The Role of First Impressions in Pride and Prejudice From Two Point of Views

The Role of First Impressions in Pride and Prejudice From Two Point of Views

There is no doubt that the First Impressions are the most significant clues in Pride and Prejudice. The leading characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, are both influenced by their mutual first impressions, which almost destroys their relationship. Compared with the negative effect on the affection of Elizabeth and Darcy, first impressions between Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley results in their love at the first sight in that excellent ball. As a consequence, anyone who is interested in Pride and Prejudice should not ignore the role of first impressions.

On one hand, the novel reminds us readers that misjudgment possibly occurs when only depending on the first impressions. Mr. Wickham is a typical instance of this topic. “His appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.” Describing his first appearance in the novel, the author shows us a handsome and refined man. Furthermore, with Elizabeth’s first impression of him, which referred as “The officers of the——shire were in general a very creditable, gentlemanlike set, and the best of them were of the present party; but Mr. Wickham was as far beyond them all in person, countenance, air, and walk”, everyone can’t resist the temptation but love this kind and beautiful creature at first sight. However, we all make a fatal mistake, since he turns out to be a gambler with a large amount of debt, and what’s worse, he entices naïve girls, such as Lydia, to elope with him, without any consideration of the terrible damage brought to the Lydia’s family and her own. Therefore, it’s too arbitrary for us to evaluate a person only relying on the first impressions.

On the other hand, first impressions can sometimes reveal human beings’ true personality. Take Mr. Bingley as an example. "He is just what a young man ought to be…sensible, good-humoured, lively; and I never saw such happy manners!—so much ease, with such perfect good breeding”, this is what Jane tells Lizzy about her impressions of Mr. Bingley, and because of that, she can’t help falling in love with him. Jane’s first impression of Bingley is favorable, and he is really the man as he appears.

Now that the first impression is helpful and usually right for a judgment, what should be responsible for the misleading when we judge a person at the first sight? The answer to this question depends on the concrete case. Take Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth for example, their wrong first impression on each other results from their own prejudice and pride. Specifically, Mr. Darcy is prejudiced against people with less money and lower social status than himself, which leads to Elizabeth’s unfavorable judgment of him. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s own pride in reading others’ character causes her misunderstanding of Darcy. In this case, though both Elizabeth and Darcy have some drawbacks in their characters, they don’t conceal any of their real personalities on purpose. In contrast, Wickham hides his wicked character and shows to people the hypocritical kindness and well-bred behavior, disguising himself as a charming and decent gentleman. He is an embodiment of favorable but misleading impression. In this, he contrasts with Darcy, who has ‘all the goodness’, while Wickham has ‘all the appearance of it’ (Chapter 40).

To sum up, first impressions play a key role in Pride and Prejudice. We, readers, should not over simplify this issue; instead, it is advisable to pay much attention to it and to make a comprehensive analysis. Only in this way, can we have a deep understanding of the topic of Pride and Prejudice, which is obviously not just a simple romantic story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

First Impressions in Pride and Prejudice

As a well-known female novelist of the Romantic period, Jane Austen gave a vivid description of life among the landed gentry in her time. In the whole story of Pride and Prejudice, first impressions, immensely based on the manners and behaviour, cast vitally important influence on every character. And the influence can be both positive and negative.

Sometimes the first impressions can be radically wrong. At the very first meeting, Mr.Dancy, who was expected to be kind and gentle, acted indifferently and even arrogantly instead. He seemed not attracted by the ball, and refused to dance with others except Mr. Bingley’s sisters, although there was lack of male partners. What’s worse, his harsh and contemptuous comment on Elizabeth immensely hurt her pride, which made Elizabeth “felt that he was the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to marry”. But Mr. Wickham, whose true character was eventually recognized, at first made a very good impression with his decent and endearing manners. He was so gentle and charming that Elizabeth, who was always bright and reasonable, was attracted to him and showed great sympathy for his “unjust treatment” from Mr. Dancy.

As the story went on, Elizabeth found what Mr. Wickham really was from his elopement with Lydia: he was a gambler and had great debts. He intended to get a great deal of money from marriage. And his description of the “unjust treatment” with Mr. Dancy was radically fabricated and misleading. Those who knew Mr. Dancy thought that he was a real gentleman who was just not good at pleasing others. And he didn’t reveal the evil of Wickham at first partly because he was convinced that “A gentleman expects people to give him credit for being a man of honor and integrity.”

Sometimes first impressions may be accurate. For example, Mrs. Bennet was so anxious in finding good matches for her daughters all the time that resulted in many improprieties in her behaviour: she trumpeted her own daughter and spoke unfavorably of Charlotte in front of Mr. Bingley. In order to make Jane stay longer at Mr. Bingley’s, she set Jane out to visit him on horseback in a rainy day, which leads to Jane’s fever. All of these revealed her foolishness and vanity. Another example is the insensitive Mr.Collins, the worst combination of snobbishness and obsequiousness. He was so anxiously flattering that some of his words and actions were very improper, such as his ridiculous actions to attract the attention of Mr.Dancy, the nephew of his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh, largely embarrassed Elizabeth in front of Miss Bingley. At the first dinner with the Bennets, he failed to catch Mr.Bennet’s obvious sarcasm of “flattery with delicacy”, and talked about his opinion of successfully giving “elegant compliments”.

All in all, the characters are immensely affected by the first impressions. Sometimes these effects are positive and able to unveil the real personality while sometimes they are negative and mislead people to a wrong direction. With the vivid description of the various characters, Jane Austen presents us how first impressions influence people in social life. I think, in the future, we must pay attention to our manners, and someday we will benefit from the good first impressions.