Pride and prejudice summary

 

 


 

Pride and prejudice summary

 

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Pride and prejudice summary

 

Pride and prejudice summary

 

Pride and Prejudice Summary

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen tackles a common reality in England in the early 19th century – women who lack a fortune need to marry well. And by "well," we mean wealthy. So any guy from a good family with large, steady income is fair game on the Marriage Hunt. Rich but unintelligent, unattractive, boring men? Mrs. Bennet says, "Bring it on!" To be fair, she does have five daughters who lack a fortune. When a certain (wealthy) Mr. Bingley moves into the neighborhood and is interested in her eldest daughter, Jane, Mrs. Bennet becomes deliriously happy and (to the extreme discomfort of her family and innocent spectators) tries to push them together in every way possible.

It’s not all roses and champagne just yet, however. While Mr. Bingley is easygoing and pleasant, his sisters are catty snobs whose attitude is encouraged by a certain Mr. Darcy. Good-looking, rich, and close friends with Mr. Bingley, Darcy is also insufferably proud and haughty. The Bennets are beneath him in social stature, so Mr. Darcy is proportionately disagreeable, particularly to Jane’s younger sister Elizabeth. When Mr. Bingley suggests that Mr. Darcy ask Elizabeth to dance, Mr. Darcy replies that she isn’t pretty enough. The two men accidentally carry on their conversation within earshot of Elizabeth. Ouch.

It’s clear to everyone that Mr. Bingley is falling in love with Jane, but Jane’s calm temperament hides her true feelings (she loves him too). Elizabeth gossips about the situation with her close friend Charlotte Lucas, who argues that Jane needs to show affection or risk losing Mr. Bingley. Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy has finished maligning Elizabeth, and starts becoming attracted to her. Something about her "fine eyes."

In any case, Mr. Bingley’s sisters extend a dinner invitation to Jane, who (based on the recommendations of her mother) rides over to the Bingley mansion in the rain, gets soaking wet, falls ill, and has to remain in the Bingley household. Elizabeth arrives to nurse her sister and engage in some witty banter with Mr. Darcy. Astonished at his attraction, he keeps staring at Elizabeth, but she assumes he’s being a jerk and trying to judge her.

Back at Longbourn (the Bennet home), Mr. Collins arrives for a visit. As Mr. Bennet’s closest male relative, Mr. Collins will inherit the estate after Mr. Bennet’s death. Mr. Collins has decided the nice thing to do is to marry one of the Bennet girls in order and preserve their home. It looks like he has his sights set on Elizabeth, but did we mention that he’s a complete fool and worships his boss (a certain Lady Catherine)? It’s clear that Elizabeth finds him repulsive.

As for the two youngest Bennet sisters, the militia has arrived in town and they’re ready to throw themselves at any officers who wander their way. They meet a charming young man named Mr. Wickham, who rapidly befriends Elizabeth. Wickham tells Elizabeth a sob story about how all of his life opportunities were destroyed by Mr. Darcy, convincing her that Darcy is Evil Personified. Elizabeth readily believes Wickham’s story, and also learns that Lady Catherine (Mr. Collins’s boss) is Mr. Darcy’s aunt.

The next day, all the Bennet girls are invited to a ball at Netherfield (a.k.a. Mr. Bingley’s mansion). Elizabeth is excited about possibly dancing with Wickham, and also excited to see Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham confront each other. At the ball, Wickham is absent but Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance. So does Mr. Collins, whose dancing style is grotesquely embarrassing to Elizabeth. The rest of Elizabeth’s family is no better: Mrs. Bennet brags to everyone that Bingley will likely propose to Jane, Mary and shows off her non-existent musical talent, and Lydia and Kitty are embarrassingly flirty with the military officers.

The following morning, Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth, who practically has to beat him over the head before he believes her adamant refusal. We don’t feel too bad for Mr. Collins because Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte Lucas, pretends to play wingman but is really hunting for a proposal of her own. Mr. Collins does indeed step up, and Charlotte accepts. Elizabeth is shocked when she learns of their engagement. She has difficulty believing that Charlotte’s good sense would allow her to marry such a ridiculous man. Charlotte explains, however, that she’s a spinster with no prospects, and she’d rather have her own home than live with her parents forever. Basically, beggars can’t be choosers.

A letter arrives for Jane. It’s from Miss Bingley, informing her that the entire Bingley group has left for London. Miss Bingley also sneakily implies that Mr. Bingley is really in love with Darcy’s sister. Jane is heartbroken, but goes to London with her aunt and uncle in the hopes of winning Bingley back.

Elizabeth also leaves home to visit the newly married Charlotte. Charlotte seems content. During her visit, Elizabeth receives a dinner invitation to Lady Catherine’s estate, Rosings Park. While there, Lady Catherine subjects Elizabeth to the third degree but Elizabeth takes it well. She learns that a visit from Darcy is imminent.

When Darcy arrives, he and Elizabeth engage in more witty banter over the dinner table at Rosings. He frequently comes to visit at Charlotte’s house, which confuses everyone since he doesn’t say anything, doesn’t look like he’s having fun, and always stays less than ten minutes.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth learns that Bingley was going to propose to Jane but that Darcy intervened. Naturally her dislike for Darcy intensifies…which is exactly the moment Darcy chooses to propose.

During the proposal, mixed in with Darcy’s "I love you" are some "I am so superior to you" comments, which, not surprisingly, don’t go over so well. Elizabeth rejects him and tells him off, saying that he isn’t a gentleman. She cites both Wickham’s story and Jane’s broken heart as the two primary reasons for anger.

The next day, Darcy hands Elizabeth a letter, asking her to read it. It contains the full story regarding Wickham (he’s a liar, a gambler, and tried to elope with Darcy’s underage sister), and the full story regarding Jane (Darcy was convinced Jane didn’t love Bingley and so tried to save his friend from a woman simply attracted to his wealth). Elizabeth undergoes a huge emotional transformation and regrets her hasty actions.

Once back at home, Lydia, the youngest of the Bennet girls, is invited to follow the officers to their next station in Brighton. Elizabeth strongly disapproves of the plan, but Mr. Bennet overrules her and allows Lydia to go off.

Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle ask her to accompany them on a trip to Derbyshire, which is, incidentally, where Mr. Darcy lives. They decide to visit his estate called Pemberley. Elizabeth agrees to go only after she learns that Mr. Darcy is out of town. Once at the estate, Elizabeth is impressed by its excellent taste and upkeep. Darcy’s housekeeper also has nothing but compliments for her master. To Elizabeth’s surprise, they run into Darcy, and, to her further surprise, he’s immensely polite to her aunt and uncle. Darcy asks Elizabeth to meet his sister, who proves to be quite nice but very shy.

Before we can finally tune up the violins and the wedding toasts, disaster strikes when Elizabeth learns that Lydia has run off with Wickham. This scandal could ruin the family, so Elizabeth’s uncle and father try to track the renegade couple down. Elizabeth’s uncle saves the day and brings the two young ‘uns back as a properly married (and unapologetic) couple. When Lydia lets slip that Darcy was at her wedding, Elizabeth realizes that there’s more to the story and writes to her aunt for more information.

When her aunt replies, Elizabeth learns the full truth: Darcy was actually the one responsible for saving the Bennet family’s honor. He tracked down the couple and paid off Wickham’s massive debts in exchange for Wickham marrying Lydia. When Darcy arrives with Bingley for a visit at Longbourn, Elizabeth tries to talk to him but doesn’t get a chance. It seems Darcy has talked to Bingley about Jane, however, so all is well in that quarter. Bingley eventually proposes and Jane accepts.

Shortly thereafter, Lady Catherine visits Longbourn and tries to strongarm Elizabeth into rejecting any proposal from Darcy. Elizabeth gets mad – why is this woman trying to control her? – and basically tells her to get lost. Later, Elizabeth and Darcy go for a walk and the couple says everything that needs to be said: "Thanks for saving my sister from ruin," "I was doing it for you," "Do you still hate me?" "No," "I love you," etc. They decide to get married.

 

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Pride and prejudice summary

Pride and Prejudice Summary

Pride and Prejudice is set primarily in the county of Hertfordshire, about 50 miles outside of London. The novel opens at with a conversation at Longbourn, the Bennet's estate, about the arrival of Mr. Bingley, "a single man of large fortune," to Netherfield Park, a nearby estate. Mrs. Bennet, whose obsession is to find husbands for her daughters, sees Mr. Bingley as a potential suitor. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five children: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia.

The Bennets' first acquaintance with Mr. Bingley and his companions is at the Meryton Ball. Mr. Bingley takes a liking to Jane and is judged by the townspeople to be perfectly amiable and agreeable. Mr. Bingley's friend Mr. Darcy, however, snubs Elizabeth and is considered to be proud and disagreeable because of his reserve and his refusal to dance. Bingley's sisters are judged to be amiable by Jane but Elizabeth finds them to be arrogant.

After further interactions, it becomes evident that Jane and Bingley have a preference for one another, although Bingley's partiality is more obvious than Jane's because she is universally cheerful and amiable. Charlotte Lucas, a close friend of Elizabeth with more pragmatic views on marriage, recommends that Jane make her regard for Bingley more obvious. At the same time, Mr. Darcy begins to admire Elizabeth, captivated by her fine eyes and lively wit.

When Jane is invited for dinner at Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet refuses to provide her with a carriage, hoping that because it is supposed to rain Jane will be forced to spend the night. However, because Jane gets caught in the rain, she falls ill and is forced to stay at Netherfield until she recovers. Upon hearing that Jane is ill, Elizabeth walks to Netherfield in order to go nurse her sister. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst (Bingley's sisters) are scandalized that Elizabeth walked so far alone in the mud. Seeing that Jane would like Elizabeth to stay with her, Bingley's sisters invite Elizabeth to remain at Netherfield until Jane recovers.

During her stay at Netherfield, Elizabeth increasingly gains the admiration of Mr. Darcy. She is blind to his partiality, however, and continues to think him a most proud and haughty man because of the judgment she made of him when he snubbed her at the ball. Miss Bingley, who is obviously trying to gain the admiration of Mr. Darcy, is extremely jealous of Elizabeth and tries to prevent Mr. Darcy from admiring her by making rude references to the poor manners of Elizabeth's mother and younger sisters and to her lower class relatives. When Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters come to visit Jane, Elizabeth is mortified by their foolishness and complete lack of manners. Bingley's admiration for Jane continues unabated and is evident in his genuine solicitude for her recovery. After Jane recovers, she returns home with Elizabeth.

A militia regiment is stationed at the nearby town of Meryton, where Mrs. Bennet's sister Mrs. Phillips lives. Mrs. Phillips is just as foolish as Mrs. Bennet. Lydia and Kitty love to go to Meryton to visit with their aunt and socialize with the militia's officers.

Mr. Collins, a cousin of Mr. Bennet who is in line to inherit Longbourn because the estate has been entailed away from the female line, writes a letter stating his intention to visit. When he arrives, he makes it clear that he hopes to find a suitable wife among the Miss Bennets. Mr. Collins is a clergyman, and his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (who is also Darcy's aunt), has suggested that he find a wife, and he hopes to lessen the hardship of the entailment by marrying one of Mr. Bennet's daughters. Mr. Collins is a silly man who speaks in long, pompous speeches and always has an air of solemn formality.

When the Miss Bennets and Mr. Collins go for a walk to Meryton, they are introduced to an officer in the regiment named Mr. Wickham. They also run into Mr. Darcy, and when Darcy and Wickham meet both seem to be extremely uncomfortable. Mr. Wickham immediately shows a partiality for Elizabeth and they speak at length. Wickham tells Elizabeth that the reason for the mutual embarrassment when he and Darcy met is that Darcy's father had promised that Wickham, his godson, should be given a good living after his death, but that Darcy had failed to fulfill his father's dying wishes and had left Wickham to support himself. Elizabeth, already predisposed to think badly of Darcy, does not question Wickham's account. When Elizabeth tells Jane Wickham's story Jane refuses think badly of either Wickham or Darcy and assumes there must be some misunderstanding.

As promised, Bingley hosts a ball at Netherfield. He and Jane stay together the whole evening, and their mutual attachment becomes increasingly obvious. Mrs. Bennet speaks of their marriage as imminent over dinner, within earshot of Mr. Bingley's friend Mr. Darcy. Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance with her and she inadvertently accepts. She does not enjoy it and cannot understand why he asked her. Mr. Collins pays particularly close attention to Elizabeth at the ball, and even reserves the first two dances with her.

The next day Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. She refuses him, and after a while Mr. Collins comes to understand that her refusal is sincere, not just a trick of female coquetry. Mrs. Bennet is extremely angry at Elizabeth for not accepting, but Mr. Bennet is glad. Mr. Collins shifts his attentions to Elizabeth's friend Charlotte Lucas. He proposes to Charlotte and she accepts. Elizabeth is disappointed in her friend for agreeing to marry such a silly man simply to obtain financial security.

Bingley goes to London for business and shortly after he leaves his sisters and Darcy go to London as well. He had planned to return quickly to Netherfield, but Caroline Bingley writes to Jane and tells her that Bingley will almost definitely not return for about six months. Caroline also tells Jane that the family hopes Bingley will marry Darcy's younger sister Georgiana and unite the fortunes of the two families. Jane is heartbroken, thinking that Bingley must not really be attached to her. Elizabeth thinks that Darcy and Bingley's sisters somehow managed to convince Bingley to stay in London rather than returning to Netherfield to propose to Jane.

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeth's aunt and uncle, come to Longbourn to visit. They invite Jane to come and spend some time with them in London, hoping that the time away will help to cheer her up. Elizabeth also hopes that Jane will run into Bingley while in London. Mrs. Gardiner, after observing Elizabeth and Wickham together, warns Elizabeth against the imprudence of a marriage to Wickham because of his poor financial situation, and advises Elizabeth not to encourage his attentions so much.

While in London Jane is treated very rudely by Caroline Bingley and comes to realize that she is not a sincere friend. She assumes that Mr. Bingley knows she is in London, and decides that he must no longer be partial to her since she does not hear from him at all.

Wickham suddenly transfers his attentions from Elizabeth to Miss King, who has recently acquired 10,000 pounds from an inheritance.

Along with Sir William Lucas and Maria Lucas (Charlotte's father and younger sister) Elizabeth goes to visit Charlotte (now Mrs. Collins) at her new home in Kent. On their way they stop to see the Gardiners. Upon hearing of Wickham's change of affections, Mrs. Gardiner is critical, but Elizabeth defends him.

While staying with the Collinses, Elizabeth and the others are often invited to dine at Rosings, the large estate of Mr. Collins' patroness Lady Catherine. Lady Catherine is completely arrogant and domineering. After Elizabeth has been at the Parsonage for a fortnight, Mr. Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam visit Rosings. Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam get along very well. Darcy also seems to be paying a lot of attention to Elizabeth, and often visits her and Charlotte at the Parsonage along with Colonel Fitzwilliam. He also purposely meets her very frequently on her usual walking route through the park.

While walking one day with Elizabeth, Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth how Darcy recently saved a close friend from an imprudent marriage. Elizabeth concludes from this comment that it must have been Darcy's advice which convinced Bingley not to propose to Jane. She becomes so angry and upset that she gets a terrible headache and decides not to go to Rosings for dinner. While she is alone at the Parsonage, Darcy pays a visit. He tells her that in spite of all his efforts to avoid it because of her low family connections, he has fallen in love with her and wants to marry her. Elizabeth is shocked. She rudely refuses and rebukes him for the ungentlemanlike manner in which he proposed, as well as for preventing the marriage of Bingley and Jane and for ill-treating Wickham. Darcy is shocked because he had assumed she would accept.

The next day Darcy finds Elizabeth and hands her a letter then quickly leaves. The letter contains an explanation of his reasons for advising Bingley not to marry Jane and for his actions toward Wickham. He had prevented Bingley from proposing to Jane because it did not seem to him that Jane was truly attached to Bingley. Wickham was Darcy's father's god-son. Before his death, Darcy's father had asked Darcy to provide Wickham with a living if Wickham were to decide to enter the clergy. Wickham, however, did not want to enter the clergy. He asked Darcy for 3,000 pounds, purportedly for law school, and agreed not to ask for any more. Darcy gave Wickham the money and he squandered it all on dissolute living, then came back and told Darcy he would like to enter the clergy if he could have the living promised to him. Darcy refused. Later, with the help of her governess Miss Younge, Wickham got Darcy's younger sister Georgiana to fall in love with him and agree to an elopement, in order to revenge himself on Mr. Darcy and get Miss Darcy's fortune. Fortunately, Darcy found out and intervened at the last minute.

After reading these explanations in the letter Elizabeth's first reaction is disbelief, but after reflecting upon and slowly rereading the letter, she begins to see that Darcy is telling the truth and that she was only inclined to believe Wickham's story because he had flattered her with his attentions, while she was inclined to think ill of Darcy because he had wounded her pride on their first meeting.

Soon afterwards, Elizabeth returns home from her stay with the Collinses and Jane returns home from her stay with the Gardiners. When they return their mother and sisters are upset because the regiment stationed in Meryton will soon be leaving, depriving them of most of their amusement. Lydia receives an offer from Mrs. Forster, Colonel Forster's wife, to accompany her to Brighton, where the regiment will be going. Elizabeth advises her father not to allow Lydia to go, thinking that such a trip could lead to serious misconduct on Lydia's part because of the flirtatiousness and frivolity of her character and her complete lack of a sense of propriety. However, Mr. Bennet does not heed Elizabeth's advice.

Elizabeth goes on vacation with the Gardiners. Their first stop is in the area of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy's estate. The Gardiners want to take a tour, and having found out that Mr. Darcy is away, Elizabeth agrees. During their tour of the estate the housekeeper tells them about how kind and good-natured Darcy is. Elizabeth is impressed by this praise, and also thinks of how amazing it would be to be the mistress of such an estate. During their tour of the gardens Elizabeth and the Gardiners run into Mr. Darcy, who has returned early from his trip. Darcy is extremely cordial to both Elizabeth and the Gardiners and tells Elizabeth that he wants her to meet his sister Georgiana as soon as she arrives.

Darcy and Georgiana pay a visit to Elizabeth and the Gardiners at their inn on the very morning of Georgiana's arrival. Bingley comes to visit as well. It is clear that he still has a regard for Jane. Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth return their civilities by calling at Pemberley to visit Georgiana. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst are there as well, and they thinly conceal their displeasure at seeing Elizabeth.

One morning Elizabeth receives a letter from Jane announcing that Lydia has eloped with Wickham, and that they fear Wickham does not actually intend to marry her. Jane asks Elizabeth to return home immediately. Darcy comes to the door just after Elizabeth has received the news. She explains to him what has happened. He feels partially to blame for not having exposed Wickham's character publicly.

Elizabeth and the Gardiners depart for Longbourn immediately. Mrs. Bennet is in hysterics and the entire burden of keeping the household together in this moment of crisis has fallen on Jane's shoulders. They find out from Colonel Forster that Wickham has over 1,000 pounds of gambling debts and nearly that much owed to merchants. The next day Mr. Gardiner goes to join Mr. Bennet in London to help him search for Lydia. After many days of fruitless searches Mr. Bennet returns home and leaves the search in Mr. Gardiner's hands.

Soon a letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner explaining that Lydia and Wickham have been found and that Wickham will marry Lydia if Mr. Bennet provides her with her equal share of his wealth. Knowing that, with his debts, Wickham would never have agreed to marry Lydia for so little money, Mr. Bennet thinks that Mr. Gardiner must have paid off Wickham's debts for him.

After their marriage Lydia and Wickham come to visit Longbourn. Lydia is completely shameless and not the least bit remorseful for her conduct. Mrs. Bennet is very happy to have one of her daughters married.

Elizabeth hears from Lydia that Darcy was present at the wedding. She writes to her aunt to ask her why he was there. She responds explaining that it was Darcy who had found Lydia and Wickham and who had negotiated with Wickham to get him to marry her. Mrs. Gardiner thinks that Darcy did this out of love for Elizabeth.

Bingley and Mr. Darcy return to Netherfield Park. They call at Longbourn frequently. After several days Bingley proposes to Jane. She accepts and all are very happy.

In the meantime Darcy has gone on a short business trip to London. While he is gone Lady Catherine comes to Longbourn and asks to speak with Elizabeth. Lady Catherine tells Elizabeth that she has heard Darcy is going to propose to her and attempts to forbid Elizabeth to accept the proposal. Elizabeth refuses to make any promises. Lady Catherine leaves in a huff.

Darcy returns from his business trip. While he and Elizabeth are walking he tells her that his affection for her is the same as when he last proposed, and asks her if her disposition toward him has changed. She says that it has, and that she would be happy to accept his proposal. They speak about how they have been changed since the last proposal. Darcy realized he had been wrong to act so proudly and place so much emphasis on class differences. Elizabeth realized that she had been wrong to judge Darcy prematurely and to allow her judgment to be affected by her vanity.

Both couples marry. Elizabeth and Darcy go to live in Pemberley. Jane and Bingley, after living in Netherfield for a year, decide to move to an estate near Pemberley. Kitty begins to spend most of her time with her two sisters, and her education and character begin to improve. Mary remains at home keeping her mother company. Mr. Bennet is very happy that his two oldest daughters have married so happily. Mrs. Bennet is glad that her daughters have married so prosperously.

Major Themes

Pride

As said in the words of Mary at the beginning of the novel, "human nature is particularly prone to [pride]" (Volume I, Chapter 5). In the novel, pride prevents the characters from seeing the truth of a situation and from achieving happiness in life. Pride is one of the main barriers that creates an obstacle to Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage. Darcy's pride in his position in society leads him initially to scorn anyone outside of his own social circle. Elizabeth's vanity clouds her judgment, making her prone to think ill of Darcy and to think well of Wickham. In the end, Elizabeth's rebukes of Darcy help him to realize his fault and to change accordingly, as demonstrated in his genuinely friendly treatment of the Gardiners, whom he previously would have scorned because of their low social class. Darcy's letter shows Elizabeth that her judgments were wrong and she realizes that they were based on vanity, not on reason.

Prejudice

Pride and prejudice are intimately related in the novel. As critic A. Walton Litz comments, "in Pride and Prejudice one cannot equate Darcy with Pride, or Elizabeth with Prejudice; Darcy's pride of place is founded on social prejudice, while Elizabeth's initial prejudice against him is rooted in pride of her own quick perceptions." Darcy, having been brought up in such a way that he began to scorn all those outside his own social circle, must overcome his prejudice in order to see that Elizabeth would be a good wife for him and to win Elizabeth's heart. The overcoming of his prejudice is demonstrated when he treats the Gardiners with great civility. The Gardiners are a much lower class than Darcy, because Mr. Gardiner is a lawyer and must practice a trade to earn a living, rather than living off of the interest of an estate as gentlemen do. From the beginning of the novel Elizabeth prides herself on her keen ability for perception. Yet this supposed ability is often lacking, as in Elizabeth's judgments of Darcy and Wickham.

Family

Austen portrays the family as primarily responsible for the intellectual and moral education of children. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's failure to provide this education for their daughters leads to the utter shamelessness, foolishness, frivolity, and immorality of Lydia. Elizabeth and Jane have managed to develop virtue and strong characters in spite of the negligence of their parents, perhaps through the help of their studies and the good influence of Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, who are the only relatives in the novel that take a serious concern in the girls' well-being and provide sound guidance. Elizabeth and Jane are constantly forced to put up with the foolishness and poor judgment of their mother and the sarcastic indifference of their father. Even when Elizabeth advises her father not to allow Lydia to go to Brighton, he ignores the advice because he thinks it would too difficult to deal with Lydia's complaining. The result is the scandal of Lydia's elopement with Wickham.

 

Women and Marriage

Austen is critical of the gender injustices present in 19th century English society. The novel demonstrates how women such as Charlotte need to marry men they are not in love with simply in order to gain financial security. The entailment of the Longbourn estate is an extreme hardship on the Bennet family, and is quite obviously unjust. The entailment of Mr. Bennet's estate leaves his daughters in a poor financial situation which both requires them to marry and makes it more difficult to marry well. Clearly, Austen believes that woman are at least as intelligent and capable as men, and considers their inferior status in society to be unjust. She herself went against convention by remaining single and earning a living through her novels. In her personal letters Austen advises friends only to marry for love. Through the plot of the novel it is clear that Austen wants to show how Elizabeth is able to be happy by refusing to marry for financial purposes and only marrying a man whom she truly loves and esteems.

Class

Considerations of class are omnipresent in the novel. The novel does not put forth an egalitarian ideology or call for the leveling of all social classes, yet it does criticize an over-emphasis on class. Darcy's inordinate pride is based on his extreme class-consciousness. Yet eventually he sees that factors other than wealth determine who truly belongs in the aristocracy. While those such as Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, who are born into the aristocracy, are idle, mean-spirited and annoying, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are not members of the aristocracy in terms of wealth or birth but are natural aristocrats by virtue of their intelligence, good-breeding and virtue. The comic formality of Mr. Collins and his obsequious relationship with Lady Catherine serve as a satire class consciousness and social formalities. In the end, the verdict on class differences is moderate. As critic Samuel Kliger notes, "It the conclusion of the novel makes it clear that Elizabeth accepts class relationships as valid, it becomes equally clear that Darcy, through Elizabeth's genius for treating all people with respect for their natural dignity, is reminded that institutions are not an end in themselves but are intended to serve the end of human happiness."

Individual and Society

The novel portrays a world in which society takes an interest in the private virtue of its members. When Lydia elopes with Wickham, therefore, it is scandal to the whole society and an injury to entire Bennet family. Darcy considers his failure to expose the wickedness of Wickham's character to be a breach of his social duty because if Wickham's true character had been known others would not have been so easily deceived by him. While Austen is critical of society's ability to judge properly, as demonstrated especially in their judgments of Wickham and Darcy, she does believe that society has a crucial role in promoting virtue. Austen has a profound sense that individuals are social beings and that their happiness is found through relationships with others. According to critic Richard Simpson, Austen has a "thorough consciousness that man is a social being, and that apart from society there is not even the individual."

Virtue

Austen's novels unite Aristotelian and Christian conceptions of virtue. She sees human life as purposeful and believes that human beings must guide their appetites and desires through their use of reason. Elizabeth's folly in her misjudgments of Darcy and Wickham is that her vanity has prevented her from reasoning objectively. Lydia seems almost completely devoid of virtue because she has never trained herself to discipline her passions or formed her judgment such that she is capable of making sound moral decisions. Human happiness is found by living a life in accordance with human dignity, which is a life in accordance with virtue. Self-knowledge has a central place in the acquisition of virtue, as it is a prerequisite for moral improvement. Darcy and Elizabeth are only freed of their pride and prejudice when their dealings with one another help them to see their faults and spur them to improve.

 

Character List

Elizabeth Bennet

The protagonist of the novel and the second oldest of five sisters, Elizabeth is lively, quick-witted, sharp-tongued, bold and intelligent. Elizabeth is good-looking, and is especially distinguished by her fine eyes. The importance of her eyes may be symbolic of her abilities of perception. She has pride in her abilities to perceive the truth of situations and of people's characters. However, her perceptive abilities fail her frequently because she is influenced by vanity and judges people rashly. By the end of the novel she overcomes her prejudice through her dealings with Darcy. Elizabeth is concerned with propriety, good-manners, and virtue, but is not impressed by mere wealth or titles.

Mr. Darcy

An extremely wealthy aristocrat, Darcy is proud, haughty and extremely conscious of class differences at the beginning of the novel. He does, however, have a strong sense of honor and virtue. Elizabeth's rebukes after his first proposal to her help him to recognize his faults of pride and social prejudice. It is, in fact, precisely because Elizabeth is not so awed by his high social status as to be afraid to criticize his character that he is attracted to her. The self-knowledge acquired from Elizabeth's rebukes and the desire to win Elizabeth's love spur him to change and judge people more by their character than by their social class.

Jane Bennet

Jane is the oldest in the family. Beautiful, good-tempered, sweet, amiable, humble and selfless, Jane is universally well-liked. She refuses to judge anyone badly, always making excuses for people when Elizabeth brings their faults to her attention. Her tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt leads her to be hurt by insincere friends such as Caroline Bingley, although in the end her judgments seem to be more accurate than Elizabeth's overall and to do her much less harm. Jane is a static character‹as she is basically a model of virtue from the beginning, there is no room for her to develop in the novel.

Charles Bingley

Mr. Bingley, much like Jane, is an amiable and good-tempered person. He is not overly concerned with class differences, and Jane's poor family connections are not a serious deterrent to his attachment to her. Bingley is very modest and easily swayed by the advice of his friends, as seen in his decision not to propose to Jane as a result of Darcy's belief that Jane is not really attached to him. Also like Jane, Bingley lacks serious character faults and is thus static throughout the novel. His character and his love for Jane remain constant; the only thing that changes is the advice of Darcy, which leads him not to propose to Jane in the beginning of the novel but to propose to her in the end.

 

Mr. Wickham

An officer in the regiment stationed at Meryton, Wickham is quickly judged to be a perfectly good and amiable man because of his friendliness and the ease of his manners. He initially shows a preference for Elizabeth, and she is pleased by his attentions and inclined to believe his story about Darcy. Yet while Wickham has the appearance of goodness and virtue, this appearance is deceptive. His true nature begins to show itself through his attachment to Miss King for purely mercenary purposes and then through Darcy's exposition of his past and through his elopement with Lydia, deceiving her to believe that he intends to marry her.

Mrs. Bennet

Mrs. Bennet is a foolish and frivolous woman. She lacks all sense of propriety and virtue and has no concern for the moral or intellectual education of her daughters. From the beginning of the novel her sole obsession is to marry off her daughters. She is perfectly happy with Lydia's marriage, and never once censures her daughter for her shameful conduct or for the worry she has caused her family. Her impropriety is a constant source of mortification for the Elizabeth, and the inane nature of her conversation makes her society so difficult to bear that even Jane and Bingley decide to move out of the neighborhood a year after they are married.

Mr. Bennet

An intelligent man with good sense, Mr. Bennet made the mistake of marrying a foolish woman. He takes refuge in his books and seems to want nothing more than to be bothered as little as possible by his family. His indolence leads to the neglect of the education of daughters. Even when Elizabeth warns him not to allow Lydia to go to Brighton because of the moral danger of the situation, he does not listen to her because he does not want to be bothered with Lydia's complaints.

Lydia Bennet

The youngest of the Bennet sisters, Lydia is foolish and flirtatious, given up to indolence and the gratification of every whim. She is the favorite of Mrs. Bennet, because the two have such similar characters. Lydia is constantly obsessed with the officers in the regiment, and sees no purpose to life beyond entertainment and diversion. She lacks any sense of virtue, propriety or good-judgment, as seen in her elopement with Wickham and her complete lack of remorse afterward.

Catherine (Kitty) Bennet

Kitty seems to have little personality of her own, but simply to act as a shadow to Lydia, following Lydia's lead in whatever she does. The end of the novel provides hope that Lydia's character will improve by being removed from the society of Lydia and her mother and being taken care of primarily by Jane and Elizabeth.

Mary Bennet

The third oldest of the Bennet sisters, Mary is strangely solemn and pedantic. She dislikes going out into society, and to prefers to spend her time studying. In conversation, Mary is constantly moralizing or trying to make profound observations about human nature and life in general.

Mr. Collins

A clergyman and an extremely comical character because of his mix of obsequiousness and pride, Mr. Collins is fond of making long and silly speeches and stating formalities which have absolutely no meaning in themselves. For Mr. Collins, speech is not a means to communicate truth but a means to say what he thinks the people around him want to hear or what will make the people around him think well of him. He is in line to inherit Longbourn once Mr. Bennet dies, and wants to marry one of the Miss Bennets to lessen the burden of the entailment. When Elizabeth refuses him, he considers his duty discharged and transfers his affections to Charlotte Lucas.

Charlotte Lucas

Charlotte acts as a foil to Elizabeth by embodying the opposite view of marriage. Charlotte makes no attempt to find a husband whom she loves and esteems, but simply gives in to the necessity of acquiring financial security through marriage. She deals as well with Mr. Collins as is possible, but Elizabeth doubts their long-term happiness.

Sir William Lucas

A pleasant but not overly deep or intellectual man, he is a friend of the Bennet family. He is civil but his conversation is basically limited to empty observations and descriptions of his presentation and knighthood. Elizabeth accompanies him and his younger daughter Maria to visit Charlotte.

Maria Lucas

Charlotte's younger sister, she is as empty-headed as her father. Her only role in the novel is to travel with Elizabeth and Sir William to visit Charlotte.

Mrs. Gardiner

An intelligent, caring and sensible woman, Mrs. Gardiner acts a mother to Elizabeth and Jane, filling in for the inadequacy of Mrs. Bennet. She brings Jane to London with her in order to help cheer her up when she is heartbroken because of Bingley's failure to return to Netherfield, and she advises Elizabeth to avoid encouraging Wickham's affections. She attempts to help Lydia see why her elopement with Wickham was wrong, but Lydia is completely inattentive.

Mr. Gardiner

Mr. Gardiner is a merchant, and is an upright and intelligent man. The fact that he earns his money by working puts him in a lower social class than those who simply live off the interest of their land. Like his wife, Mr. Gardiner is one of those people whom Austen portrays as a natural aristocrat, and whom Darcy comes to like after overcoming his class prejudice.

Caroline Bingley

Miss Bingley is a superficial and selfish. She has all of Darcy's class prejudice but none of his honor and virtue. Throughout the novel she panders to Darcy in an attempt to win his affections, but to no avail. She pretends to be a genuine friend to Jane but is extremely rude to her when she comes to London. She also tries to prevent the marriage of Jane and Bingley and to prevent Darcy's attachment to Elizabeth by constantly ridiculing the poor manners of Elizabeth's mother and younger sisters.

Mrs. Hurst

Bingley's other sister, Mrs. Hurst's character basically matches that of her sister Caroline. She seems to have no real affection or esteem for her husband.

Mr. Hurst

An indolent man, he does almost nothing but eat and entertain himself by playing cards. He never says an intelligent word in the entire novel, and seems to be concerned only with the quality of the food.

Georgiana Darcy

Georgiana is Darcy's sister and is ten years his junior. She is quiet and shy but amiable and good-natured. She has great reverence and affection for her brother. She and Elizabeth get along well and become good friends after Elizabeth's marriage to Darcy. Bingley's sisters had hoped that Bingley would marry Georgiana, thus uniting the fortunes of the two families.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Lady Catherine is extremely wealthy and likes to let others know of their inferiority to her. She loves to give people advice about how to conduct their lives down to the minutest details, loves to hear flattery from others and hates to be contradicted. Extremely conscious of class differences, she attempts to prevent Darcy from marrying Elizabeth but actually unwittingly gives him the courage to propose a second time.

Miss de Bourgh

Miss de Bourgh is a frail, weak and sickly child who is extremely pampered by Lady Catherine. She speaks little in the novel but seems to be generally good-natured. Lady Catherine had wanted Darcy to marry Miss de Bourgh.

Colonel Fitzwilliam

A cousin of Mr. Darcy and a pleasant and amiable gentleman, he is a companion to Elizabeth during her stay with the Collinses. Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth that he must marry someone with a large fortune because he is the second son, the first case in the novel where a man's marriage choices are constrained by financial need.

Mrs. Phillips

Mrs. Phillips is Mrs. Bennet's sister, and shares her sister's foolishness and frivolity. She lives in Meryton, and the Bennet sisters, particularly Lydia and Kitty, often visit her in order to socialize with the officers.

Mrs. Forster

The wife of Colonel Forster, who is the head of the regiment stationed at Meryton, she becomes friends with Lydia and invites her to spend the summer with them in Brighton. She is clearly not very responsible in her supervision of Lydia, and seems to have a rather frivolous character.

Colonel Forster

A good-natured and basically responsible man, Colonel Forster tries to do all that he possibly can to help the Bennets recover Lydia after her elopement with Wickham. While the elopement is not his fault, Lydia was under his care and he did not seem to be observing her conduct very closely.

Miss Younge

Miss Younge was Georgiana Darcy's governess at one point and conspired with Wickham to get Georgiana to elope with him. Clearly lacking in all moral sense, she is mentioned in the novel again when Darcy bribes her to tell him the whereabouts of Wickham and Lydia.

 

SYMBOLS

Landscape and dance are two important metaphors in Pride and Prejudice. Bodenheimer (1981)

asserts that in many Jane Austen novels, "good estates" like Pemberley are the key to the social

virtues of their owners, that the characters' estates help to define the social worth of the

characters themselves. She argues that the spatial terms used in describing landscape can also be

seen as perceptual or emotional ones. For example, when Elizabeth sees Pemberley, there is a

sense of ascent, mutiplicity and expansion of the landscape, which could also symbolize

Elizabeth's changing view of Darcy and his character and the expansion of the possibilities of her

relationship with him.

Pemberley

Pride and Prejudice is remarkably free of explicit symbolism, which perhaps has something to do

with the novel’s reliance on dialogue over description. Nevertheless, Pemberley, Darcy’s estate,

sits at the center of the novel, literally and figuratively, as a geographic symbol of the man who

owns it. Elizabeth visits it at a time when her feelings toward Darcy are beginning to warm; she

is enchanted by its beauty and charm, and by the picturesque countryside, just as she will be

charmed, increasingly, by the gifts of its owner. Austen makes the connection explicit when she

describes the stream that flows beside the mansion. “In front,” she writes, “a stream of some

natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance.” Darcy

possesses a “natural importance” that is “swelled” by his arrogance, but which coexists with a

genuine honesty and lack of “artificial appearance.” Like the stream, he is neither “formal, nor

falsely adorned.” Pemberley even offers a symbol-within-a-symbol for their budding romance:

when Elizabeth encounters Darcy on the estate, she is crossing a small bridge, suggesting the

broad gulf of misunderstanding and class prejudice that lies between them—and the bridge that

their love will build across it.

 

Dance

According to Adams (1982), dance is another metaphor in many of Austen's novels, and that it is

akin to marriage. In many novels there is a heroine who through dance must judge each of her

partners for appearance, style, character and compatibility, not just in dancing, but in marriage.

The importance of the dance cannot be impressed enough, and the women must be careful whom

they accept and whom they refuse. In Pride and Prejudice, there are quite a few parallels between

dance and marriage for Elizabeth. The first time Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance she refuses, just

as she refuses his first proposal. The second dance and proposal are accepted. We can also see

the parallels with Mr. Collins. The dance with Collins is "mortifying," and the proposal is as

well, as he continues not to believe she is declining his offer no matter how serious she is.

Journeys

Nearly every scene in Pride and Prejudice takes place indoors, and the action centers around the

Bennet home in the small village of Longbourn. Nevertheless, journeys—even short

ones—function repeatedly as catalysts for change in the novel. Elizabeth’s first journey, by which she intends simply to visit Charlotte and Mr. Collins, brings her into contact with Mr. Darcy, and leads to his first proposal. Her second journey takes her to Derby and Pemberley, where she fans the growing flame of her affection for Darcy. The third journey, meanwhile, sends various people in pursuit of Wickham and Lydia, and the journey ends with Darcy tracking them down and saving the Bennet family honor, in the process demonstrating his continued devotion to Elizabeth.

 

Study Questions and Essay Topics

  • Besides Elizabeth, which female character in Pride and Prejudice do you most admire? Explain your answer. .
  • Which female character do you least admire? Explain your answer.
  • Write an essay that compares and contrasts Elizabeth and Jane Bennet.
  • Write an essay that attempts to explain why Charles Bingley is so warm and friendly and his sister Caroline is so cold and condescending.
  • What characteristics of Lady Catherine are reflected in the appearance of Rosings Park?
  • When Darcy provides the wherewithal for Lydia and Wickham to marry, his action seems noble and selfless. Is it possible, though, that his sole motive is to maintain the reputation of the family into which he plans to marry? If Lydia and Wickham had refused Darcy's help and foolishly decided to live together without marrying, would Darcy have married Elizabeth?
  • After the Meryton ball, Mrs. Bennet says she hopes Elizabeth never dances with Darcy if an opportunity presents itself. However, Charlotte Lucas observes that his pride is at least somewhat forgivable: “One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself.” Do you agree or disagree with her observation? Explain your answer.

 

 

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Pride and prejudice summary

Pride and Prejudice

 

Society is divided into classes, which leads some people to believe that they are more "classy" when they merely are just arrogant. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a novel about the social classes, their manners, and what becomes of the social classes when they are mixed.


Elizabeth Bennet is the second daughter of five. She is intelligent, witty, lovely, clever, and honest. She is the protagonist of the novel. Not belonging to the "upper" class, Elizabeth is judgmental of people in the higher classes. Her male counterpart is Fitzwilliam Darcy. He is the wealthy "high class" friend of Bingley, who feels the lower class people of Meryton are his inferiors. Darcy is rude to those not of his social standing. In the beginning the two characters show opposing personalities. She is kind and lovely and he is conceited and proud.
Despite their class different and personalities, Elizabeth and Darcy's similarities begins with their introduction. Both are judgmental of each other due to their social classes.

 

Elizabeth views Darcy as an "uppity" snobbish man who feels he has social superiority, and he looks down on her because they are not of equal social standings. Elizabeth's dislike of Darcy begins when he refuses to dance with her and anyone else who is not rich and well bred. She is lead to believe that he is too proud to be liked. He comments about her looks, "she is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me," (7) reinforcing his arrogance and ego. His effort to maintain his social standing and image leads to a mutual dislike. Her contempt is only strengthened when she is informed that he is the one who persuaded Bingley to move away from Jane. The irony in the story is that Darcy becomes attracted to Elizabeth because of her sharp tongue and intelligence. He "had never been as bewitched by any women as he was by her." (38)

 

Their arguments, such as over the ideal women, provided Darcy access to a deeper aspect of her character, which eventually allows him to move past his initial prejudices. To Elizabeth, his arrogance in these arguments and in earlier conversations continues to remain unpleasant to her. Despite his growing feelings for Elizabeth he still feels that due to their lack of wealth and family she is a poor marriage prospect.

 

 

 

 

Over time Darcy's feelings continue to grow and he eventually proposes to Elizabeth. He expresses how his feelings had grown beyond his first impression, focusing mainly on her lower rank and unsuitability for marriage rather than his love for her. She refuses; viewing him as the same self-involved, snobbish man she first met, focused on social standings rather than on feelings, this conversation reaffirms her judgements of him.

 

 As time goes on, and Elizabeth takes a tour of Pemberley, Darcy's estate, and speaks with his servants who tell her how wonderful he is to work for, she thinks her judgements were wrong. When Darcy helps Lydia when she elopes with Whickman, Elizabeth completely changes her opinions of Darcy. He proposes again and she accepts because she realized he is devoted to her regardless of her social standing.

 
Elizabeth and Darcy share a prejudice view of individuals based on their social class. Both were able to set aside their biases in order to recognize their potential for love.

 

 

 

SETTING

 

The novel is set in 19th century (1800's) England, principally in Longbourn, the Hertfordshire country town that is a mile from Meryton and twenty-four miles from London. It is a well-ordered, provincial town, filled with landed gentry and oblivious to the sweeping changes occurring outside the fringes of its narrow, circumscribed vision.

 

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

 

Mrs. Bennet

The match-making mother of five daughters. The wife of Mr. Bennet and "a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper," who embarrasses her older daughters with her lack of class and entertains her husband with her ignorance.

Mr. Bennet

A country gentleman, who is the sometimes irresponsible father of five daughters and the husband of Mrs. Bennet. He is fond of books and can be witty and amusing.

Jane Bennet

The eldest daughter of the Bennets who is pretty, shy, calm, gentle and good-natured; she falls in love with and marries Mr. Bingley.

Elizabeth Bennet (Lizzy)

The second daughter of the Bennets who is lively, intelligent, witty and sensible; she at first strongly dislikes Mr. Darcy and then falls in love with him.

Marry Bennet

The third daughter, who is pedantic, tasteless, plain, vain, silly, and affected.

Catherine Bennet (Kitty)

The fourth daughter, who is almost a non-entity in the novel except for chasing soldiers.

 

Lydia Bennet

The youngest daughter who is silly, thoughtless, stupid, unprincipled, flirtatious, loud-mouthed and scatter brained; not surprisingly, she is Mrs. Bennet’s favorite daughter. She elopes with

George Wickham

A handsome, militia officer

Rev. Mr. Collins

Mr. Bennet’s cousin who is to inherit Mr. Bennet’s property. He is a pompous, undignified mixture of servility and self- importance.

Charles Bingley

A wealthy country gentleman who is kind and charming. He falls in love with and marries Jane Bennett and is Darcy’s best friend.

Fitzwilliam Darcy

The wealthy, best friend of Charles Bingley who at first is proud, rude, and unpleasant; after falling in love with Elizabeth, he is shown to be discreet, shrewd, generous, and magnanimous; in the end, he wins Elizabeth’s love.

 

Minor Characters

 

Georgiana Darcy

The younger sister of Fitzwilliam Darcy who is shy, reserved, and warm-hearted.

Mrs. Reynolds

The trusted housekeeper of Mr. Darcy.

Colonel Fitzwilliam

The cousin of Mr. Darcy who is handsome and well-mannered.

Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Mr. Darcy’s aunt who is arrogant, over-bearing, domineering, interfering, vulgar and affected; she cannot tolerate any opposition.

Ann de Bourgh

Lady Catherine’s daughter who is sickly and coddled by her mother and who has no mind of her own.

Mrs. Jenkinson

Ann de Bourgh’s teacher.

Caroline Bingley

Mr. Bingley’s unmarried sister, who is snobbish, conceited, scheming and jealous.

Mrs. Hurst

Bingley’s married sister who lives a lazy, purposeless life.

Mr. Hurst

Bingley’s brother-in-law, who is lazy and purposeless, like his wife.

 

George Wickham

A seemingly charming man with attractive manners, who is really selfish, unprincipled, extravagant and prone to gambling; he is the villain of the novel, who elopes with Lydia Bennet

Sir William and Lady Lucas

Neighbors and friends of the Bennet family and parents of Charlotte.

Charlotte Lucas

The eldest daughter in the Lucas family who is plain, practical, intelligent and absolutely unromantic; she is a very close friend of Elizabeth.

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner

Mrs. Bennet’s brother and his wife who are sensible and refined; Mrs. Gardiner is a confidante of Jane and Elizabeth Bennet.

 

Mrs. Philips

Mrs. Bennet’s sister, who is as vulgar and ridiculous as her sister; her husband is an attorney.

Mary King

An acquaintance of the Bennet family.

 

CONFLICT

There are two major conflicts in the novel which develop the plot.

The first plot centers around Mrs. Bennet’s desperate attempts to find suitable husbands for her marriageable daughters.

 

Protagonist

The Protagonist is Mrs. Bennet, whose ‘business of life’ is to get her daughters married. To this end, she is assiduously devoted throughout the novel. She presses her husband to develop an acquaintance with Mr. Bingley (a promising catch); she encourages the sick Jane to prolong her stay at Netherfield; she is anxious that Elizabeth should consent to Mr. Collins’ proposal and is crestfallen when she does not; she promotes the flippancy of Lydia and Kitty and their red-coat chasing.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, a handsome and proud aristocrat, falls in love with Elizabeth. He is attracted by her fine eyes, elegant figure, buoyancy of spirit, quick wit, and intelligence.

 

Antagonist

Mrs. Bennet’s antagonist is the problem she encounters in getting her daughters married, especially the eldest two. Bingley’s abrupt departure from Netherfield interrupts her plans. This and Elizabeth’s denial to marry the odious Mr. Collins seems to thwart her matrimonial scheme of things. Lydia’s elopement and the consequent stigma also strikes at the heart of her scheme; ironically, she does not comprehend its fatality.

Darcy’s antagonist is the various ‘obstacles’ he has to overcome in order to win the love of Elizabeth, including her vulgar and indiscreet mother, Wickham’s false accounts of him, and Elizabeth’s own prejudice against him. Elizabeth finds him exceedingly proud and at first strongly dislikes him.

 

Climax

 

The climax of this plot is the engagement of Elizabeth to Darcy. Lydia has already eloped with Wickham, and Jane has accepted Bingley’s proposal. All three of her eldest daughters are to be married.

A high point in the rising action is Lydia’s elopement, for it threatens to thwart the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth; but, on the contrary, it gives Darcy an opportunity to prove his love for Elizabeth by using his influence to get Wickham to marry Lydia. In turn, Elizabeth realizes the true worth of Darcy. When Darcy proposes to her a second time, he has lost his pride and she has given up her prejudice. The climax occurs when she eagerly accepts his proposal.

 

Outcome

 

The outcome of the conflict is a happy one. Mrs. Bennet’s match-making problems are solved, for her eligible daughters are either engaged or married at the point of climax.

The second plot revolves around Darcy trying to win Elizabeth’s love.

This plot ends in comedy for Darcy accomplishes his goal, winning the love of Elizabeth and her hand in marriage.

 

SHORT PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)

 

Pride and Prejudice is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five unmarried daughters. They live in the estate of Longbourn in Hertfordshire, a rural district about thirty miles from London. The family is not rich. Their property is ‘entailed’ to pass to the nearest male heir in the family, in this case to Mr. Collins. The main concern of Mrs. Bennet’s life is to see that all her daughters are married, preferably to men with large fortunes. She sees an opportunity for her eldest daughter Jane when Mr. Charles Bingley, a wealthy gentlemen from the city, occupies the nearby estate of Netherfield Park. In her excitement, she urges her husband to visit Mr. Bingley on the very first day of his arrival, before any of the other neighbors. Mr. Bennet complies to his wife’s request and visits Mr. Bingley, but withholds information about his visit from the family.

At the next social gathering in Meryton, Bingley brings along his two sisters, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst. But more importantly, he brings his closest friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Bingley, who is charming and social, is immediately attracted to the modest and gentle Jane Bennet. Darcy, in contrast to Bingley, is proud, rude, and disagreeable. When Bingley suggests that Darcy dance with Elizabeth Bennet, he refuses and negatively comments on her looks. Elizabeth overhears the comment and develops a strong prejudice against Darcy. At the next ball in Netherfield, Darcy feels an attraction for Elizabeth and asks her for a dance. She refuses to dance with him, thereby avenging the earlier insults.

Jane and Bingley continue to be attracted to one another. Caroline Bingley invites Jane to Netherfield for a visit. While at Netherfield, Jane falls ill and Elizabeth comes to look after her sister. While at Netherfield, Elizabeth is forced to confront Darcy. She approaches him with wit and sarcasm. Since Darcy has known only flattery from others, he is charmed by Elizabeth’s frankness. During her short stay at Netherfield, Elizabeth realizes Caroline is very contemptuous of her family, its social status, and Mrs. Bennet’s vulgarity. Elizabeth concludes that Caroline’s friendship and cordiality towards Jane is only a pretense.

 

The male relative to whom the Longbourn estate is ‘entailed’ is Rev. William Collins of Hunsfort. Mr. Collins pays a visit to Longbourn with the intention of proposing marriage to one of the Bennet daughters. His pompous manners and his bloated rhetoric disgust everyone, except Mrs. Bennet, who looks upon him as a prospective son-in-law. Collins is attracted to Jane, but Mrs. Bennet informs him that she is about to be engaged. He then turns his attention to Elizabeth and makes a ridiculous proposal of marriage to her. When Elizabeth rejects him, he proposes to her friend Charlotte Lucas, who, to everyone’s shock, accepts him. Mrs. Bennet is distressed by Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Collins because it is the one opportunity she has of keeping the Longbourn estate in the family.

Bingley and his companions soon depart for London. Both Bingley and Caroline write to Jane to say that they have closed Netherfield and have no plans of returning to it in the near future. Jane is very disappointed. As Jane feels frustration over Bingley, Elizabeth finds a new attraction. She meets Mr. Wickham and is foolishly and magnetically drawn to him. They have a friendly conversation in which she reveals her dislike of Darcy. Taking advantage of this information, Wickham concocts a story and tells Elizabeth that he has been cheated by Darcy. Elizabeth takes pity on him and almost falls in love. Mrs. Gardiner, however, warns Elizabeth about Wickham, who soon marries Miss King.

At the invitation of the Gardiners, Jane goes to London for some rest and change of air. She hopes that she sees Bingley, even accidentally. Jane makes many attempts to get in touch with him, but Caroline does not even inform her brother about Jane’s presence in London. Jane is heart broken, but grows to accept her rejection.

SHORT PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis) (continued)

 

Elizabeth goes to Hunsford to visit Mr. Collins and his new wife Charlotte, who is Elizabeth’s dear friend. During Elizabeth’s stay in Hunsford, Darcy happens to visit his aunt, who also lives there, and attempts to build a relationship with Elizabeth. To her surprise, Darcy proposes marriage to her in a language so arrogant that Elizabeth turns him down indignantly. She asks him how he dares to propose to her after separating Jane and Bingley, who were in love with each other, and after victimizing Wickham. She ends her tirade by saying that she would not marry him even if he were the last man on the earth. Darcy is upset and leaves in a huff. The next morning he meets Elizabeth when she goes out for a walk and hands her a long letter that answers all her accusations. He explains to her that he did not believe that Jane was really in love with Bingley. He also tells her the truth about Wickham. Elizabeth is shocked by his answers.

There is also another shock awaiting her. Her youngest sister Lydia has been invited to Brighton by a young officer’s wife. Lydia is very excited about the trip; but Elizabeth knows how stupid, scatter brained, and flirtatious Lydia is. She tries to persuade her father not to allow Lydia to go to Brighton. Her father, however, dismisses Elizabeth’s fears.

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner plan a tour of the Lake District and take Elizabeth with them. At the last minute, however, the tour is cut short and the Gardiners decide to restrict their trip to Derbyshire, where Darcy has his vast estate in Pemberley. Elizabeth makes sure that Darcy is away on business and then agrees to visit Pemberley, out of sheer curiosity. Pemberley is one of the most beautiful places she has ever visited, and Darcy’s elegant tastes are evident everywhere. To top it all, Ms. Reynolds, the housekeeper who has known Darcy since his childhood, speaks very highly of him, saying he is just and fair. Elizabeth cannot believe that she has made such a mistake in judging his character. As Elizabeth is looking over Pemberley’s lovely grounds, Darcy himself appears, returning a day before he is expected. He looks surprised to see Elizabeth, and she is intensely embarrassed. He is polite to her and the Gardiners, and Elizabeth notices that there is no trace of pride in him.

 

The following day, Bingley calls on Elizabeth, and his anxious inquiries about Jane indicate that he is still in love with her. Darcy and his beautiful sister, Georgiana, also call on Elizabeth at the inn to invite her and the Gardiners to dinner. Elizabeth accepts the dinner invitation. During the dinner, Caroline tries her best to destroy the friendly relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth by running down Elizabeth’s family, but she does not succeed. Darcy is fond of Elizabeth.

News comes that Lydia has eloped with Wickham, so Elizabeth leaves Derbyshire with the Gardiners to return home. All attempts at tracing the runaway couple have failed. Darcy, touched by Elizabeth’s distress over Lydia, seeks to find her and catches up with the couple in London. Darcy convinces Wickham to marry Lydia, gives him ten thousand pounds, pays up his debts, and persuades him to settle in the North of London. Darcy then requests that the Gardiners not reveal his help to the Bennet family. Elizabeth, however, finds out the truth about Darcy’s assistance. She is impressed with his kindness.

Bingley makes an unannounced reappearance at Netherfield Park, and renews his courtship of Jane. They are soon engaged. Lady Catherine also arrives unannounced and acts very haughty towards the Bennet family. She threatens Elizabeth with dire consequences if she marries Darcy, but Elizabeth refuses to promise that she will not accept a proposal from Darcy. A few days later, Darcy comes to visit and makes a second proposal of marriage to Elizabeth. This time she accepts wholeheartedly. He thanks Elizabeth for teaching him the lesson of humility.

The two couples, Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy, are married on the same morning. Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed at having three of her daughters married, two of them to very rich young men. After a year’s stay at Netherfield Park, Bingley purchases an estate in Derbyshire. His mother-in-law’s tiresome company and her vulgar behavior are too much even for his calm temperament. The novel finally ends on a note of reconciliation with all of the characters trying to forgive and forget past insults.

 

 

 

 

THEMES

Major Themes

 

The pivotal theme is that marriage is important to individuals and society. Throughout the novel, the author describes the various types of marriages and reasons behind them. Marriage out of economic compulsions can be seen in Charlotte’s marriage to Collins. Marriage due to sensual pleasure can be seen in Lydia’s marriage. The marriage of Jane and Elizabeth are the outcome of true love between well-matched persons.

Another major theme is that pride and prejudice both stand in the way of relationships, as embodied in the persons of Darcy and Elizabeth respectively. Pride narrows the vision of a person and causes one to underestimate other mortals. Prejudice blinds the vision and leads to false perceptions about others. Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice come in the way of understanding each other and keep them apart. Only when Darcy becomes more humble and Elizabeth becomes more accepting can they relate to one another and find happiness together.

 

Minor Themes

A minor theme found in the novel is appearance versus reality, with Austen stressing that a person cannot be judged by his/her outer being. During the course of the book, several characters are not properly judged, for good conduct does not necessarily mean good character, just as a pretty face does not indicate a pure soul.

Another theme stressed by the author is that in order to display good sense, a vitally important characteristic, a person must possess intelligence, sensitivity, and responsibility. Each of the major characters in the novel is judged against these three important criteria.

 

MOOD

 

The mood throughout the novel is formal and realistic to its nineteenth century setting. Even though it is a novel about love and marriage, it is not romantic and emotional, but realistic and practical.

 

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION – BIOGRAPHY

 

JANE AUSTEN

Jane Austen was born in 1775 at Steventon, Hampshire in southern England, where her father was a minister. She was the sixth child in a family of seven children. The family was very close, and Jane had a particular closeness to her sister Cassandra. Although she attended boarding school for a short while, she was mostly educated at home. Both she and Cassandra were attractive and attended country parties; neither of them married, although Jane had several proposals. Much of Jane’s life is captured in the letters that she wrote to her sister, but Cassandra cut out any references there might have been about Jane’s intimate, private life and her innermost thoughts. In spite of the missing information, the letters retain flashes of sharp wit and occasional coarseness

 

 

 

 

Jane began to write at a young age. Pride and Prejudice, her most popular novel, was the first to be written, although not the first published. She wrote on it for several years and finally completed it as First Impressions in 1797. It, however, was not accepted for publication until 1813, when it appeared with its current version with its new title. As a result, Sense and Sensibility was published first, in 1811. Her other four novels, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion were all published between 1814 and 1818. She also wrote six minor works and one unfinished novel. Because she wanted to avoid attention, most of her work was not published under her name.

When Mr. Austen retired in 1801, the family moved to Bath, where they lived until Mr. Austen’s death. The family then moved to Southampton in 1806, to Chawton in 1809, and then again to Hampshire. A few days before her sudden death in 1817, she lodged in Winchester.

 

THE SOCIAL BACKGROUND

 

A general knowledge of the social and cultural setting in which a novel is written is important, for most novels mirror the customs and values of a particular society, often criticizing it. The Hertfordshire country town where the greater part of the novel is set is Longbourn, only a mile from the market town of Meryton and 24 miles from London. The neighborhood around the Bennets is large, for they dine with twenty-four different families, only three of which are named. The Bennet’s society is drawn largely from Meryton (which is the mother’s background) rather than from the country (which is the father’s), for she is more sociable than her husband. Mrs. Bennet, however, is without social ambition except for her desire to have her daughters marry rich men.

 

 

Pride and Prejudice is, thus, set among the rural middle and upper classes who are landowners. None of the major characters works, for these moneyed classes live entirely on their income from rents and inheritances. There are, however, petty distinctions among the landed classes, determined by the amount of wealth possessed by the members. For instance, Miss Bengali and her sister look down on the Bennets because they are not as wealthy. Class distinctions in Jane Austen’s time were in fact very rigid. The land-owning aristocracy belonged to the highest rung of the social ladder, and all power was in their hands. Next in rank came the gentry. The new, prosperous industrialists and traders (like Mr. Gardiner) were gradually rising as a class, but had still not won the right to vote. The lowest in English society were the workers and laborers.

For the women of the time, life was largely restricted to the home and the family. For the poor and the lower-class women, there was ample work in the home and in the fields to keep them busy. But for the ladies of the landed upper-classes, life was one big round of dances, dinners, cards, and visits to friends and relatives. They were not required to do any household work. "Ladies," thus, lived a life of ease and leisure, mainly concerned with society, children, and marriage. By the nineteenth century, the upper classes no longer arranged marriages. Instead, a girl was introduced to society (and eligible bachelors) at a reception hosted by a married woman who had herself been presented. Generally, a girl "came out" only after her elder sister was married. (No wonder Lady Catherine is shocked when she hears that all of Elizabeth’s sisters have started dating before she is wed.)

Women’s education in the nineteenth century was restricted to the daughters of a few families of the upper classes. In most cases, it was thought to be a waste of time to educate girls. Rich and noble families (like that of Lady Catherine de Bourgh) engaged governesses for educating their daughters or sent them away to boarding school, but most women were self-educated at home.

Traveling in Jane Austen’s time was accomplished in horse- drawn carriages, and a family’s social status was determined by its kind of carriage. Because carriages were slow, travel was limited. Communication of mail and news was also slow, and there were no daily newspapers. As a result, the outside world does not play a part in Austen’s novels. Instead, she turns her attention in entirety to the things she knew: family and values.

THE LITERARY BACKGROUND

 

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice appeared on the English literary scene in 1813. The author had worked on its realistic style and content for more than fifteen years, for she was a perfectionist in her approach to writing. Her first novel was unlike any of the hundreds of others written at the time, which were mainly Romantic (filled with emotion and passionate) or Gothic (filled with horror). Austen was the first novelist to portray realistic characters by using the direct method of telling a story in which dialogue and comment take an important place. She used the method to dissect the hypocrisy of individuals and the society in which they played their games of love and courtship.

From the beginning, Austen’s literature centered on character studies, where a person’s common sense (or lack of it) was developed in detail. The chosen setting was always limited to a small social group of the upper classes and composed of a few families. Family life was always central to her works. Her novels also portrayed traditional values and a belief in rationality, responsibility, and restraint. But she often viewed the human condition, with its many weaknesses, through humor, irony, and sarcasm, with her undesirable characters portrayed as ignorant, proud, or silly human beings, not evil villains.

 

 

Reputation

 

 

Pride and Prejudice depicts a society in which a woman’s reputation is of the utmost importance. A woman is expected to behave in certain ways. Stepping outside the social norms makes her vulnerable to ostracism. This theme appears in the novel, when Elizabeth walks to Netherfield and arrives with muddy skirts, to the shock of the reputation-conscious Miss Bingley and her friends. At other points, the ill-mannered, ridiculous behavior of Mrs. Bennet gives her a bad reputation with the more refined (and snobbish) Darcys and Bingleys. Austen pokes gentle fun at the snobs in these examples, but later in the novel, when Lydia elopes with Wickham and lives with him out of wedlock, the author treats reputation as a very serious matter. By becoming Wickham’s lover without benefit of marriage, Lydia clearly places herself outside the social pale, and her disgrace threatens the entire Bennet family. The fact that Lydia’s judgment, however terrible, would likely have condemned the other Bennet sisters to marriageless lives seems grossly unfair. Why should Elizabeth’s reputation suffer along with Lydia’s? Darcy’s intervention on the Bennets’ behalf thus becomes all the more generous, but some readers might resent that such an intervention was necessary at all. If Darcy’s money had failed to convince Wickham to marry Lydia, would Darcy have still married Elizabeth? Does his transcendence of prejudice extend that far? The happy ending of Pride and Prejudice is certainly emotionally satisfying, but in many ways it leaves the theme of reputation, and the importance placed on reputation, unexplored. One can ask of Pride and Prejudice, to what extent does it critique social structures, and to what extent does it simply accept their inevitability?


Class


The theme of class is related to reputation, in that both reflect the strictly regimented nature of life for the middle and upper classes in Regency England. The lines of class are strictly drawn. While the Bennets, who are middle class, may socialize with the upper-class Bingleys and Darcys, they are clearly their social inferiors and are treated as such. Austen satirizes this kind of class-consciousness, particularly in the character of Mr. Collins, who spends most of his time toadying to his upper-class patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Though Mr. Collins offers an extreme example, he is not the only one to hold such views. His conception of the importance of class is shared, among others, by Mr. Darcy, who believes in the dignity of his lineage; Miss Bingley, who dislikes anyone not as socially accepted as she is; and Wickham, who will do anything he can to get enough money to raise himself into a higher station. Mr. Collins’s views are merely the most extreme and obvious. The satire directed at Mr. Collins is therefore also more subtly directed at the entire social hierarchy and the conception of all those within it at its correctness, in complete disregard of other, more worthy virtues. Through the Darcy-Elizabeth and Bingley-Jane marriages, Austen shows the power of love and happiness to overcome class boundaries and prejudices, thereby implying that such prejudices are hollow, unfeeling, and unproductive. Of course, this whole discussion of class must be made with the understanding that Austen herself is often criticized as being a classist: she doesn’t really represent anyone from the lower classes; those servants she does portray are generally happy with their lot. Austen does criticize class structure but only a limited slice of that structure.

 
Motifs

 


Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s

 

major themes


Courtship

In a sense, Pride and Prejudice is the story of two courtships—those between Darcy and Elizabeth and between Bingley and Jane. Within this broad structure appear other, smaller courtships: Mr. Collins’s aborted wooing of Elizabeth, followed by his successful wooing of Charlotte Lucas; Miss Bingley’s unsuccessful attempt to attract Darcy; Wickham’s pursuit first of Elizabeth, then of the never-seen Miss King, and finally of Lydia. Courtship therefore takes on a profound, if often unspoken, importance in the novel. Marriage is the ultimate goal, courtship constitutes the real working-out of love. Courtship becomes a sort of forge of a person’s personality, and each courtship becomes a microcosm for different sorts of love (or different ways to abuse love as a means to social advancement).

Journeys


Nearly every scene in Pride and Prejudice takes place indoors, and the action centers around the Bennet home in the small village of Longbourn. Nevertheless, journeys—even short ones—function repeatedly as catalysts for change in the novel. Elizabeth’s first journey, by which she intends simply to visit Charlotte and Mr. Collins, brings her into contact with Mr. Darcy, and leads to his first proposal. Her second journey takes her to Derby and Pemberley, where she fans the growing flame of her affection for Darcy. The third journey, meanwhile, sends various people in pursuit of Wickham and Lydia, and the journey ends with Darcy tracking them down and saving the Bennet family honor, in the process demonstrating his continued devotion to Elizabeth.

 

Symbols


Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

Pemberley


Pride and Prejudice is remarkably free of explicit symbolism, which perhaps has something to do with the novel’s reliance on dialogue over de******ion. Nevertheless, Pemberley, Darcy’s estate, sits at the center of the novel, literally and figuratively, as a geographic symbol of the man who owns it. Elizabeth visits it at a time when her feelings toward Darcy are beginning to warm; she is enchanted by its beauty and charm, and by the picturesque countryside, just as she will be charmed, increasingly, by the gifts of its owner. Austen makes the connection explicit when she describes the stream that flows beside the mansion. “In front,” she writes, “a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance.” Darcy possesses a “natural importance” that is “swelled” by his arrogance, but which coexists with a genuine honesty and lack of “artificial appearance.” Like the stream, he is neither “formal, nor falsely adorned.” Pemberley even offers a symbol-within-a-symbol for their budding romance: when Elizabeth encounters Darcy on the estate, she is crossing a small bridge, suggesting the broad gulf of misunderstanding and class prejudice that lies between them—and the bridge that their love will build across it.

 

STUDY QUESTIONS

 

1. Discuss the social background of Pride and Prejudice. Explain how this background is important to the novel.

2. Who is the main protagonist of Pride and Prejudice and what/who is the antagonist. How is the conflict between them resolved?

3. Comment on the opening statement of the novel and elucidate on how it reveals the theme of the book.

4. Analyze the plot for its structure.

5. Explain how the title relates to the book.

6. Compare and contrast Jane and Elizabeth.

7. Compare and contrast Bingley and Darcy.

8. How does Austen develop the misunderstanding between Darcy and Elizabeth and how is it resolved?

9. Discuss Pride and Prejudice as an exposition of the life and manners of a microcosm of nineteenth -century English society.

10. Several characters in the plot are responsible for the Elizabeth-Darcy union. Who are they and what have they done, intentionally or unintentionally, to bring the couple together.

11. Explain all the different kinds of marriages that are seen in the novel. Which marriage does Austen seem to consider the most effective and why?

 

 

 

 

 

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