Question the Nature of Love at First Sight
Compared to Austen, we are a generation of hopeless romantics, just waiting to catch sight of the right person and fall head over heels into lifelong happiness. We may be surprised - Austen wouldn’t have any of that. She doesn’t give us any successful stories of love at first sight. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth gives “somewhat of a trial to [this] method, in her partiality for Wickham,” but meets only with “ill-success.” She is charmed by his good looks and his red coat, and, compared to Darcy, he seems the perfect gentleman.
But this kind of love, “arising on a first interview with its object ... even before two words have been exchanged” ends up being devastatingly wrong for Elizabeth. As she discovered later, Darcy was the one with all the goodness, while devious Wickham had only the appearance of it. Her first impressions failed her horribly. Through Elizabeth, Austen cautions us not to jump too quickly into love, not to entirely trust that love-at-first-sight moment. What we see here is Austen’s voice of caution. I think her greatest advice to us would be to watch carefully, to not commit too quickly before we really understand a guy’s character. When your happiness depends in large part on the nature of the person you’re with - as it still does these days, no matter how different our lives are from Austen’s in other ways - you want to make sure that guy is a good guy.