Novel Summary: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Netherfield estate is excited to welcome wealthy single Charles Bingley, especially Mrs. Bennet,

who intends to marry him off one of her five daughters. Upon meeting him at a neighborhood ball, the Bennet daughters are struck by his gregarious nature and easygoing demeanor. But Fitzwilliam Darcy, the landowner nobleman who is too haughty to talk to anybody in the area and whom Elizabeth Bennet overhears declining to dance with her, is Bingley’s buddy, and he makes less of an impression on them.

Jane, the eldest Bennet daughter, and Bingley quickly get close. However, Bingley’s sisters—who disapprove of Jane’s mother’s lesser standing as a potential wife for Bingley—as well as Darcy—who thinks Jane is uninterested in Bingley—oppose any meaningful relationship between the two. In the meantime, despite his disapproval of Elizabeth’s family, Darcy finds himself drawn to her. Darcy’s infatuation for Elizabeth continues unabated despite Caroline Bingley’s envious criticism of her. He is captivated to her expressive eyes and lively wit.

As Darcy enhances more interest in Elizabeth, Elizabeth continues to despise him and is instead attracted to George Wickham, a handsome and personable military officer. Wickham tells Elizabeth that his father worked for Darcy’s father and that he and Darcy grew up together. Stating that he was favored by Darcy’s father, Wickham claims that Darcy disobeyed his father’s bequest of a clergyman’s revenue to Wickham out of selfish resentment. Wickham’s tale makes Darcy appear not only proud but cruel, and Elizabeth accepts Wickham’s account without question, disliking Darcy even more because of it.

While Jane and Elizabeth are getting to know one other, William Collins, the cousin of Mr. Bennet and a clergyman who would receive his fortune upon his death due to a legal stricture known as an entail, pays the Bennet family a visit. Excusing himself and praising his patroness, Lady Catherine De Bourgh, profusely, Mr. Collins tells Mrs. Bennet that Lady Catherine has given him the go-ahead to be married and that he intends to select a spouse from the Bennet girls. After settling on Elizabeth, he is shocked and hurt when she turns him down. He immediately focuses on Charlotte Lucas, an Elizabeth’s friend who desires marriage for stability rather than love, and the two soon become engaged and tied to the knot.

Jane is shocked to learn that Bingley and the entire Netherfield party have abruptly gone for London at the same time. In a letter to Jane, Caroline Bingley states that they have no plans to go back and she foresees a romantic relationship between Bingley and Georgiana, Darcy’s sister, who is also in London. Elizabeth is upset for her sister and believes that Bingley’s sisters and Darcy are attempting to hide him from Jane, even though Jane silently accepts that she will never know Bingley.

During Elizabeth’s visit to Charlotte at her new residence in Hunsford, Kent, she meets Lady Catherine De Bourgh, the domineering woman who enjoys interfering in other people’s affairs and is the patroness of Mr. Collins and Darcy’s aunt. Colonel Fitzwilliam, Elizabeth’s cousin, pays Darcy a visit shortly after Elizabeth arrives in Kent. Elizabeth finds Darcy’s actions perplexing because he appears to be looking for her companionship yet says very little. He shocks Elizabeth one day by putting in a proposal. Elizabeth rejects him because she is still repulsed by his arrogance and thinks Darcy is to blame for Wickham’s bad luck and Bingley’s breakup with Jane. The next day, Darcy sends her a letter outlining Wickham’s circumstances and apologizing for his part in seducing Bingley from Jane.

Upon further inspection, the facts show that Darcy is innocent of any crime, despite his pride. Elizabeth is horrified to learn that her pride caused her to be biased against Darcy. Elizabeth spends a month at home before traveling to Derbyshire County with her aunt and uncle Gardiner to see Darcy’s Pemberley mansion. They are all taken aback by how kindly Darcy treats them when they suddenly cross paths with him there. He pays Elizabeth a visit at her inn, presents her to his sister, and extends an invitation to supper at Pemberley. Elizabeth starts to feel the same way for Darcy, who is still in love with her.

She is told in two letters that Lydia has eloped with Wickham, which prompts Elizabeth and the Gardiners to hurry home right once, even in the middle of this promising scenario. Elizabeth worries that her newfound love for Darcy is doomed and that Lydia and the Bennet family will be forever shamed. However, Lydia marries Wickham after being discovered. Following the nuptials, Elizabeth learns that Darcy had a crucial role in arranging the union, sparing the other Bennet girls’ reputations and prospects for marriage.

After arriving back in Netherfield, Bingley promptly proposes to Jane. Naturally, Jane agrees, and Mrs. Bennet’s delight is only muted by her annoyance with Darcy’s sporadic attendance. A visit from Lady Catherine De Bourgh, who has heard a rumor that Darcy and Elizabeth are engaged—which they are not—interrupts Elizabeth’s joy for her sister in the meanwhile. After lecturing Elizabeth on the foolishness of such a match, she makes her swear that she won’t accept Darcy’s proposal. Elizabeth declines, which prompts Lady Catherine to chastise Darcy for his imprudence and inform him of the foolishness of their engagement. Darcy is encouraged to believe that Elizabeth has changed her mind after reading Lady Catherine’s account of her answer to her requests. He again proposes Elizabeth and she accepts his proposal merrily.

Analysis

The novel is the second of four that Austen published in her lifetime, and it was originally named First Impressions. Pride and Prejudice’s characters live in a social bubble that is rarely broken by outside events, which is an accurate representation of the closed social world in which Austen lived, despite criticism that the novel lacks historical context (it is most likely set either during the French Revolution [1787–99] or the Napoleonic Wars [1799–1815]).

She captured that world with unwavering authenticity and sarcasm, in all its narrow pride and prejudice. Simultaneously, she positioned a character that is both the protagonist and the most insightful critic at the center of the tale, drawing the reader in and making them hope for a good ending. Ultimately, Elizabeth—who was supposedly Austen’s personal favorite among all her heroines—and the timeless allure of a skillfully written and perhaps happily ever after have contributed significantly to the novel’s continued popularity.

Character List

 Elizabeth Bennet
The protagonist of the book. Elizabeth Bennet, the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, is the most perceptive and clever of the five Bennet sisters. She’s intelligent, quick-witted, and sometimes has a tongue a bit too sharp for her own good. Her initial prejudice against Darcy finally gives way to her understanding of his fundamental decency.

 
Fitzwilliam Darcy
The master of Pemberley, a rich nobleman, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s nephew. Despite his intelligence and integrity, Darcy’s arrogance makes him despise others who are less fortunate in society. He gradually loses his sensitivity to class over the book and comes to respect and like Elizabeth for her inner strength.

Jane Bennet
The most attractive and senior Bennet sister. Jane is kinder and more restrained than Elizabeth. The casual ease with which she and Bingley converse stands in sharp contrast to the mutual dislike that characterizes Elizabeth and Darcy’s interactions.

Charles Bingley
Darcy’s best friend Charles Bingley, who is a considerable affluent man. The tale begins with Bingley’s acquisition of Netherfield, an estate close to the Bennets. He is a kind, well-meaning guy whose laid-back manner contrasts with Darcy’s initially ungentle manner. He is blissfully oblivious to social classes.

Mr. Bennett
The Bennet family’s patriarch was a modestly-paid gentleman with five single daughters. Mr. Bennet intentionally irritates his wife with his cynical, sardonic style of humor. Even while he adores his daughters—Elizabeth in particular—he frequently falls short as a father, choosing instead to distance himself from the women in his immediate vicinity and their never-ending marital woes.

Mrs. Bennet

The silly, chatty wife of Mr. Bennet, whose sole purpose in life is to see her daughters married. Attempting to obtain suitors for her daughters, Mrs. Bennet frequently repels them due to her impolite and often unworthy behavior.

Lydia Bennet
She is the youngest of the Bennet sisters and is conceited, narcissistic, and gossipy. In contrast to Elizabeth, Lydia dives herself into romance and eventually runs off with Wickham.


Charlotte Lucas
Elizabeth’s close companion. Charlotte, who is six years older than Elizabeth and pragmatic where Elizabeth is romantic, does not believe that love is the most important aspect of marriage. Her primary concern is having a cozy house. She agrees to Mr. Collins’ proposal as a result.


George Wickham
A wealthy and attractive militia officer. Elizabeth is initially drawn to Wickham by his attractiveness and charm, but she soon realizes his true character when Darcy reveals Wickham’s dubious history, which also makes her feel more connected to Darcy.

Mr. Collins

A pretentious, typically dumb priest who stands to inherit Mr. Bennet’s estates. Although Mr. Collins’s social standing is nothing to be proud of, he goes to considerable lengths to inform everyone he knows that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is his patroness. He is the epitome of snobbishness combined with obedience.


Miss Bingley

The pretentious sister of Bingley. Miss Bingley despises Elizabeth’s middle-class upbringing with an extreme degree. Darcy is impressed by Elizabeth’s self-possessed nature even more as a result of her conceited attempts to attract his attention.


Catherine de Bourgh

A lady,  a wealthy, haughty nobility who supports Mr. Collins and is Darcy’s aunt. Class prejudice is personified by Lady Catherine, particularly in her attempts to keep the middle-class Elizabeth separated from her well-educated nephew.

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner

The brother and his spouse of Mrs. Bennet. The Bennet daughters frequently find that the Gardiners—who are kind, understanding, and wise—are superior to Mr. Bennet and his wife as parents.

 
Darcy Georgiana
The sister of Darcy. She is equally bashful and incredibly beautiful. She is a really talented pianoforte player.


Jane Bennet

The middle sister Bennet, petty and scholarly.


Catherine Bennett
The fourth sister of Bennet. She’s just as girlishly infatuated with the troops as Lydia is.

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