“Pride and Prejudice” has consistently been the most popular classical Jane Austen’s novel, known and loved by millions of readers all over the world. The author displays commonplace faults and virtues of small cocooned world of the middle-class gentry in England during the early nineteenth century. Some critics argue that there are no real “villains” in the novel. In fact, there are antagonists because stories are dull and plain without them. Jane Austen’s primary interest is people. Hence, she uses her antagonists to criticize negative traits of her own society through them. I would certainly choose George Wickham as the main “villain”. As for the others, I would like to focus on satirical characters of pompous Reverend Collins and snobbish Lady Catherine de Bourgh. All of them do not represent “classical” villains, but still they embody selfishness, pride and deceit.
Consequently, the most famous villain of the story is Mr. George Wickham, the handsome fortune-hunting officer who charms everyone. The first information the readers obtain about him is that he is a man of “fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address”, whose inquisitive manners bring its fruit – as almost “every female eye” (Austen 115) turns upon him – even Elizabeth initially likes him. Wickham with his fine manners opposes proud and class-conscious Mr. Darcy and looks very favorably in comparison. However, soon he reveals his true nature of a selfish and wicked man. He spreads lies that Darcy is cheating him out of his inheritance. It seems he simply neglects the fact that they have grown up together since after the death of Wickham’s father, Darcy’s father took Wickham and treated him like his own son. Therefore, Wickham’s gossips further encourage personal prejudice of Elizabeth and the negative impression of Darcy.
Wickham has no true respect for women and regards them only as a way to move up to a higher level of society. He attempts to elope with the fifteen-year old Georgiana Darcy simply because she has a large fortune. Darcy prevents the dishonorable elopement and buys Wickham off, ending all connections between them. Then the readers find Wickham, who truly likes Elizabeth, casting aside his interest and expressing his affections to Mary King, only for the sake of the girl’s ten thousand pound inheritance. Finally, this chain ends with his elopement with young Lydia Bennet, who is in love and, thus, unconcerned about the disgrace upon her family. Nevertheless, I think that he is quite aware of the situation. Since she has no financial benefits, he never intends to marry her, even knowing that this scandal would ruin the Bennet family’s reputation. Their elopement is a good reason for him to flee from creditors and abandon the town, where he leaves nothing but enemies and debts. Despite the fact that Darcy saves Lydia’s good name by bribing Wickham with a steady income and a considerable sum of money for the marriage, this is not a good solution for her. When Elizabeth finds it out, she exclaims in despair that “small as is their chance for happiness, and wretched as is his character” (Austen 459), understanding that her sister will not find happiness in the marriage with this deceitful and sneaky man.
Darcy’s housekeeper considers that Wickham “turned out very wild” (Austen 370) as he often breaks social norms. He has enough moral awareness, but still does not care about feelings and reputation – neither his own, nor somebody else’s. Wickham is a worthless man interested only in money matters. His selfishness and irresponsibility, combined with his ability to read people and manipulate them, make him a villain who never stops using others for his self-serving life philosophy.
Another character I have chosen as a “mild” villain is Reverend Collins. He is not very wicked, but selfish and kind of socially tone-deaf, as well as oblivious to the feelings of other people. The author tells that his “deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society”, and his life circumstances made him “a mixture of pride and obsequiousness, self-importance and humility” (Austen 105). During his first visit to the Bennets, he is intolerable and talkative, endlessly praising his own merits, the most important of which is the protection of a wealthy aristocrat Lady Catherine de Bourg. Despite the fact that Elizabeth has never seen him before, she rightly observes that “there is something very pompous in his style” just from the tone of his letter (Austen 95). Still, Collins always humbly speaks of himself and expresses his humility towards patrons or anybody of a higher rank. What is more, he is a Christian clergyman though charity is surely not his virtue. Thus, he gives wrong advice to other people. He tries to amend his financial impact on the Bennets by proposing to Elizabeth. She refuses, considering him conceited, arrogant, narrow-minded, and foolish. His marriage proposal to Elizabeth reveals his humorless and pedantic nature, which is far from the passion or genuine care. He is obviously an unsuitable companion for Elizabeth. Moreover, he is incredibly insensitive because he even does not take her refusal seriously for the first time and makes her explain herself very clear. Mr. Collins has a one-dimensional character that does not allow him to experience any other reality than the practical one. His mentality is not changing or growing; through the novel he remains the same, silly and rhetorical, even though he is the only person to take his rhetoric seriously.
The last “slightly villainous” character from "Pride and Prejudice" I want to discuss is Lady Catherine De Bourgh, which perfectly complements and accentuates Collins. She is an aunt of Mr. Darcy; in addition to this, she is wealthy and possesses a high status in society. Thus, she considers herself entitled to be haughty and domineering. Though some people (such as Collins) admire her manners, regarding them as proper ones, Elizabeth is appalled by her arrogance and vulgarity.
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