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Beware the Fall

by Jocelynn Taylor 11 months ago in book reviews
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Analysis of Pride in Victorian Literature

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A Spanish proverb states, ¨Pride comes before [the] fall.¨ So many people, revered or hated, have been influenced by hubris or ego. Sometimes, pride can lead to great people taking up the mantel, Other times, this can have disastrous consequences. As it is so common among people as a whole, pride has a large part in how society is shaped through the generations. It molds the individual, whether by personal traits or another's actions, and builds up vastly different societies on very similar foundations. This is very evident in plays, books, and articles, such as “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Persuasion. Pridefulness is a main factor in the social norms and behavior of people.

Pridefulness influences interactions with other people. “The self and others in the experience of pride” is an article studying just this. Author Yvette van Osch writes, “...it has been shown that people in power devaluate others in order to justify and prolong their superior position…” (Osch 405). In a position of power, people feel emboldened, like they can do anything and get away with it. This pride often times in most obvious when they interact with someone they see as inferior to them. They can be very condescending or just plain rude and not see anything wrong with this. All of the interactions they have with people are changed, influenced, and effected by their self-elevated status, or even occupational superiority.

Furthermore, social norms can easily rise because of people's pridefulness. This is especially evident in Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. An example is given by Sir Walter, the main characters father. While talking of navy men, he says that he would never want one of his children to marry one because, ¨...I should be sorry to see any friend of mine belonging to it… as means of bringing persons of obscur birth into undie distinction...¨ (Austen, 20). In the setting of this novel, the early 1800’s, it was custom to marry for wealth and social status, most definitely not someone too far below you. This social norm was maintained by pride. The people of this time thought it below them to even talk to someone of a lower status, let alone have a relationship with them. Like many of our social norms today, it started as a trend that grew into something that one person alone can’t fix.

Finally, culture as a whole is largely influenced due to pride. In “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Algernon is talking to his aunt, Lady Bracknell. Algernon talks about how he doesn’t care what society thinks of him and his relations. Lady Bracknell responds, “Never speak disrespectfully of society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that…” (Wilde 170). Very much like how a social norm can not be easily stopped, the same goes for societal behavior. Pride has a large part in shaping cultures. Pride causes malevolent rulers to take up the throne and aristocrats to ignore the common man. It is a never-ending cycle though, because, to change hubris to self-confidence is an internal change that can not be forced by another. Pride makes a person never want to give up this supposed power they posses.

Pride is a main factor in the social norms and behavior of people. It’s a vicious cycle. Pride elevated someone and start looking down on people. As to not get the same treatment, other people do the same. It spreads and grows until it is not just a norm, but a culture, based on the superior taking advantage of the inferior. Arrogance is also something that people constantly have to control, keeping their self-confidence to a lower level so they don’t become cocky. Pride is always there, right before man falls. It taunts and teases and eventually destroys. It creates a culture within a society that is fundamentally flawed, and is almost always unable to be fixed.

Work Cited

1. Austen, Jane. Persuasion, Penguin Classics, 1998.

2. Osch, Yvette van, Zeelenberg, Marcel, and Breugelmans, Seger M. (2018) “The self and others in the experience of pride”, Cognition and Emotion, 32:2, 404-413. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02699931.2017.1290586.

3 . Wilde, Oscar. “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Signet Classics, 2012.

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About the author

Jocelynn Taylor

I love writing and was finally convinced to put some of my work out there!

Follow me @chachi_taylor on Instagram! I would always love to hear any reviews, constructive criticism, or to just talk about writing and books!

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