The great classic of English literature has wisdom for modern couples.
It’s a story that moves our hearts, helping us to understand that love is real and meaningful and at the same time a challenge that life throws at us and that can teach us a great deal.
(If you haven’t read the book yet, we recommend you go ahead and do so! This article contains plot spoilers.)
These are some of the lessons that Jane Austen’s novel gives us:
1We need to take time to get to know each other.
First impressions can fool us. In fact, this happens the first time Elizabeth and Darcy meet. They are both at a dance, and Elizabeth is sitting down because there aren’t enough male dance partners. She hears Darcy tell his friend Bingley that he wouldn’t ask her to dance because “she isn’t pretty enough to tempt him.”
Elizabeth is left with those words as her first impression, and concludes that he is an arrogant, conceited man. She will soon begin to form a series of prejudices against him, such as holding him responsible for thwarting her sister Jane’s romance with Darcy’s best friend Bingley.
She later realizes that Darcy had valid reasons to believe that Jane and Bingley weren’t right for each other. She comes to understand that Darcy really wanted to help, as he demonstrated when he intervened to help her other sister Lydia later in the novel.
In the end, Elizabeth realizes that Darcy is a good person who acted in good faith and, for his part, Darcy ends up falling completely in love with Elizabeth. Bewitched in body and soul, attracted by her strength of character, her moral integrity, and a sparkling personality that makes her admirable in his eyes, she is the person he wants to share his life with.
One of the lessons Elizabeth and Darcy teach us is that first impressions are quick and fleeting and can be superficial. We need to interact with people more deeply to know what they really are like, especially by sharing time and conversation with them. People don’t usually make good predictions of compatibility without taking time to get to know each other.
2A good relationship always challenges us to grow.
Elizabeth and Darcy seem to have very clear ideas about what they want, but they still have to go through a painful process of maturing. They need to admit their mistakes and broaden their perspectives to see what’s happening through the eyes of the other person before they can love each other completely.
Elizabeth and Darcy are both brave enough to admit they’re wrong and objectively evaluate their past behavior. For example, after reading Darcy’s letter, Elizabeth realizes she had misjudged him. She rebukes herself for her wrong judgments, faces the unpleasant truth about herself, and decides to change.
Although the novel ends with them happily united, we know that marriage won’t free them from new challenges in the future. Their strong minds and energetic personalities make us think that there will be many interesting situations ahead, including moments of difficulty.
The fact is that, as a couple, they can help each other grow. They can admit the worst in themselves in order to change for the better, and set out on a path of humility to bring out the best in themselves. Darcy and Elizabeth leave us with one of the best lessons: Seek to marry someone whose love makes you a better person.
3In true love there is passion but also reason.
The marriage of Elizabeth and Darcy is a triumph of emotion, but also of reason. Both the heart and the head recognize that their relationship reflects an important part of true love: passion channeled and governed by values.
Our intelligence enables us to choose the best means to a good end. If we react unthinkingly to an impulse, we can easily hurt others unnecessarily without achieving anything good. A relationship that includes virtue in its foundations, in which our impulses are moderated and controlled, allows us to love more fully.
Elizabeth’s integrity is such that she doesn’t hesitate to reject Darcy’s first proposal to marry him, even though the match would be socially and materially advantageous for her and her family, because she disagrees with his behavior. Her convictions and loyalty to her sister make her reject the offer, and with it, the chance to secure a comfortable future.
She isn’t intimidated by Darcy’s wealth and high social status, daring to tell him what she thinks of him. It’s clear that Elizabeth’s principles are uncompromising, and that makes Darcy even more enamored of her. When she finally accepts to be with him, it’s because she knows in her whole being and without compromising her principles that she loves him, with all his strengths and defects.
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