He basically tells her he loved her against his better judgment. Though he probably meant this as flattery, it certain comes across as an insult. This is a major turning point in their relationship, a point at which their misunderstandings come to a head.

"Elizabeth was much too embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, 'You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.' Elizabeth feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand, that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure, his present assurances." (Chapter 58)

      After a continual evolution in character on the part of Darcy and Elizabeth, the two meet again and discuss marriage once more. Darcy asks simply if her feelings have changed, to which she replies that yes, they have. This simple moment is again a contrast to the two previous proposals in the novel. Some readers have found this to be quite anticlimactic since it is the culminating moment in Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship. Nothing here is grand or elaborate or intensely emotional. However, it seems, instead, that Elizabeth and Darcy have come to understand each other so fully-and, indeed, the reader understands them completely now as well-that no elaborate explanation or grand scene is needed. Elizabeth and Darcy have simply come to love each other truly, and that's that.

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