Great Books 102: Renaissance to Modern

Pride and Prejudice: The Role of Reason in the Pursuit of Happiness

Overview

In the opening lines of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, she contrasts universal truth and worldly wisdom, compelling the reader to consider carefully prevailing views on marriage and wealth. The story concerns the social relationships involving the Bennet family, a family with five daughters, but no sons to inherit the family estate. The main character, Elizabeth Bennet, believes in the possibility of mutual happiness in marriage. She challenges the predominant view of marriage as simply a rational method of achieving financial security. Elizabeth and her ideals are put to the test as her relationship with Mr. Darcy develops, revealing the important connection between reason and love.

Lecture

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Recommended Readings

Discussion Questions

  • Which characters are guilty of being prideful? How does this pride affect their relationships with others? 
  • What lessons does Pride and Prejudice teach about the connection between happiness and reason? 
  • Does rational behavior guarantee happiness? 

Q & A Session

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Lorraine Eadie is an Assistant Professor of English at Hillsdale College. She received her Ph.D. from Loyola University of Chicago.