First published in 1813., “Pride and Prejudice” is thought by some to be Jane Austen’s greatest work. The story follows Elizabeth Bennet and the Bennet family through a time of courtship and manners during the British Regency period. The matriarch of the Bennet family, Mrs. Bennet, is determined to find husbands for her five daughters.
When the new tenant of a neighboring farm, Mr. Bingley, arrives decides he would be perfect for one of their daughters, preferably Jane, the oldest. But, when she finally manages a meeting for the two, Mr. Darcy is there, too. His proud airs do not go over well with the neighborhood, especially with Elizabeth Bennet. Then, to shake everything up even more, a military regiment arrives bringing even more eligible men. As happy as Mrs. Bennet is with all the choices for her daughters, one more arrives looking for a wife.
Longbourn, the home of the Bennet family is entailed to Mr. Collins. His plans are to marry one of the Bennet sisters. Mrs. Bennet has decided Jane will marry Mr. Bingley, so that leaves Elizabeth for Mr. Collins. Then she can line up military men for the other three daughters, Mary, Kitty and Lydia. But, soon she finds her plans going awry. Mr. Bingley leaves without making an offer, Elizabeth turns Mr. Collins down, so he finds a wife with the neighbor, and none of the regiment seem to want to make offers, either, even the dashing Mr. Wickham, who has a story of past wrongs committed against him by Mr. Darcy.
Jane goes to London to stay with her aunt and mend her broken heart, and Elizabeth visits with her best friend, Charlotte, who has married the intolerable Mr. Collins who is the vicar of the parish owned by Mr. Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine. Elizabeth is hoping to make judgments and get fodder for her wit there. She finds her friend settled with her life, but when meets the haughty, controlling Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Elizabeth finds much to make comments on.
While there, Mr. Darcy arrives with his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam. Slowly Mr. Darcy has become enraptured with Elizabeth, and makes an offer for her hand, even though he feels she is beneath him. But, Elizabeth has heard some damaging gossip about Darcy and blames him, also, for Mr. Bingley breaking her sister’s heart. With his rather rude proposal, she turns him down flat. He writes her a long letter explaining the truth behind the gossip she heard from Mr. Wickham and why he advised Bingley that he thought Jane wasn’t interested. This begins the changes in Elizabeth’s opinions.
Later when she visits his home, Pemberley, she sees him in a different light and is ready to accept, but, her youngest sister, Lydia elopes with Mr. Wickham and ruins Elizabeth’s chances with Darcy, so she thinks. But, Darcy is determined to make things right. So he hunts down Wickham and pays him to marry Lydia, then he tells Bingley that Jane might be interested after all. Bingley and Jane marry and Elizabeth confesses her love for Darcy.
“Pride and Prejudice” begins with one of Jane Austen’s best lines, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Whenever the neighboring manor, Netherfield Park is rented by Mr. Charles Bingley who fulfills these requirements, Mrs. Bennet of Longbourn insists her husband be among the first to welcome him to the neighborhood and secure him for one of their five daughters. Mrs. Bennet feels her job is to get her daughters married and she takes her job very seriously. After a bit of teasing she learns he has already visited with him and can introduce his daughters to Mr. Bingley at the upcoming ball.
On the evening of the ball, Mr. Bingley brings his sisters, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, along with her husband. He also brings Mr. Darcy. Everyone finds Darcy to be handsome, especially when they hear of his large fortune, but they soon decide he is proud and finds himself to be better than everyone else. Especially when he slights Elizabeth, the second oldest daughter, and refuses to ask her to dance. He says that she “is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Elizabeth overhears this and takes an instant dislike to him.
All in all the ball was a success. Jane, the oldest Bennet sister was much admired by Mr. Bingley, and the two youngest girls, Catherine (Kitty) and Lydia danced while Mary, the third sister, heard herself mentioned as the most accomplished girl in the neighborhood. But, the main topic of conversation after the ball, after Jane’s conquest, was slighted by pompous Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Bennet decides to hate him, even with all his riches.
At the Netherfield household, the conversation was different. Mr. Bingley had a wonderful time and never saw so many pretty girls, especially Jane Bennet. Mr. Darcy thought everyone were bumpkins. No class and little beauty. Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley agrees with Mr. Darcy but do think Jane Bennet is a nice girl. So, Mr. Bingley is free to think of her as he chooses.
The next day Charlotte Lucas, neighbor and best friend to Elizabeth dropped by Longbourn to discuss the ball and tease Elizabeth a little about Darcy. They all come to the conclusion that Mr. Bingley is interested in Jane, (Charlotte says she should show her interest also) and Mr. Darcy is too proud (Charlotte thinks he has a right to be proud). Austen here is setting Charlotte Lucas up to be the sensible one of the group.
The next arrival to the story is a militia regiment. The influx of single young men in uniform send the two youngest Bennet sisters into foolish antics. They speak of nothing but the officers. Especially after Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, a neighbor and sister to Mrs. Bennet, invite the officers over to meet them. Now they begin to visit their Aunt Phillips often for gossip about the officers and plot how to get time with the most handsome men.
As the families of Netherfield and Longbourn spend more time together Mr. Darcy’s opinion of Elizabeth began to changes. He begins to notice her good qualities, quick wit and “fine eyes”. Miss Bingley, who has her sights set on Darcy, is not pleased. Whenever the women of Netherfield ask Jane Bennet to visit one afternoon, Miss Bingley gets more of Elizabeth than she wanted. Due to Mrs. Bennet’s machinations, Jane gets caught in a rainstorm on the way over to Netherfield and catches a bad cold. She must stay with them until she is well. Elizabeth walks over to Netherfield to tend to her sister. This puts Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth under the same roof for a few days. By the time Jane is well enough to go home, Darcy is finding himself more interested in Elizabeth than he wants to be.
After returning home, the girls discover that Mr. Bennet as received a letter from Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is the heir to Longbourn. Due to the entail the estate must go to the next male in the family at the death of Mr. Bennet. Mr. Collins is a clergyman to the Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings. After his arrival, they learn that he is looking for a wife and has decided to ask one of the Bennet sisters. Due to what he sees as his Christian duty to make amends for inheriting their home. Originally he sets his sights of Jane, but Mrs. Bennet lets him know that Jane is practically engaged, so he turns to Elizabeth. And proceeds to court her.
One afternoon the Bennet sisters and Mr. Collins go into Meryton, the nearby town with all the shops, and where the regiment is stationed. While in town Lydia and Kitty notice one of their favorite enlisted men, Denny, and see a handsome young man with him. He introduces George Wickham to the girls and Mr. Collins. While they are talking Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy ride up. Whenever Mr. Darcy sees Wickham he gives him a cold stare and leaves. Elizabeth is curious and thinks she will have to find a way to get the information from him why Mr. Darcy was so cold to him. But, Wickham offers up a story of how he and Darcy grew up together. Wickham’s father worked for Darcy’s father. The elder Darcy was fond of Wickham and promised to pay for his education. But, he tells Elizabeth that upon his father’s death, Darcy refused to give the living of a clergy to Wickham that he was promised upon finishing school. Expecting the worst of Darcy, Elizabeth believes Wickham.
While Jane was ill and staying at Netherfield, Lydia got a promise from Bingley that he would throw a ball at Netherfield whenever Jane is completely well. During the ball it comes to Darcy’s attention that the whole neighborhood has Bingley and Jane practically engaged. Even though Jane is a pretty and nice girl, her mother, father and sisters are crass, (excluding Elizabeth) and her fortune is minuscule. Therefore, she would be a bad match for Bingley, even if she was actually interested, which Darcy is convinced she is not. So, the next day after the ball, when Bingley is scheduled to go to London on business, the Hursts, Miss Bingley and Darcy all follow. After convincing Mr. Bingley Jane isn’t interested and to stay in London, Miss Bingley writes a letter to Jane saying that they are planning to stay in London and hope to see Darcy’s sister, Georgina, who they believe Bingley is interested in.
Also, on the next day after the Netherfield ball, Mr. Collins decides the time is right to ask Elizabeth to marry him. She has had a feeling she is the sister he has chosen, and tries to prevent him. But, now she must face him and get it over with. Of course, she turns him down. Her mother is devastated, vowing to never speak to Elizabeth again. But, her father, lets Elizabeth know he approves of her decision to say no. Mr. Collins is embarrassed but, gets consolation from Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas. Within a couple of days, he proposes to Charlotte and is accepted.
With the news of their upcoming marriage, and the realization that Mr. Bingley will not be returning, Mrs. Jane receives a letter from Miss Bingley letting her know they all will be staying in London for a while and hope to meet up with Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, who they believe their brother is interested in. Jane is sad, but stoic. Elizabeth thinks Mr. Bingley still loves Jane and will not listen to his sisters. Mrs. Bennet thinks she herself has been thwarted on all sides. Whenever her brother, Mr. Gardiner and his wife and children visit, she moans out the ways she has been misused. Mr. Bingley left without marrying Jane, Elizabeth turned down Mr. Collins and then, the worst thing, the Lucas’s will have a daughter married before her.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, although in trade and within sight of his own warehouses, are very well bred and agreeable. Elizabeth and Jane are favorites of theirs, spending as much time with them as possible and always giving good advice. Whenever Elizabeth discusses the whole affair with her Aunt Gardiner, she advices her to think carefully. Could Bingley be steadfast enough for Jane? Is Mr. Darcy such a villain? Should Elizabeth be showing such favoritism to Mr. Wickham? To which Elizabeth assures her she knows Wickham will be looking for a wife with more money than she has, and is therefore showing some interest in another girl, with a better dowry, Miss King.
As her wedding approaches, Charlotte tries to keep her friendship going with Elizabeth and begs her to visit her and Mr. Collins in Huntsford, where his vicarage is. Charlotte’s sister, Maria and their father, Sir William Lucas will be visiting the newly married couple in March. Elizabeth agrees after a few letters from Charlotte with news of married life. Elizabeth is curious about how a sensible girl like Charlotte can stand to live with Mr. Collins, and hopes to get a look at Mr. Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine deBourgh. Also, hopes to see her daughter, Miss deBourgh, who Mr. Wickham has told her is destined to marry Mr. Darcy.
Meanwhile, Jane is in London with the Gardiners for a visit. She hopes to see the Bingleys, but the when she finally gets a visit with Miss Bingley it does not go well. Miss Bingley is cold, and obviously keeping her brother away from Jane. She tells Jane that her brother knows she’s there in London, and doesn’t care to see her. Jane relates all this to Elizabeth by letter from London. Elizabeth is, of course, furious with the Bingleys, knowing, although Jane would never say, that she is heartbroken.
After a quiet couple of months, March rolls around. Elizabeth is off with the Maria Lucas and her father to visit Mr. and Mrs. Collins in Huntsford. She finds her friend settled into married life without much fuss. The only excitement in the life of the vicar’s life is whenever the deBourghs stop by. Lady Catherine is bored enough to ask the Collins to drop by for dinner and bring their guests. Elizabeth finds Lady Catherine to be extremely controlling and opinionated. She finds her daughter to be sickly and thin. Neither woman is pleasant, just the right match for Mr. Darcy, she thinks.
After Sir William, who is in awe of Lady Catherine, decides his daughter is doing fine with her new husband, he leaves Maria and Elizabeth with Charlotte for a longer visit. Soon they learn Lady Catherine is expecting a visit from her nephews, Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. She is not at all pleased to learn Mr. and Mrs. Collins and their guests already know Mr. Darcy. Lady Catherine invites them over for dinner for the entertainment of her guests. Elizabeth likes Colonel Fitziwilliam right away. Of course, he tactfully lets her know on afternoon that he is the second son and must make a good match for himself. Elizabeth is fine with that, even though he’s very agreeable, she’s not in love with him. Little does she know that while she has been around Mr. Darcy, he was developing deeper feelings for her.
When he makes an offer for her hand in marriage, he chooses a really bad time. Elizabeth has just learned from the colonel of a “good deed” Mr. Darcy did his friend, Mr. Bingley by steering him away from a bad match with Jane, not knowing she is Elizabeth’s sister. Then, when Mr. Darcy asks her he starts out with letting her know he tried to fight his feelings because of “her inferiority”. Elizabeth is livid. When she turns him down, he asks why. She lets him know, in detail. He was rude “ungentlemanly” in his mode of asking, he was instrumental in breaking her sister’s heart, making Mr. Bingley appear a cad, and he was unfair in his treatments of Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy storms out of the house.
The next day he meets her on the path, gives her a letter he wrote explaining everything to her. Then leaves. The letter apologizes for seeming ungentlemanly, but points out the instances when her family showed uncouth behavior. Then he writes that he thought, through observation, Miss Bennet didn’t actually have romantic feelings for Bingley, so he suggested he move on. Last, but not least, Mr. Darcy told the whole true story of his dealings with Mr. Wickham. After being a wild young man, Mr. Wickham asked Mr. Darcy to give him his inheritance in cash instead of a living as a clergyman.
Mr. Darcy agreed because he didn’t think Wickham was suited for the church. Wickham blew through the money quickly coming back to get more money or accept the living. Darcy turned him down on both counts. Mr. Wickham took his anger with him to find Darcy’s little sister, Georgianna. She was only 14 years old. Wickham wooed her, planning to elope, but Georgianna didn’t want to hide it from her big brother. Darcy said no. Wickham disappeared only to appear in Meryton looking for another heiress.
On reflection, Elizabeth knew all Darcy said was true. Whenever she arrives home at Longbourn, she tells Jane, but they decide not to tell anyone else. The regiment is leaving so Wickham will be going with them since Miss King’s father said no to their relationship. Therefore there is no reason to ruin his reputation. But, Lydia, who is devastated all the single men will be leaving, manages to get the young wife of the colonel of the regiment, Mrs. Forster, to ask her to accompany her to Brighton. Lydia and her mother think it is a brilliant plan, Kitty is jealous, and Elizabeth is worried. She tries to talk her father out of letting Lydia go, but he doesn’t want to put up the fight to stop her. Elizabeth tries to warn him of the damage Lydia’s wild ways are doing to the rest of his daughters, but he thinks she’s exaggerating.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner had planned a trip in the early fall to visit the country around Derbyshire, where Mrs. Gardiner grew up, also coincidentally where Mr. Darcy and Wickham call home. They asked Elizabeth to go along. Being the curious sort, fond of travel, she agreed. While on the trip, Mrs. Gardiner wants to visit Pemberley, the home of Mr. Darcy. It is a stately home which gives tours to the public. At an inn the night before, Elizabeth asks a maid if the master of the Pemberley is home. With relief she learns he is not. The next day Elizabeth and the Gardiners visit Permberley.
Elizabeth loves the house and grounds. She thinks that she could have been the mistress of this place, but then consoles herself when she realizes she probably wouldn’t have been allowed to let her aunt and uncle visit since he is in trade. The housekeeper informs them during the tour that Mr. Darcy is expected tomorrow with a group. Just as Elizabeth is congratulating herself on not running into Mr. Darcy, she does.
But, she finds his personality changed. He is gracious to her aunt and uncle. He asks if he can stop in to visit them at the inn and bring his sister who is anxious to meet Elizabeth. She is quite surprised and pleased. They renew their acquaintance, she meets and instantly loves, Georgianna. Mr. Bingley is with the party. Elizabeth finds him to be just as agreeable, and maybe fishing for information about her sister, but he is definitely not interested in Miss Darcy romantically.
Just as the relationship between herself and Mr. Darcy is moving forward, Elizabeth receives distressing news from Jane. Lydia has left with Mr. Wickham. At first they believe the couple eloped, but no, horrifyingly, they are together without marriage. Elizabeth gets a visit from Darcy just as she’s found this out. He sends for her aunt and uncle then leaves. She assumes she will never see him again. He could not possibly look over this latest debacle from her family.
On returning to Longbourn they find everyone in a mess. Mr. Bennet has gone to search for Lydia, Mrs. Bennet has taken to her bed, and poor Jane, is trying to keep it all as quiet as possible. But, of course, all the servants know, so the whole town will find out. Mr. Gardiner goes to help Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Gardiner takes her children home, and the Bennet women wait. Mr. Bennet returns home without finding Lydia. Soon he receives a letter from Mr. Gardiner. Lydia has been found, Mr. Wickham agrees to marry her for a small sum. Mr. Bennet assumes Mr. Gardiner has paid Wickham more to marry Lydia. How will he ever repay his brother-in-law?
After announcing Mr. and Mrs. Wickham will not be welcome at Longbourn, Mr. Bennet allows them to visit on their way to the now enlisted Wickham’s first assignment in Newcastle. Mrs. Bennet is delighted to have a daughter wed, but not at all happy she will be moving so far away. Lydia is still “untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.” She shows no remorse for how her marriage came about and wants her sisters to visit her at the base where she will find them each husbands. Elizabeth is mortified by Lydia’s actions. Soon Lydia lets slip that Mr. Darcy was at her wedding. Elizabeth doesn’t ask Lydia to explain how he could have been there since she was not supposed to tell anyone,instead she writes her Aunt Gardiner to find out the true story. Mrs. Gardiner was surprised Elizabeth didn’t know. She explains that Mr. Darcy is the one who found Lydia with Wickham. After he learned Wickham had no intention of marrying Lydia, was still holding out for a wealthy girl, he offers to pay Wickham to marry her, and buys his commission. Mrs. Gardiner thinks this he did it out of love for Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is not quite sure, but when he visits with Mr. Bingley shortly thereafter, she gets to find out. Darcy brings Bingley over to Longbourn to see if Jane is still interested. After seeing they are still interested in each other, Mr. Darcy tells Bingley Jane was in London and they all kept the information from him. Then Darcy leaves. Elizabeth still doesn’t know if Darcy’s feelings for her are still there.
After Jane accepts Bingley proposal they get a visit from Lady Catherine at Longbourn. She comes to tell Elizabeth she forbids her marriage to Darcy. When Elizabeth refuses to obey Lady Catherine, she leaves angrily. A few days later, Darcy comes to Longbourn to see Elizabeth. On a walk Elizabeth thanks Mr. Darcy for all he did for Lydia. He says he felt obligated because he asked her not to let the story of Wickham’s true nature to get out. But, not to let that influence her decision when he says he still loves her and wants her to marry him. He had hoped her feelings for him had changed after he was confronted by Lady Catherine. Since she couldn’t get Elizabeth to agree not to marry him, she wanted him to agree not to marry Elizabeth. Since she is in love with him, too, Elizabeth agrees to marry Darcy. He gets her father’s blessing. Then in a double ceremony Jane weds Bingley and Elizabeth weds Darcy. They all live happily ever after in one of the greatest love stories in literature.
Time: early 19th century
Mr. Bennet – “an odd mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice.”. He likes to find fault in his neighbors, and has no respect for his wife.
Mrs. Bennet – “She was a woman of mean understanding,little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.”. She has a tendency to drink too much wine at gatherings and get loud. Often embarrassing her oldest daughters.
Jane Bennet – the most “handsome” of the daughters. She is the oldest. Quiet, even tempered, always kind. The picture of the perfect girl during the time. Unfortunately, her personality won’t allow her to demonstrate her feeling for Charles Bingley, which causes their break- up. She is almost too reserved.
Elizabeth Bennet – the second daughter. Pretty and intelligent. Her “quick wit” and tongue sometimes leads to problems. She is the main protagonist in the story. The book is told mostly through her eyes. Her character develops from a girl quick to judge on surface appearances only. She judges Darcy as pompous and disagreeable until she spends time with him, then sees his integrity and nobility. She judges Wickham on his good looks and friendliness, then sees his shallow and exploitative nature. In an age where most of the women in books were written to be subordinate, she is opinionated and strong. That is why she is one of the most beloved characters in literature.
Mary Bennet – The third daughter. A “young lady of deep reflection.” She has “read great books, and make[s] extracts.” She is the plainest of the girls in looks. She has little talent for the piano and singing, yet must perform at every function.
Catherine Bennet – Called Kitty. She is the fourth daughter. “She will follow wherever Lydia leads.” Together they are “Vain, ignorant, idle, and absolutely uncontrolled”. Throughout the book her personality is usually a reflection of Lydia.
Lydia Bennet – The youngest daughter. “…untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.” Flirts with all the men. Has no morals. Wants to be married because it would be “fun”. She is only 15 years old, and yet, her character is one of the most destructive in the book. When she leaves with Wickham without the benefit of marriage, she thoughtlessly brings a shame on her sisters that, in the time period, would have destroyed any hopes for a good marriage.
Sir William Lucas and Lady Lucas – He is proud of his rank and likes being the big fish in a small pond.
Charlotte Lucas – Plain 27 year old woman. She is Elizabeth’s best friend and is very sensible. When she marries the “odious” Mr. Collins, Elizabeth is astounded. She had always thought Charlotte to see her viewpoint on marriage, not realizing that Charlotte was quite a few years older than Elizabeth and not in the position to turn down a proposal. Realizing marriage was the best hope she had for her future and Mr. Collins would be a better husband than a lot of woman could manage.
Charles Bingley – The new tenant of Netherfield. He is “good-looking and gentleman-like”. Easy going and wealthy. His nature makes him easily led by stronger personalities such as Darcy and his sisters. His ego isn’t strong enough to believe Jane loves him when Darcy and his sister tell him otherwise. This leads to a lot of heartbreak for Jane.
Caroline Bingley – Charles’ unmarried sister. She is determined to marry Mr. Darcy. She considers herself accomplished, and above the people of Meryton, especially the Bennet sisters.
Mr. and Mrs. Hurst – He is lazy and pompous. Likes to play cards. She is silly and vacant. Charles’ married sister.
Fitzwilliam Darcy – The hero of the story. He is handsome and rich, but he is discovered to be “…proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased.” As the story progresses and he falls in love with Elizabeth, he becomes less proud and less class-conscience. His character is one of the most romantic leading men in literature. The strong, silent type who loves with his whole being. He never gives up on Elizabeth, even when she turns down his first badly worded proposal. He saves her family from disgrace and goes against the wishes of his aunt for love. Letting go of a lot of his pride, he changes his own class consciousness in order to make himself more deserving of Elizabeth.
Georgianna Darcy – Fitzwilliam’s little sister. Though barely 16, she is tall and womanly, but shy. Her near-elopement with Wickham caused much anguish in the book.
Lady Catherine deBourgh – “A tall, large woman, with strongly marked features which might have been handsome.” She is controlling, and pompous. She insists on always being right and must be obeyed. She controls the smallest to the largest things of everyone around her.
Anne deBourgh – Sickly and quiet. “uninteresting”. Lady Catherine’s daughter. Lady Catherine expects her to marry Mr. Darcy.
Mr. Collins – The heir to Longbourn. A subservient clergyman. He is pompous and irritating. Although he has no rank of his own, he likes to let everyone know his “patroness is Lady Catherine deBourgh.”
Mr. George Wickham – The villain of the piece. He is a handsome militia man, “a most gentleman-like appearance”. All the girls of Meryton are attracted to him. But, we soon learn he is a liar and a cheat. He is an opportunist looking to make his fortune by finding a rich wife.