[Bingley said,] “But there is one of her sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you.”
“Which do you mean?” and turning round, [Mr. Darcy] looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”
Pride and Prejudice
The above is a perfect example of arrogant behavior. Mr. Darcy dismisses the suggestions and judgments of his good friend. More than that, he rejects the idea that Lizzie may have anything worthwhile about her. Perhaps he doesn’t know she can hear him. But he isn’t too concerned about it.
Arrogance is a social vice that springs from pride. Its distinguishing feature is a lack of reverence. The arrogant man does not care enough for anyone such as those he talks to, but particularly those he talks about.
The word arrogance is from the Latin verb arrogare, “claiming for oneself”. The arrogant man trusts only his own opinion, believing himself the only one worthy to have any. He dismisses everyone who disagrees. He does not bother to listen. He takes for himself all worthiness in the room, and even in the whole world, leaving none for anyone else.
One interesting thing about this vice is that it is subconscious. He cannot see that he has stepped over the boundaries of logic into ridiculousness. When the arrogant man is called out on his puffed up opinions, he is hurt. “Well, it’s true,” he says in his defense. “How can you fault a man for speaking the truth?” It’s not so much that he is unwilling, but that he incapable of reconsidering his opinions. No one is worthy to question them.
The arrogant man interprets his own arrogance as confidence. What is the difference? Arrogance does not really look, and so cannot see the true goodness around it. Confidence is able to make anywhere a better place, and so is perfectly happy where it is. Arrogance’s lack of reverence degrades everyone. Confidence raises everyone to the heights they deserve. Arrogance cannot admit weakness. Confidence looks for it in order to find an area for improvement.
The arrogant man thus becomes unwittingly ridiculous. For his arrogance grows precisely out of limited experience and shallow thought. It is a defense mechanism that attempts to shield his faults from his own eyes, but in the process reveals them to anyone who can see clearly.
Arrogance and pride
The arrogant man’s blindness, especially to his own faults, is an accessory to pride. Pride lets him choose his own set of standards by which to judge everything. Arrogance–avoiding honest self-inspection–lets him believe that he fulfills those standards.
Like most prideful men, the arrogant man needs everything to be “perfect” and controlled. He hates uncertainty, and so he takes the simplest answer that presents itself, regularly resenting deeper questions. Such a one is not a philosopher.
In the end, it’s all because he needs to see himself as better than he really is. To fall short of his own standards is painful. And so the arrogant man, too, deserves pity.