Pride and Prejudice

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LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Pride and Prejudice, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
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The family is the predominant unit of social life in Pride and Prejudice and forms the emotional center of the novel. Not only does it provide (or fail to provide, as in the case of Lydia) the Bennet daughters with their education and manners, but the social ranking of the family determines how successful they may reasonably expect to be in later life. Austen skillfully reveals how individual character is molded within the family by presenting Jane and Elizabeth as mature, intelligent adults, and Lydia as a hapless fool. The friction between Elizabeth and her mother on the one hand and the sympathy she shares with Mr. Bennet on the other illustrate the emotional spectrum that colors the family's overall character. The influence of Elizabeth's aunt and uncle shows how the family works in an extended sense, with the Gardiners acting as substitute parents, providing much needed emotional support at key moments of stress.

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Family Quotes in Pride and Prejudice

Below you will find the important quotes in Pride and Prejudice related to the theme of Family.
Chapter 4 Quotes
Oh! you are a great deal too apt, you know, to like people in general. You never see a fault in anybody. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in your life.
Related Characters: Elizabeth (Eliza, Lizzy) Bennet (speaker), Jane Bennet
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

As Jane and Elizabeth debrief on their experiences at the ball, Jane expresses surprise that Mr. Bingley would have paid her so much attention. Elizabeth exclaims that it is natural for him to do so, given all Jane's gifts. Elizabeth then criticizes Bingley's sisters, while Jane is reluctant to say anything bad about them. Here Elizabeth makes a more general statement about Jane's willingness to see the positive in everyone, and to fail to criticize - not because she is holding her tongue, but because she really is so slow to judgment. Elizabeth is implicitly contrasting Jane with her own tendency to judge others, a tendency shared by many in their community.

In Austen's work, families often are composed of quite different elements, their members possessing distinct character traits, rather than being joined under a shared ethos. The differences between Jane and Elizabeth (not to mention the other Bennets) give Austen the opportunity to explore the intricacies of family life but also to develop some of her major interests, including that of prejudice, since each character reacts so differently to it.


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Chapter 33 Quotes
If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause, of all that Jane had suffered, and still continued to suffer. He had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world; and no one could say how lasting an evil he might have inflicted.
Related Characters: Elizabeth (Eliza, Lizzy) Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Bennet
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Speaking with Colonel Fitzwilliams, Elizabeth learns that Darcy - a friend of his - has intervened to stop Bingley from making an "impudent marriage." Elizabeth realizes that he must be talking about Bingley's relationship with her sister Jane. She is appalled, and immediately takes the opportunity to condemn Darcy with all her judgment. She particularly criticizes his pride, as she assumes that he considers the Bennet girls too lowly and unworthy for a gentleman like himself and his friend Bingley.

Although this understanding of marriage was relatively common at the time, Elizabeth takes a quite different opinion. She argues internally that Jane's character is so unblemished that anyone would be lucky to marry her, regardless of his fortune. It is Jane's unquestionable goodness that makes Darcy's actions such a crime in Elizabeth's eyes (not to mention her sense of pride in response to the notion that her family is more unworthy than others). Darcy sinks even lower in her estimation, even as she decides not to try to confirm her assumption by talking to Fitzwilliam.

Chapter 41 Quotes
Our importance, our respectability in the world must be affected by the wild volatility, the assurance and disdain of all restraint which mark Lydia's character. Excuse me—for I must speak plainly. If you, my dear father, will not take the trouble of checking her exuberant spirits, and of teaching her that her present pursuits are not to be the business of her life, she will soon be beyond the reach of amendment.
Related Characters: Elizabeth (Eliza, Lizzy) Bennet (speaker), Mr. Bennet, Lydia Bennet
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

Lydia has accepted an invitation from Colonel Foster to join the regiment at Brighton. It is not considered proper for a young woman to run after soldiers in such a way: even Elizabeth, who is quick to flout societal pressure in other ways, recognizes how important it is for Lydia's and the family's reputation that she calm down and refrain from acting in such a way.

Mr. Bennet is a largely "hands-off" father: that is, tucked away behind his newspaper, he lets things unfold as they will, without seeking to interfere in them in any way. Here Elizabeth begs him to reconsider this parenting strategy. She knows that if Lydia is allowed to do whatever she likes, she will never learn to to act properly, and soon she will be set in her ways - there is only a small window of time left. Elizabeth has taken it upon herself to look after her family's reputation, since her father is, in her eyes, failing to lead the family as he should, and she knows that this decision will only further contribute to their appearance of inferiority in the eyes of others - as well as contributing to Lydia's sorry character.

Chapter 47 Quotes
Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.
Related Characters: Mary Bennet (speaker), Lydia Bennet
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:
Lydia has run away with Mr. Wickham, and the entire Bennet family is frantic as each member attempts to track her down and save her from utter ruin. Here, though, Mary Bennet attempts to siphon off something useful from this embarrassing, shameful family incident, by making a broader moral judgment. The Bennet women may think themselves at least somewhat stable, but Lydia's story has taught them that reputation and social judgment are incredibly precarious, and it doesn't take much to lose a reputation that one has spent years cultivating. A woman's "virtue" is highly prized in this society, and for women who do not possess a fortune or other coveted possessions, virtue is what they may cling to in order to assure a decent, and even moderately independent, life for themselves.
Chapter 48 Quotes
The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison of this ... They agree with me in apprehending that this false step in one daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves with such a family?
Related Characters: Mr. Collins (speaker), Mr. Bennet, Lydia Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Page Number: 281
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Collins has written a letter of condolences to the Bennet family, but he hardly seems to strike a tone of compassion or understanding. Instead, his attitude seems almost gleeful, as he carefully delineates just how Lydia's ruinous decision will affect not only her life, but also the prospects of each of her sisters.

Lady Catherine, of course, should be known to us by now as proud in the worst ways, acutely aware of subtle class differences and eager to maintain those differences in any way possible - without taking to account more significant (at least in Austen's view) elements of character and morality that should support, not compete with, class distinctions. That Mr. Collins has embraced such a viewpoint speaks, in one sense, to his own sense of pride: having been refused marriage by one of the Bennet sisters, he takes some satisfaction in seeing the family fall from grace. But his attitude is also meant to stand in for societal opinions in general. In this environment, great danger can stem from one young woman's careless actions. Marriage for these women is not just a frivolous matter; without other means of freedom, it determines what kind of lives they can hope to have, so anything that jeopardizes their marriage prospects must be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Chapter 49 Quotes
It is all very right; who should do it but her own uncle? If he had not had a family of his own, I and my children must have had all his money, you know; and it is the first time we have ever had anything from him, except a few presents. Well! I am so happy! In a short time I shall have a daughter married. Mrs. Wickham! How well it sounds!
Related Characters: Mrs. Bennet (speaker), George Wickham, Lydia Bennet, Mr. Gardiner
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:

Thanks to Mr. Gardiner, Lydia's honor and reputation have been saved: Mr. Wickham will marry Lydia, as long as Mr. Bennet pays him a certain amount annually. Suspecting that Mr. Gardiner has already paid Wickham a good deal himself, Elizabeth and Jane wonder how they can ever repay him. Mrs. Bennet, though, does not linger over such questions of gratitude or debt. She is shown here at her most shallow, caring largely for appearances - how impressed others will be that Lydia is marrying such a man. She doesn't think of what kind of character Wickham must have: for Mrs. Bennet too marriage is a kind of transaction, and while Austen doesn't entirely disagree with this point of view, she shows just how much she disapproves of taking that idea to this extreme.

Chapter 55 Quotes
in spite of his being a lover, Elizabeth really believed all his expectations of felicity to be rationally founded, because they had for basis the excellent understanding, and super-excellent disposition of Jane, and a general similarity of feeling and taste between her and himself.
Related Characters: Elizabeth (Eliza, Lizzy) Bennet, Jane Bennet, Charles Bingley
Page Number: 328
Explanation and Analysis:

Bingley has proposed marriage to Jane, and Elizabeth is overjoyed. Here she shares some of what she has learned about what is important to her in marriage and in family life, lessons that she has developed over the course of the novel. Elizabeth doesn't share the opinion of some, like Lady Catherine, who believe marriage to be a confirmation of undeniable class differences, and therefore also a chance to look down on those who have less attractive options. Nor does she share her mother's view, that marriage is the chance to claw one's way up the social ladder and then grow smug about one's success.

However, Elizabeth is also wary of the opposite understanding of marriage, such as Lydia's heady, irrational escape based on her feelings for Wickham. Instead, Elizabeth promotes a mix of reason and love. Indeed, she believes that love can be even stronger when founded on real, true facts, principles of character and personality. Elizabeth's enumeration of the reasons Jane and Bingley may be happy might sound a bit cold to a modern reader; but her balanced, rational approach shows her maturity in a world in which marriage is probably the most important choice, and the freest one, that a young lady can make.

Chapter 59 Quotes
I know that you could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband; unless you looked up to him as a superior. Your lively talents would place you in the greatest danger in an unequal marriage ... My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life.
Related Characters: Mr. Bennet (speaker), Elizabeth (Eliza, Lizzy) Bennet
Page Number: 356
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Bennet is initially shocked and confused when Elizabeth tells him the news of Darcy's proposal, and of her changing attitudes towards him. Indeed, his reaction and that of the entire Bennet family underline just how rare it is for someone's prejudices to change. But Mr. Bennet, unlike others, finds this change of heart a sign of Elizabeth's complexity of character, rather than of any kind of inconsistency.

Mr. Bennet has remained in the background for much of the novel. Here, though, we learn that he has a surprisingly nuanced understanding of what marriage means. He does not assume that men are naturally more intelligent and more witty than women: indeed, he clearly considers his daughter more clever and interesting than most. However, Mr. Bennet does see this quality as somewhat of a liability: he assumes that the man must always be considered superior in marriage, so the problem for Elizabeth becomes how she might find someone who is even more talented than she is. Mr. Bennet's remarks thus show a great deal of respect and care for his daughter, even as they also rely on certain assumptions about what an "equal" marriage entails that stem from sexist social realities.