It was inevitable with my adoration of romance novels that I would adore Jane Austen’s timeless Pride and Prejudice. However, the journey of Elizabeth and Darcy’s acceptance of feelings was exemplified through the symbolism of setting, which made it even easier to become infatuated with every detail of description.
There are three major settings that symbolize the evolution of the main characters’ relationship- Netherfield Park, Rosings, and Pemberley. Netherfield Park, the home of Mr. Bingley, provided the initial opportunity for Elizabeth and Darcy to interact. It was the first time Darcy had shown any interest in Elizabeth by asking her to dance, although Elizabeth’s disregard to him was made clear through her attitude and witty remarks. One could argue that one of the reasons Elizabeth was blinded by Darcy’s appearance of being prideful and arrogant was that she was surrounded by dozens of other individuals who felt the same contempt toward Darcy’s character. Despite his earlier remarks about Elizabeth being “ tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me” (8) , I do believe that her realization of the man Darcy truly was could have been advanced if they were in a more intimate setting.
The second setting, Rosings, was the estate of the wealthy Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Elizabeth had travelled to the estate to visit her childhood friend, Charlotte, who had recently married Mr. Collins. Rather unexpectedly, Mr. Darcy arrived to visit after hearing of Elizabeth’s location. It is in the park where Elizabeth often took walks in solitude that Darcy would meet her, and thus his feelings for her intensified.
Being in nature for most of their encounters reflected the Romantic era in which this novel was written in. One of the most prevalent characteristics of Romanticism is an experience of sublimity through a connection with nature. With the changing of the setting and the nature the two characters were exposed to, Darcy was able to understand and accept the intellectual and physical attraction he felt towards Elizabeth, prompting him to abruptly reveal his feelings by admitting, “In vain I have 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.” (162) The development of Darcy’s feelings was clear, it was in Rosings that I believe his longing to see Elizabeth was justified by the love he felt for her. However, one of the most interesting parts of the story to me was the different speed in which Elizabeth and Darcy realized their love for one another. In this moment, Elizabeth was too overcome with anger towards Darcy for separating Mr. Bingley and Jane, that the prospect of loving him hadn’t even occurred to her.
I truly believe that Elizabeth could only realize her love for Darcy once she was able to see who he was behind the facade he had created for himself, and Austen portrayed this through the final setting, Pemberley. Elizabeth’s first impression of the house was “a large, handsome tone building… without any artificial appearance. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” (207) From this quote, we are able to connect the house to all of Darcy’s natural characteristics. Here was perhaps the only place where Darcy was able to be himself without worrying about the perceptions of others, shown through the diction choice of “artificial appearance”. The warmth and absolute beauty of Pemberley was a physical representation of the beauty in Darcy. As Elizabeth became more and more entranced by the house and everything in it, she felt the same towards Darcy, because all the paintings and furniture were symbolic of him. Even her physical attraction toward him was said aloud for the first time, after she agreed with the housekeeper about Darcy being handsome.
As the setting evolved into a warmer, more intimate one, the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth evolved with it. Pride and Prejudice is one of the most beautiful novels I have ever encountered, and my love for the symbolism of Pemberley almost aligns with my love for the two protagonists.