Austen, Jane "Pride and Prejudice"

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen (1775
- 1817)

Type of Work:

Study of manners

Setting

Rural England; early nineteenth century

Principal Characters

Mr. Bennet, father of five daughters

Mrs. Bennet, his opinionated wife

Elizabeth, their intelligent middle daughter,
and Mr. Bennet's favorite child

Jane, Elizabeth's beautiful older sister

Lydia, the Bennet's impetuous youngest
daughter

Mr. Binglcy, Jane's rich and amiable suitor

Mr. Darcy, Bingley's arrogant and wealthy
friend

Reverend Collins, a conceited bore

Mr. Wickman,an army officer

Story Overveiw

Mrs. Bennet felt delighted that Netherfield,
a nearby estate, was again rented, and was especially pleased upon hearing
that its new occupant, Mr. Bingley, was single and rich. "What a fine thing
for our girls!" she beamed. She begged her husband to go make the acquaintance
of their new neighbor, and, after some teasing, Mr. Bennet did pay Bing
ley a call. Mr. Bingley soon returned the visit but did not manage to meet
any of the beautiful young women he had heard so much about. His interest
piqued, he soon invited the entire Bennet family to dine.

Everyone at the dinner party was impressed
with Bingley's fine appearance and gracious manners. However, his close
friend, Mr. Darcy, though handsome and well-to-do, was not viewed so favorably.

"His manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity." His
pride ruled and ruined his conversation - particularly for Elizabeth. When

Bingley suggested that Darcy ask Elizabeth to dance, Elizabeth indignantly
overheard Mr. Darcy rep ly that she was "tolerable; but not handsome enough
to tempt me." However, Bingley and Jane Bennet were soon drawn to one another,
even though Mr. Bingley's two haughty sisters saw Jane as much beneath
their brother. They pretended great fondness for Jane, but Elizabeth easily
saw their hypocrisy.

The following day, as the Bennet women
sat and discussed the prior evening's party, all were in agreement as to
both Bingley's charm and Darcy's coarseness. "I could easily forgive his
pride," Elizabeth huffed, "if he had not mortified mine."

In a matter of days, the ladies of Netherfield
and those of the Bennet's Longbourne estate had exchanged visits. "By Jane
this attention was received with great pleasure; but Elizabeth still saw
superciliousness in their treatment of everybody ... and could not like
them." Bingley's sisters took an equal dislike to Elizabeth.

One morning Jane received an invitation
from the Bingley girls to spend the day. Mrs. Bennet viewed this as an
opportunity for Jane and Mr. Bingley to get better acquainted. "It seems
likely to rain," she said hopefully, "and then you must spend the night."

Elizabeth, on the following day, received
a note from Jane explaining that she had contracted a fever. When Elizabeth
arrived at Netherfield after a muddy three-mile walk, she was quite a sight,

"with weary ankles, dirty stockings, and a face glowing with the warmth
of exercise." The Bingley sisters giggled, but Mr. Darcy seemed concerned
to see her in that state. Privately, he found her charming, though, of
course, still inferior due to her family connections.

Elizabeth immediately set about attending
to her sister's needs. The two girls were compelled to remain a few days
at Netherfield.

One evening Elizabeth sat quietly reading
a book in the home's front room. She was quick to notice that one of Bingley's
sisters seemed quite fond of Mr. Darcy. As Darcy sat writing a letter,
this girl insisted on complimenting him "either on his handwriting, or
on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter." Mr. Darcy
strained to ignore her comments, which greatly amused Elizabeth. Elizabeth
and Mr. Darcy also bantered back and forth, with Elizabeth usually coming
out on top. With Jane recovered from her illness, the Bennet women returned
home. And soon, the Bennets had a visitor of their own. The Reverend Collins
had written his distant cousin at Longbourne to request the pleasure of
a brief visit, and Mr. Bennet was inclined to honor the request. At first

Mrs. Bennet was unhappy with the prospect of Collins' visit; since the

Bennets had no male children, Collins stood next in line to inherit their
estate, and she felt certain that he was coming to lord it over his cousins.

But when the letter went on to explain that the Reverend's intent was to
seek a suitable wife among the daughters, Mrs. Bennet's attitude quickly
changed.

Mr. Collins arrived. However, his advances
toward the Bennet girls lacked both grace and wit. When Collins saw that

Jane, his first choice, had no interest in him, he turned his eye toward

Elizabeth, who did not fail to detect the ease with which he changed his
affections.

During this period the Bennets were invited
to their uncle's estate for a party. One guest, a Mr.