The relationship between gentry and trade is pivotal in understanding the implications of social interaction in the novel. Darcy's pride springs from his gentleman status; Elizabeth's connection with trade is one of the reasons why initially he has reservations about marrying her. However, Elizabeth does not doubt her fitness to mix with the upper classes, smartly answering Lady Catherine's rejection of her as suitable for Darcy: 'He is a gentleman; I am a gentleman's daughter; so far we are equal.' Miss Bingley conveniently forgets that the family fortune came from trade; similarly, Sir William Lucas tries to mask his trade background by aspiring to be a country gentleman.

Austen shows personality to be the mark of class. The true gentility of the Gardiners impresses the previously contemptuous Darcy, and they show no shame in their living. This is neatly offset by the vulgar arrogance of Lady Catherine de Bourgh whose manners demonstrate how unworthy she is of her status. Towards the end of the novel class boundaries are necessarily crossed for the good of others. The gentleman, Darcy, works with the tradesman, Mr Gardiner, so that Lydia and the Bennetts will not be disgraced. Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage, then, both subverts and conforms to the social order. Austen is not asking that convention should be upset, only reinvigorated for a new and more assertive generation.

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