- Cruelty and avarice
- Sensitivity and generosity
- Discretion and persistence
- Snobbery and servility
In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins is primarily defined by his snobbery and servility. These traits are evident in his interactions with other characters and his attitudes toward social standing and relationships.
Mr. Collins exhibits snobbery throughout the novel, demonstrating a strong concern for social status and an inflated sense of his own importance. As a clergyman and the heir to the Bennet estate, he is conscious of his position in society and often tries to assert his authority in conversations and interactions with others.
An example of Mr. Collins’ snobbery can be seen in his proposal to Elizabeth Bennet. He approaches her with the belief that she will readily accept his offer of marriage, given his position as the heir to the Bennet estate.
He does not consider her feelings or preferences, assuming that his social standing and financial security make him an irresistible catch. His condescending attitude during the proposal demonstrates his inflated self-esteem and lack of empathy.
In addition to being a snob, Mr. Collins is also servile in his interactions with individuals of higher social standing. He constantly seeks the approval and favor of those he perceives to be above him in the social hierarchy, often to the point of being excessively flattering and subservient.
A prime example of Mr. Collins’ servility is his relationship with Lady Catherine de Bourgh, his wealthy and influential patroness. He frequently mentions her in conversation, praising her intelligence, taste, and generosity.
He even goes so far as to model his home after her own, taking her advice on everything from furniture to landscaping. His fawning behavior towards Lady Catherine reveals his desperate need for approval and validation from those of higher social status.
Mr. Collins’ snobbery and servility serve to highlight the novel’s exploration of social conventions and class distinctions. His exaggerated sense of self-importance and his subservience to those above him in the social hierarchy emphasize the superficial nature of the social values and expectations of the time.
Furthermore, his character serves as a foil to the more genuine and authentic characters in the story, such as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who ultimately defy social norms in pursuit of true love and happiness.
Examples and Facts
- Mr. Collins’ introduction: When Mr. Collins is first introduced in the novel, he writes a letter to Mr. Bennet expressing his intention to “heal the breach” between their families due to the entail of the Bennet estate. His letter showcases his pompous and self-important attitude, as well as his servility to his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
- Mr. Collins at the Netherfield Ball: During the Netherfield Ball, Mr. Collins’ snobbery and servility are on full display. He is more concerned with pleasing Lady Catherine and making a good impression on Mr. Darcy than engaging with the other guests. His awkward behavior and lack of social grace create a stark contrast with the genuine and amiable characters in the story.
- Mr. Collins’ reaction to Elizabeth’s rejection: After Elizabeth rejects his marriage proposal, Mr. Collins is unable to accept her decision, believing that she is simply playing hard to get. His inability to understand her genuine feelings and his insistence on his own worthiness as a suitor demonstrate his snobbish attitude and lack of empathy.