Essay on The Character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh In Pride and Prejudice

Essay on The Character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh In Pride and Prejudice

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Although typically overlooked by the inattentive reader, the minor character can serve a myriad of literary roles from adding to the overall story elements to distinguishing the character’s impact on the plot. In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, minor characters play a paramount role in advancing the plot, reinforcing Austen's tone, and uniquely contributing to the work as a whole. Surprisingly, the impact of a certain minor character upon the work is illuminated as well as expatiated when analyzed. Lady Catherine de Bourgh has a much greater impact on the plot, characters, and theme of Pride and Prejudice that her minor role would suggest. In this way, she advances the plot, emphasizes the theme of social expectations, and provides a satirical image of the aristocracy.
The character of Lady Catherine de Bourgh is an integral element of the plot, contributing to, as well as influencing, the final outcome of Darcy's marriage and the various factors associated with it. Lady Catherine, a prominent and influential noblewomen in the English aristocracy, thrusts her domineering predilections onto her family, friends, and acquaintances, starting with the pompous clergyman she patronizes, Mr. Collins. Lady Catherine exerts her influence upon Mr. Collins by frankly telling him that he "must marry ...a gentle woman for [her] sake" (92). This effectively causes Collins to peruse Elizabeth, the daughter of the man whose estate he will inherit. After being rejected by Elizabeth, Collins marries Elizabeth's childhood friend Charlotte. On a trip to visit the newly married couple, Elizabeth finds herself and Lady Catherine's nephew, Fitzwilliam Darcy, at a dinner party hosted by Lady Catherine herself. At the dinner party, Lad...

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... Darcy and Elizabeth. Additionally, Austen sculpts the theme of social expectations and mores using the self-promoting ideology and behaviors of Lady Catherine as fodder for comic relief. Austen does not simply leave the image of the gilded aristocracy upon a pedestal; she effectively uses the unconventional character of Elizabeth to defy aristocratic authority and tradition. In fact, Austen's proposed counter view of the aristocracy by satirizing their social rank. Lady Catherine is effectively used as a satirical representation of the aristocracy through her paradoxical breach of true social decorum and her overblown immodesty. Evidently, Lady Catherine is nothing short of the critical bond that holds the structure of Pride and Prejudice together.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Intro. Anna Quindlen, New York: The Modern Library, 1995.

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