Eng 351

Nineteenth Century Novel




Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

 

SUMMARY

Mrs. Bennet has five daughters and a big problem: none of them are married, there isn't much fortune to go around, and—thanks to a quirk of English property law—they'll all be kicked out of their house when Mr. Bennet dies. Enter Mr. Bingley, a rich, single man who moves into their neighborhood and takes a liking to the eldest Miss Bennet, Jane.

But don't save the date quite yet: Mr. Bingley might be easygoing and pleasant, but his sisters are catty snobs and his controlling friend Mr. Darcy isn't about to let Mr. Bingley marry beneath him. When they all meet up at a local ball, Mr. Darcy lets everyone around him know just how dumb and boring he finds the whole thing—including our new BFF and protagonist, the second Bennet daughter, Elizabeth.

It's clear to everyone that Mr. Bingley is falling in love with Jane, but Jane keeps her feelings on the down low, against the advice of Lizzy's good friend Charlotte Lucas. And, surprising no one, Mr. Darcy finds himself strangely attracted to Lizzy. The two get even more opportunities to snip at each other when Lizzy goes to Mr. Bingley's house to nurse her sister, who's gotten sick on a wet horseback ride over for dinner.

And now it's time to meet Bachelor #3: Mr. Collins. As Mr. Bennet's closest male relative, Mr. Collins will inherit the estate after Mr. Bennet's death. Mr. Collins has decided that the nice thing to do is to marry one of the Bennet girls in order to preserve their home. Unfortunately, he's a complete fool and Lizzy hates him on sight. Also unfortunately, he sets his sights on her.

As for the two youngest Bennet sisters, the militia has arrived in town and they're ready to throw themselves at any military officers who wander their way—like Mr. Wickham, who rapidly befriends Elizabeth and tells her a sob story about how Mr. Darcy totally ruined his life, which Elizabeth is happy to believe. Oh, and Mr. Collins's boss, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, just so happens to be Mr. Darcy's aunt. Small world!

Not too long after this, all the Bennet girls (including middle sister Mary, who's too wrapped up in books to notice boys) head to a ball at Netherfield (a.k.a. Mr. Bingley's mansion). It's kind of awful. Darcy, of all people, asks Elizabeth to dance, and Lizzy's entire family is unbearably embarrassing—like her mom loudly announcing that they all expect Bingley to marry Jane.

But it gets worse when Mr. Collins proposes the next morning. Elizabeth refuses, obviously, but hold your pity: Charlotte Lucas shows up to "help out," by which we mean "get Collins to propose to her instead." It works, which is good news for the 27-year-old Charlotte, who's too poor and plain to expect anything better; but bad news for Elizabeth, who can't believe that her friend would actually marry the guy—even when Charlotte explains that she's really out of options, here.


And then more bad news arrives: Jane gets a letter from Miss Bingley basically breaking up with her on her brother's behalf. Jane is super bummed, and she goes to stay with her aunt and uncle in London to get over it (and just maybe see Bingley, who's off to the big city). Elizabeth travels too: she's off to visit the newly married Charlotte, who seems to be holding up well. One problem: Mr. Darcy is on his way to visit his aunt, who's also, you might remember, Mr. Collins's boss.

Darcy almost acts like he's glad to see Lizzy, and even comes to visit her at Charlotte's house, but Lizzy is not having it: she learns from Mr. Darcy's friend that Bingley was going to propose to Jane until Darcy intervened. And that's exactly the moment Darcy chooses to propose. Can you guess how it goes?

Not well. 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 has some choice things to say to him, and the next day he hands her a letter with the full story about Wickham (he's a liar, a gambler, and he tried to elope with Darcy's underage sister) and Jane (Darcy was convinced Jane was just a gold-digger). Cue emotional transformation.

When Lizzy gets him, she finds that Lydia, the youngest of the Bennet girls, has been invited to follow the officers to their next station in Brighton. Elizabeth thinks this is a Very Bad Idea, but Mr. Bennet overrules her. Big mistake, as we'll find out soon.

But first, it's time for Elizabeth to accompany her aunt and uncle on a trip to Derbyshire, which, incidentally, is where Mr. Darcy lives. Uh-oh! Oh, but he's out of town. Phew. They visit his estate (Pemberley) as tourists—you can do that kind of thing in England—and Lizzy is impressed. Darcy's housekeeper also has nothing but compliments for her master. Weird, right? It gets weirder when they run into Darcy who's home early, and he's actually polite and friendly.

Before we can start practicing our wedding toasts, disaster strikes: 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.

Here's the full story: Darcy saved the Bennet family's honor. He tracked down the couple and paid off Wickham's massive debts in exchange for Wickham marrying Lydia. Why would he possibly do that? Well, we have some ideas—but we don't get to find out right away. First, Bingley comes back and finally proposes to Jane. And then, Lady Catherine visits Longbourn to strong-arm Elizabeth into rejecting any proposal from Darcy, which obviously doesn't work.

When Lizzy and Darcy finally get some alone time on a walk, we get the moment we've all been waiting for: they clear up all their past misunderstandings, agree to get married, and then make out in the rain. (Oh wait, that was the movie version.)

And they all live happily ever after. More or less.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 1 Summary

·         Universal Truth #1 in nineteenth-century England: A rich, single man must want a wife. You have to leave the money to someone, after all.

·         When a single gentleman with a large fortune by the name of Bingley moves into a mansion called Netherfield Park, the news quickly spreads through the neighborhood via the neighborhood grapevine of gossipy women.

·         Mrs. Bennet badgers her husband about Mr. Bingley: He's so rich! He's so single! He'd make a great husband for one of our five daughters! Quick, go become best friends with him.

·         Mr. Bennet lets his wife do most of the talking, occasionally interjecting with some sarcastic wit such as: Well, gosh, you're so beautiful maybe Mr. Bingley will want you instead of our daughters.

·         Mrs. Bennet fails to realize the sarcasm.

·         We learn that Mrs. Bennet's only occupation in life is to get her daughters married.

·         We also get the impression that Mrs. Bennet is (how do we put this delicately?) really annoying.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 2 Summary

·         Mr. Bennet is one of the first men in the area to visit Mr. Bingley, but he does it behind his wife's back and teases his wife and daughters before letting the cat out of the bag.

·         The news sends all the women into a tizzy. (That's the technical word for it.) When will Mr. Bingley return the visit? Should they ask him to dinner? What would they serve at dinner? Will he like their hats?

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 3 Summary

·         Although the women of the house badger Mr. Bennet for more info, Mr. Bennet isn't giving it up easily.

·         Instead, the Bennet ladies get the deets from their neighbor, Lady Lucas, who reports that Mr. Bingley is handsome, easygoing, and loves dancing. Jackpot!

·         In accord with the societal norms of the day, Mr. Bingley returns Mr. Bennet's visit. The two men sit in the library for about ten minutes, which sounds super fun (not), but we do learn that Mr. Bingley has heard that the girls are pretty.

·         With all the niceties out of the way, Mrs. Bennet can finally invite Mr. Bingley to dinner. Bummer! He's going to be out of town.

·         This sends Mrs. Bennet into a flurry of: Why is he going into town? Will he always be traveling? Why doesn't he want to stay at Netherfield?

·         It's cool: Lady Lucas tells Mrs. Bennet that Mr. Bingley is going to London to bring back lots of guests for the upcoming public ball.

·         And by "lots" we mean four: his two sisters (one of whom is married), his brother-in-law, and a young man.

·         Ooh, a young man.

·         First, though, we have to get a description of Mr. Bingley and company.

·         Mr. Bingley is good looking and easygoing.

·         His sisters are fashionable snobs.

·         The brother-in-law is named Mr. Hurst, and he's a gentleman, which is apparently all there is to know about that.

·         But the young man is way more interesting: he's rich. Really rich.

·         Ooh, what a good-looking, nice, wonderful man, everyone says.

·         A little while later, everyone's all, "Ooh, what a jerk!"

·         So what happened?

·         Well, it turns out that Mr. Darcy (the guy) considers himself better than everyone else at the ball.

·         In all fairness, he's out in the boonies of England, which makes him the equivalent of a Manhattan socialite at a square dance.

·         Although Mr. Bingley is also, figuratively speaking, a Manhattan socialite at a rural square dance, and he delves right into the party. He talks to everyone, dances all night, and is bummed that the ball ends early. Solution: He'll throw his own ball!

·         Meanwhile, the locals can't stand Mr. Darcy. He dances only twice (once with each of Mr. Bingley's sisters), doesn't talk to anyone, and stalks around the drawing room, disapproving of everything.

·         Since there aren't enough guys to go around, Elizabeth has to sit out two of the dances. As she's sitting down and minding her own business, she overhears a conversation between Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy.

·         The conversation goes something like this:

·         Mr. Bingley: Hey, Darcy, there are some really gorgeous girls here. Why don't you go dance with some of them?

·         Mr. Darcy: Bingley, you're dancing with the only good-looking girl here, i.e. Elizabeth's older sister Jane.

·         Untrue! says Bingley. Jane's sister (Elizabeth) is available and also good-looking.

·         Mr. Darcy looks at Elizabeth and gives her the old once-over; he then turns to Mr. Bingley and delivers one of literature's most famous put-downs: "She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me."

·         Elizabeth just laughs it off and tells the story to all her friends.

·         Aside from that little incident, the entire Bennet family has a great time at the ball—except for Mr. Bennet, who never goes to balls.

·         At home, Mrs. Bennet immediately launches into a play-by-play of Mr. Bingley's movements and all his dance partners, until Mr. Bennet finally begs her to be quiet. Ladies' fashion isn't of much interest to him either. But Mr. Darcy's rudeness is something everyone can agree on.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 4 Summary

·         When Elizabeth and Jane are alone, we learn that Jane likes Mr. Bingley a lot more than she lets on.

·         We also learn a major difference between the sisters: Jane doesn't think much of herself, but she sure thinks highly of other people. And Lizzy, of course, is almost the exact opposite.

·         Jane even claims to have liked Mr. Bingley's sisters.

·         We then transition to descriptions of Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy who are coincidentally very similar to the sisters.

·         They're both good men, but Mr. Bingley tends to like people and be liked in return, while Mr. Darcy … not so much.

·         Like, Mr. Bingley claims to have never met a more agreeable, good-looking crowd of women than at the ball, but Mr. Darcy thinks—well, we've already learned what he thinks.

·         Fine, he'll admit that Jane is pretty. But she smiles too much. (Is that even a thing?)

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 5 Summary

·         Now we meet the Lucas family, who live close by and are close to the Bennet family.

·         Elizabeth in particular is very close to Charlotte Lucas, who is described as sensible, intelligent, in her late twenties, and unmarried. Gasp!

·         The day after the ball, the two families get together to gossip.

·         Mrs. Bennet fishes for compliments about her daughters, and Charlotte obliges: she overheard that Mr. Bingley thought Jane was the prettiest young woman at the ball.

·         Mr. Darcy not so much. But Jane informs the gossipers that Miss Bingley, Mr. Bingley's sister, told her that Mr. Darcy is really nice when you get to know him.

·         Mrs. Bennet refuses to hear a good word said about Mr. Darcy.

·         They discuss the difference between pride and vanity, concluding that pride is acceptable, as it is only your opinion about yourself, whereas vanity is caring about what others think about you.

·         Sounds solid.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 6 Summary

·         Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, Mr. Bingley's sisters, despise Mrs. Bennet and the younger daughters, preferring instead to spend time with Jane and Elizabeth.

·         Jane is flattered, but Elizabeth still sees the sisters as simply being incredibly snooty.

·         She also sees that Jane is falling for Bingley, but it's hard to tell because Jane is always perfectly composed.

·         Charlotte thinks this is a bad move. She tells Lizzy that Jane had better show some interest in Bingley in order to keep him interested.

·         Should they know each other better first?

·         Nah, Charlotte says. There's plenty of time after the wedding to get acquainted.

·         Elizabeth is so occupied watching Jane and Mr. Bingley that she doesn't notice when Mr. Darcy has begun to admire her. She does, however, notice him eavesdropping on her conversations. She doesn't like it —he has a "satirical eye," as she tells Charlotte.

·         Charlotte's father, Sir Lucas, entreats Elizabeth to dance with Mr. Darcy, but she refuses.

·         Mr. Darcy isn't exactly used to being refused, so that's pretty much the perfect way to get his attention.

·         While Mr. Darcy is contemplating Elizabeth, Miss Bingley strolls up hoping for a good snark. Instead, Mr. Darcy says he has been having a nice time admiring Elizabeth Bennet.

·         Oooh, Miss Bingley does not like that. We think someone might have designs on Mr. Darcy.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 7 Summary

·         A militia unit arrives at Meryton for the winter. Meryton is a town about a mile from Longbourn, where the Bennets live.

·         The two youngest Bennet girls, Catherine and Lydia, are super excited about all the men in uniforms.

·         Let's put it this way: If the military were a rock band, Catherine and Lydia would be the groupies plotting ways to sneak into the band's trailer.

·         Jane is invited to Netherfield to have lunch with Mr. Bingley's sisters, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, and Mrs. Bennet figures out a way to game that situation: Jane can go on horseback instead of in the carriage, so she'll have to stay overnight if it rains.

·         It works—a little too well. Jane gets so sick from her drenching that the Bingleys urge her to stay until she recovers.

·         Naturally, Lizzy walks three miles in the rain to Netherfield to check on Jane.

·         Everybody at Netherfield is surprised to see her, but Mr. Darcy sure thinks she looks pretty with her cheeks all flushed from the walk.

·         Jane is glad to see her, and Elizabeth even begins to like Mr. Bingley's sisters when she sees how affectionate they are towards Jane. They even ask Lizzy to stay overnight.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 8 Summary

·         Elizabeth is back to hating when she realizes that the only time the sisters care about Jane is when she's around—not when she's upstairs in bed, sick.

·         Miss Bingley is preoccupied with (1) capturing Mr. Darcy's attention and (2) ragging on Lizzy behind her back.

·         They totally don't believe she walked three miles just to help her sister. On top of that —horror of horrors —her petticoat was dirty when she arrived because she walked all that way through the mud.

·         Both the dudes defend her, but the women are too busy laughing about the fact that the Bennets have relatives who live in Cheapside, an unfashionable neighborhood in London. Apparently that totally dooms their marriage prospects.

·         When Elizabeth comes back, they move onto other conversation topics. Like Mr. Darcy's accomplished little sister.

·         So, what does it mean to be "accomplished," anyway?

·         A lot, apparently. Mr. Darcy suggests that very few women are truly accomplished —he himself knows of only about half a dozen that fit the definition. Miss Bingley defines such a woman as able to sing, draw, and dance, while Mr. Darcy adds that, on top of all of that, she should read a lot—and not Twilight, either. You know, serious stuff. Award-winning stuff.

·         Elizabeth rolls her eyes. She doesn't know any woman who has all those qualities of elegance, education, and taste.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 9 Summary

·         The next morning, Mrs. Bennet and the doctor Mr. Jones arrive. They decide that Jane isn't in real danger, but she'd still better stay at Netherfield.

·         Everyone congregates in the breakfast parlour, and it's immediately embarrassing.

·         Elizabeth tries to save her mother from her own foolish talk, but Mrs. Bennet just makes a fool of herself.

·         When the Bennets leave to go to Jane's room, the Bingley women start to gossip about them, but Mr. Darcy miraculously holds back.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 10 Summary

·         The next evening, we're treated to a conversation between Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley. Miss Bingley throws a steady stream of compliments and requests at Mr. Darcy, who keeps shutting her down.

·         Apparently Mr. Darcy is a good judge of character, too.

·         Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, and Elizabeth discuss the merits of changing your mind because a friend persuades you to. Mr. Darcy says that you're a fool if the only reason you yield to a friend's opinion is because they have that opinion.

·         In other words, don't act just to please somebody else. Elizabeth, alternatively, argues that a trusted friend's opinion should be enough to sway you.

·         Not to hit you over the head with it, but this discussion is foreshadowing later parts of the plot, like when Mr. Bingley will be persuaded by Mr. Darcy that Jane doesn't care about him, even though his own heart says otherwise.

·         Elizabeth notices how frequently Mr. Darcy looks at her, but figures he can't possibly be interested in her. Ergo, he's looking at her to find things to criticize.

·         The group listens to Mr. Bingley's sisters play the piano and Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth if she would like to dance. She ignores him and he repeats his request. She responds that she would rather not give him the pleasure of mocking her, so no, she will not dance with him.

·         Miss Bingley gets jealous, realizing that Mr. Darcy is beginning to get really interested in Elizabeth.

·         As for Mr. Darcy, he is "bewitched" but thankful that Elizabeth's social status is so beneath him that he can't possibly be tempted into any kind of serious relationship.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 11 Summary

·         That night after dinner, Jane emerges for a few hours. Mr. Bingley is so glad to see her, he hardly pays attention to anybody else.

·         Miss Bingley tries to keep Mr. Darcy's attention and fails. She pouts about Mr. Bingley's plan to give a ball at Netherfield—balls are so boring when the people who attend are so beneath you—but no dice.

·         Miss Bingley asks Elizabeth to parade up and down the room with her, since she wants Darcy to check her out and she knows that walking with Lizzy is the best way to do that.

·         When Miss Bingley asks Mr. Darcy to join them in walking up and down the room, he refuses, saying that it would ruin her reason for walking back and forth.

·         In other words, she is either sharing gossipy secrets with Elizabeth, or they realize that their figures look best when they are walking about and are trying to get attention. How could he possibly notice their fine figures if he joined them?

·         (And before you roll your eyes at thinking anyone could notice anyone's figures in those dresses, Regency dresses could actually be pretty form-fitting.)

·         Miss Bingley's strategy backfires when it turns into yet another opportunity for Darcy and Elizabeth to hate-flirt.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 12 Summary

·         Elizabeth is all about heading back to Longbourn; her mother is all about getting them to stay as long as possible.

·         She figures that the longer Jane is at Netherfield, the greater the chances are of a proposal from Mr. Bingley, so she actually refuses to send a carriage to bring her daughters home—which just means that Elizabeth and Jane have to bum a ride from the Bingleys.

·         After one more day of recovery, they're heading home. Miss Bingley is sad to see Jane go, but she practically pushes Lizzy out the door.

·         Knowing that he only has to control his passion for one more day, Darcy avoids Elizabeth like she has cooties.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 13 Summary

·         Mr. Bennet's distant cousin, Mr. Collins, comes to stay for a week.

·         Since he's a single man and cousin-marrying was all the rage, you'd expect the Bennets to be stoked about this visit. But they're not.

·         First, he's a clergyman—a pastor in the Church of England. Not nearly as sexy as being in the military.

·         Second, Mr. Collins has the inheritance rights to the Bennets' house because of this tricky little piece of law called "entail," and Mrs. Bennet is worried that he'll kick everybody out of it as soon as Mr. Bennet dies.

·         She also blames him for the entail because he's basically an idiot—which he is. But the entail still isn't his fault.

·         Mr. Collins has some good news: he has a new job at the church on Lady Catherine de Bourgh's estate.

·         This is a pretty sweet gig for a clergyman.

·         At dinner, he and Mrs. Bennet have a teeth-achingly awful conversation about how her daughters are so beautiful that he's sure they're going to be married soon; they'd better, or he's going to make them all destitute when he kicks them out of their house; but—wink, wink—he's prepared to admire them.

·         Mr. Collins thinks he's being vague, but everybody knows he's decided he will marry one of the Bennet girls.

·         Everyone immediately says "Not it."

·         Mr. Collins praises everything. A lot. And then apologizes a lot for praising the wrong things, like assuming that one of the girls helped cook.

·         Duh, Mr. Collins, they have servants.

·         Mrs. Bennet's opinion of Mr. Collins is rapidly improving.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 14 Summary

·         Mr. Collins thinks he's super lucky to have Lady Catherine as his patroness. She is a widow with a big estate and only one daughter.

·         Mr. Bennet thinks he's totally absurd, and he gets his kicks out of listening to him make a fool out of himself.

·         After dinner, Mr. Collins reads to the girls from a book of advice about how to be aproper woman (smile and shut up, basically).

·         Lydia, the youngest of the Bennet girls, is so not into it. Well, none of them are. But she actually shows it.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 15 Summary

·         Now that Mr. Collins has a good house and a good income, it's time to marry. His plan is to choose one of the Bennet daughters, which is his method of "atoning" for inheriting their father's estate.

·         We have to say, it's actually kind of a nice gesture—he just picked the wrong daughter.

·         He is interested in Jane at first, but Mrs. Bennet nips THAT right in the bud (Mr. Bingley is way more eligible), and he quickly switches his affections to Elizabeth.

·         Everyone except Mary walks into Meryton.

·         While in Meryton, the girls get excited about a super cute young soldier walking across the other side of the street with another soldier they know, Mr. Denny.

·         His name is Mr. Wickham and he's joining up. Squeee!

·         While the girls are talking to him, Darcy and Bingley ride up on horseback.

·         They chat for a while. Mr. Darcy is trying to avoid looking at Elizabeth when he notices Mr. Wickham.

·         Dun dun dun.

·         Elizabeth sees what happens: both of them change color (one picks white and the other one picks red), and they just barely tip their hats at each other, which is the Regency equivalent of flipping each other the bird.

·         The girls' aunt Mrs. Phillips lives in town, and they head over there to gossip with her about Mrs. Wickham.

·         While all that goes on, Jane and Lizzy wonder what the backstory is with Wickham and Darcy.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 16 Summary

·         The next evening, Mr. Collins and the girls go to the Phillips' house for a dinner party.

·         Mr. Wickham sits beside Elizabeth at dinner and they really hit it off.

·         Lydia has her eye on him, too, but the game of whist ends up being more attractive. For the moment.

·         Mr. Wickham explains that he's known the Darcy family since he was a baby.

·         Wait, what?

·         Elizabeth says that Darcy isn't too popular in these parts, and Wickham basically says, "Can you keep a secret?"

·         Well, obviously. Here's the gossip:

·         Wickham hasn't brought up to be in the military or even to have a job at all, but circumstances now dictate that he must.

·         Translation: he was supposed to be a gentleman, meaning that he didn't have to work for a living.

·         Clergymen were gentlemen too. (Sure, they technically had jobs, but most of them didn't work very hard. They left all that to their curates.)

·         So, Wickham was supposed to be a clergyman, and Mr. Darcy's father promised him the "living" on the Darcy estate.

·         Quick Brain Snack: the "living" of an estate was the church on an estate. Every major estate would have one, and some would have multiple. Wickham says that the elder Mr. Darcy promised him the "next presentation of the best living in his gift" (16.24), which implies that he had more than one. An estate owner could give the living to whoever he wanted; usually, it went to some sort of family member.

·         Anyway, the younger Mr. Darcy didn't honor the request, for reasons Wickham can't explain. According to Wickham, Darcy hates him.

·         Whoa! says Elizabeth. Somebody should expose Mr. Darcy for the awful man that he is.

·         Mr. Wickham won't do it; he has too much respect for the senior Mr. Darcy's memory.

·         But Darcy's sister is just as bad as her brother.

·         So, why does Mr. Bingley like him so much?

·         Maybe he doesn't know the truth, Mr. Wickham says. Mr. Darcy can please people if he tries.

·         Oh, and BTW, Lady Catherine is Mr. Darcy's aunt. Wickham says that Mr. Darcy will marry Lady Catherine's daughter, so that they can merge the two estates.

·         Lizzy gloats a little, thinking about how Miss Bingley keeps macking on Mr. Darcy.

·         And it looks like someone is developing a little crush on Wickham.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 17 Summary

·         Jane and Elizabeth discuss the Darcy-Wickham affair the next day.

·         Apparently, Lizzy can keep a secret, but not from Jane.

·         Jane decides it must have been a misunderstanding, but Elizabeth thinks that Mr. Bingley must not know what Mr. Darcy's really like.

·         Mr. Wickham wouldn't lie to her, obvs.

·         And now for some more exciting news: there's going to be a ball at Netherfield!

·         This is big news. Everyone gets to dress up, and Elizabeth is looking forward to seeing Mr. Wickham—and to seeing Mr. Darcy expose himself by being a jerk.

·         She's so excited that she even asks Mr. Collins if he's planning to come.

·         Okay, she's really just needling him a little, since some people thought that clergymen shouldn't dance.

·         But not our Mr. Collins. Not only does he plan to dance, he plans to ask Elizabeth for the first two dances—the two dances that she was planning on getting herself asked by Mr. Wickham for.

·         Oops. That backfired.

·         Elizabeth is starting to suspect that Mr. Collins has designs on her.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 18 Summary

·         But when it's time for the ball, Wickham isn't actually there at all.

·         Elizabeth is so bummed that she's actually surprised into saying yes when Darcy, of all people, asks her to dance.

·         By the time they hit the dance floor, however, she's recovered her confidence enough to make snide little remarks.

·         Darcy barely talks, so Elizabeth talks for him. She suggests that the two of them are similar—both of them love being unsociable and only talk if everyone will be amazed by their comment.

·         Darcy recognizes her sarcasm and tries to sweet talk her—which is about as awkward as you think it is—but Elizabeth can't help but mention her new acquaintance, Mr. Wickham.

·         Darcy says that Mr. Wickham has qualities that enable him to make friends but not to retain them.

·         Oh, says Lizzy, like how he lost your friendship?

·         Awk-ward.

·         The dance finally ends, and things don't improve: Miss Bingley prances up to tell Lizzy not to trust everything Mr. Wickham says, because it's not true at all.

·         Right—like Elizabeth is going to believe Miss Bingley.

·         Jane asks Mr. Bingley about it, too. He vouches for his friend's character, although he doesn't know anything about the Wickham story.

·         And then Mr. Collins discovers that Lady Catherine's nephew is at the ball and slides up to introduce himself.

·         Lizzy sees that Mr. Darcy is polite enough but obviously thinks the guy's disgusting; Mr. Collins, however, thinks he's made a big hit.

·         And then Mrs. Bennet brags loudly about how Jane is totally going to marry Mr. Bingley—in range of Mr. Darcy's hearing. Ugh, Mom.

·         And then, to make matters worse, her sister Mary sings not one but two songs—and she's mediocre, at best.

·         And then, Mr. Collins makes a loud speech about the duties of a clergyman and how it is always in good form to testify his respect towards anybody connected with his benefactress's (Lady Catherine's) family.

·         Elizabeth wonders if her family could possibly have embarrassed her any more. She's glad Jane and Mr. Bingley haven't noticed, but Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley's sisters have, which is bad enough.

·         As they leave, Mrs. Bennet invites the Bingleys to visit them at Longbourn, especially Mr. Bingley, who says he will come as soon as possible.

·         Mrs. Bennet leaves feeling good about things: Jane will be married to Mr. Bingley within a few months and that Elizabeth will soon be married to Mr. Collins.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 19 Summary

·         Elizabeth alone."

·         That's code for "I'm going to propose to your daughter now."

·         So, Mrs. Bennet clears her other daughters out of the room. Fast.

·         Mr. Collins gets down to business, proposing in a, well, businesslike manner.

·         He points out his extreme thoughtfulness in proposing to a Bennet girl because he's going to inherit their house one day.

·         He also points out that Elizabeth is poor and that he is generous.

·         Elizabeth tells him, Thanks, but no thanks.

·         Mr. Collins says, I get it! You really mean "ask me again later."

·         Elizabeth responds, No, I really mean "no."

·         Before she can sprint out of the room, Mr. Collins tells her that he understands feminine behavior, and he'll propose again soon.

·         Mr. Collins details his qualifications as a husband (there aren't many) and concludes by telling Elizabeth that he, again, doesn't believe her refusal is genuine. He thinks she's being an "elegant female."

·         In polite nineteenth-century British terms, Elizabeth tells him to get lost.

·         Mr. Collins calls her charming and says that she'll accept him after her parents pressure her.

·         Oh you guys, it's so romantic! Not.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 20 Summary

·         Mrs. Bennet starts congratulating them as soon as they leave the room.

·         Mr. Collins is all, Thanks! She said no, but I'm sure she's just trying to be a proper female!

·         Mrs. Bennet, being about an iota more perceptive than Mr. Collins, realizes that Elizabeth doesn't intend to marry Mr. Collins.

·         She freaks out and yells for her husband.

·         In the study, Mrs. Bennet threatens to never see Elizabeth again if she continues to refuse Mr. Collins, at which point Mr. Bennet threatens to never see Elizabeth again if she accepts Mr. Collins.

·         Tricky.

·         Meanwhile, Charlotte Lucas arrives. Very convenient, Miss Lucas.

·         Mr. Collins, completely confused about the reasons for his rejection, finally saves a little face and withdraws his proposal.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 21 Summary

·         The next day, after breakfast, the girls walk to Meryton, where Elizabeth finds out that Wickham couldn't bear to be in the same room as Mr. Darcy.

·         Elizabeth approves and, after he walks her home, she introduces him to her parents.

·         Not too long afterward, Jane receives a letter from Miss Bingley. At first, Jane tells Elizabeth that the letter says only that they (Mr. Bingley, Miss Bingley, and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst) have left Netherfield for London and do not intend to return soon.

·         It soon transpires, however, that they are also going to London to renew their acquaintance with Georgiana Darcy (Mr. Darcy's sister), who Miss Bingley has asisterly affection for.

·         Jane says, "Wow, what a good friend for telling me all this." Elizabeth says, "Wow, what a backstabber."

·         Elizabeth argues that Miss Bingley knows her brother is falling in love with Jane and wants to prevent him from marrying into the socially inferior Bennet family.

·         It's cool, though. Elizabeth is convinced that Mr. Bingley will return and ask Jane to marry him. But Jane isn't so sure.

·         To avoid a Mrs. Bennet freakout, they tell their mom only that the Bingley family has left. They leave out the part where they're not planning to return.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 22 Summary

·         Charlotte Lucas spends time talking to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth thinks Charlotte is simply helping out by distracting him, never dreaming that her friend is angling for a marriage proposal of her own.

·         But Mr. Collins proposes to Charlotte on the Saturday morning before he leaves for Hunsford, and she accepts.

·         Her acceptance is on purely practical grounds. He's a good man, with a good career, and she's not rich and not pretty.

·         Plus, she's twenty-seven, which—let's face it—is old.

·         Charlotte is a wee bit worried about how her friend's going to react, but the whole Lucas family is overjoyed.

·         Mr. Collins informs the Bennet family that night that he will accept their invitation for a speedy return visit, surprising all of them.

·         They think he means that he has turned his attentions towards one of the younger Bennet girls and they know that Mary would be willing to accept. (She's plain and bookish and actually sounds kind of perfect for him.)

·         The next morning, though, Charlotte arrives and spill the beans to Elizabeth.

·         Elizabeth is all idealistic and (as we'll find out later) twenty years old, but Charlotte is a realistic old maid.

·         It's a practical decision. She wants a comfortable home and not to be dependent on her parents or brothers to support her. Mr. Collins is really her best option.

·         Elizabeth finds it hard to believe that Charlotte would throw away every possibility of emotional satisfaction just to be married.

·         Given what we know about women's options at the beginning of the nineteenth century, we're not as surprised.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 23 Summary

·         When Sir William Lucas announces Charlotte's engagement, Mrs. Bennet is incensed. It takes her many months to forgive and cease being rude to the Lucases.

·         It doesn't help that Lady Lucas can't help gloating.

·         Day after day passes without hearing from Mr. Bingley. The girls, especially Jane, grow more uncomfortable about it. The only news they hear is that he will not be returning to Netherfield that winter.

·         Mrs. Bennet resents Charlotte, imagining that she plans to kick Mrs. Bennet and the girls out of the house as soon as Mr. Bennet dies.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 24 Summary

·         A letter from Miss Bingley arrives at long last, and it is clear that the Bingleys will not return for the winter.

·         Jane's matrimonial hopes are dashed.

·         Elizabeth spends a lot of time wondering what happened. Was Bingley waylaid by his sister? Did his friend Mr. Darcy convince him not to pay any more attention to Jane?

·         Jane is bummed, but says that she has nobody to reproach but herself.

·         Elizabeth declares that the world doesn't make sense: Bingley's loss of interest in Jane, Darcy's treatment of Wickham, and Charlotte's marriage to Mr. Collins. It's crazytown!

·         She tells Jane that she thinks Mr. Bingley was negatively influenced by his sisters and Mr. Darcy.

·         There's one bright spot: they're spending a lot of time with Wickham. The story of Mr. Darcy's treatment of him becomes widely known in town, so apparently he doesn't keep things as close to the vest as he claimed.

·         Everybody congratulates themselves on disliking Mr. Darcy before even knowing the story.

·         Jane is the only one who refuses to condemn Mr. Darcy, suggesting that there might be more to the story.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 25 Summary

·         Mrs. Bennet's brother and his wife, the Gardiners, arrive at Longbourn for a visit.

·         The Gardiners are awesome. Mrs. Gardiner talks to Lizzy about Jane, who isn't the type of girl to recover easily from the Mr. Bingley letdown. What about a change of scene? Would Jane like to come and stay with them in London for a while?

·         Mrs. Gardiner also notices the attraction between Elizabeth and Wickham and thinks it's kind of a problem.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 26 Summary

·         Mrs. Gardiner warns Elizabeth not to fall in love with Wickham.

·         Elizabeth admits that it wouldn't be a smart match, because he's basically broke with no potential to earn any money. But he's so cute! And funny! And she's only 20 years old!

·         But she does promise to not exactly encourage him.

·         The Gardiners and Jane leave for London, and Charlotte asks Elizabeth to come visit her in Hunsford, on Lady Catherine's estate.

·         Jane writes to say that she visited Miss Bingley and then was visited in return—but it's obvious that they're not going to be friends anymore. It's over. Mr. Bingley is gone forever.

·         Lizzy's love life isn't going so well, either: Wickham is flirting with another girl who has a lot more money.

·         Elizabeth realizes that she must not have been in love with Wickham, since she doesn't really care.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 27 Summary

·         In March, Elizabeth leaves to visit Charlotte in Hunsford, with some of Charlotte's family.

·         She visits Jane in London on the way, and Mrs. Gardiner lets Elizabeth know that Jane is still pretty bummed.

·         Mrs. Gardiner also takes back her approval of Wickham, arguing that it looks pretty bad that he suddenly started macking on a girl who recently inherited money.

·         Lizzy is actually a little hurt, but she cheers up quickly when her aunt suggests taking her on vacation that summer.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 28 Summary

·         Elizabeth and the Lucases arrive in Hunsford. Mr. Collins takes care to point out every lovely thing in his home, to really give Elizabeth the chance to regret that it's not hers.

·         It doesn't exactly work.

·         Charlotte takes her around the house and Elizabeth can tell that her friend actually likes her life. Particularly when she can forget that Mr. Collins is part of it.

·         The next day, Elizabeth sees Miss de Bourgh, Lady Catherine's daughter. She looks "sickly and cross" (28.18). Perfect for Mr. Darcy!

·         Charlotte lets them know that Miss de Bourgh has invited them all to dine at Rosings Park, the de Bourgh estate, the next day.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 29 Summary

  • Mr. Collins is super excited that the visitors will be able to see the splendor of his benefactress's estate.
  • Well, it's definitely splendid. The people aren't much to speak of: Lady Catherine is authoritative and snobby. Her daughter is thin, small, and sickly.
  • Lady Catherine is also, how do you say it, a total bore. She talks about everything from melons to cows, and she doesn't stop.
  • She grills Lizzy about her family and lectures Elizabeth for never having a governess, as if it were her fault for having negligent parents, or something.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 30 Summary

·         Lady Catherine is concerned with the tiniest details of her parish, and the Collinses spend a lot of time with her.

·         It's getting close to Easter, and they learn that Mr. Darcy is coming for a visit.

·         When Mr. Darcy arrives, Mr. Collins visits Rosings to meet him and then actually brings him back to visit the Collinses house, i.e. Elizabeth.

·         Charlotte, who is pretty savvy, realizes that he's coming to see Elizabeth and thanks her.

·         Mr. Darcy starts things off politely by asking how Elizabeth's family is doing, so Lizzy jolts him by asking if he's had the opportunity to see Jane who BTW has been in London for three months.

·         Obviously she knows he hasn't; she's just trying to see if he knows that she's been in town. But she can't tell.

·          

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 31 Summary

·         A week later, they're at Rosings.

·         Lady Catherine greets them, but it's clear that she'd rather talk to her nephews.

·         Nephews? Yep; Darcy's cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam is there, too, and very glad to see them.

·         Especially Elizabeth. He sits beside her and it kind of looks like they're flirting—so much that Darcy is practically glowering at them, and Lady Catherine wants to know what they're talking about.

·         They're talking about music, which leads to Lizzy being forced to perform on the piano.

·         Mr. Darcy is staring at her, so she stops playing to let him know that he can't intimidate her; she is too stubborn to let somebody else tell her what to do.

·         He almost laughs and tells her that she doesn't really believe what she's saying, and she laughs back.

·         There's some more flirting about how he behaved "shockingly" the first night they met by sitting out dances when there were ladies without partners, and how he's just shy.

·         Lizzy points out that she's not naturally good at the piano, but she doesn't blame the piano—she blames herself for not practicing more.

·         Speaking of practicing, Lady Catherine has some tips on that.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 32 Summary

·         Mr. Darcy comes to the Collins' house and finds Elizabeth alone. They have an awkward conversation.

·         When Charlotte returns, he stays for a few minutes, then makes his excuses and leaves.

·         Charlotte declares that he must be in love with Elizabeth to come calling in such a familiar way.

·         Elizabeth has a good chuckle about how absurd that is, but Charlotte's not so sure.

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 33 Summary

·         Elizabeth often meets Mr. Darcy while she's out walking.

·         She finds this an odd coincidence, especially since she had told him it was a favorite spot of hers, specifically so he'd avoid it.

·         Weird, right?

·         Darcy makes some comments that make her believe he is alluding to Fitzwilliam, and she wonders if Fitzwilliam is interested in her.

·         Elizabeth winces when Fitzwilliam comes to Charlotte's house one day and catches her alone.

·         Their discussion meanders from marriage to Miss Darcy. Elizabeth comments that, if she is like her older brother, she must like to get her own way.

·         Colonel Fitzwilliam looks at her closely and asks what she has heard to suppose that Miss Darcy is any trouble. Elizabeth says that she's heard nothing at all; she was teasing.

·         Then Fitzwilliam reveals that Darcy convinced Bingley not to make an imprudent marriage. There were, he states, some very strong objections against the young lady. Fitzwilliam clearly doesn't realize the "young lady" is Elizabeth's sister.

·         Elizabeth gets mad but tries not to show it. She guesses that the objections must be due to her family, that Jane does not come from the right social class.

·         Elizabeth grows increasingly upset until she has such a headache that she can't go to tea at Rosings with the Collinses.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 34 Summary

·         This is, obviously, the perfect time for Mr. Darcy to come see how she's doing—and then suddenly burst into a declaration of love.

·         She's stunned into silence, which he takes as a good sign—so he goes on about how he's tried to repress his interest in her because of her inferior position in life, which, dude. Way to propose.

·         The more he talks, the angrier Elizabeth gets.

·         She's planning to refuse him politely, but it's not very polite at all: she has no affectionate feelings for him, she announces, and she can't imagine saying yes to a man who is the reason that her sister is so unhappy.

·         Mr. Darcy tries to explain that he feels he did his friend (Mr. Bingley) a favor.

·         Elizabeth also points out that his behavior toward Wickham has been despicable.

·         Okay, says Mr. Darcy, maybe he shouldn't have led with how gross he finds her family—but he doesn't like to lie.

·         Elizabeth gets angrier and angrier and finally tells him, in short, that he is the last man in the world that she would marry. Oh, and also tells him that he's behaved in an "ungentlemanlike" manner (34.18), which is the nineteenth-century equivalent of an "F-you."

·         So he leaves.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 35 Summary

·         The next day, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy out on her walk. He has a letter for her.

·         In the letter, he says he realizes that he was wrong about Jane not loving Bingley, but he was worried about how everyone in the family was acting. (Except Jane and Lizzy, natch.)

·         He actually feels okay about what he did, except for the part where he didn't tell Bingley that Jane was in London.

·         As for Wickham, the story is actually totally different: Darcy gave Wickham the 1000 pounds that the elder Mr. Darcy left, and promised him the living eventually—but Wickham wanted to study law instead, and gave up claim to the living in exchange for 3000 pounds.

·         A few years later, Wickham showed up with no money, no law degree, a really bad reputation, and a burning desire to be ordained, i.e. become a clergyman—which Darcy refused.

·         But Wickham had a plan B: he wormed his way into the heart of Darcy's 15-year-old little sister Georgiana and tried to elope with her. Darcy found out just in time.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 36 Summary

·         We like to call this chapter "Elizabeth Realizes Her Idiocy."

·         When Elizabeth first reads Darcy's letter, she's still mad.

·         But then she goes for a long walk and reads it again (and again), realizing that Mr. Darcy might actually be completely blameless.

·         She tries to excuse Wickham by thinking about his good qualities, but, oops: he doesn't actually have any.

·         In fact, it was really inappropriate for Wickham to have brought up Mr. Darcy in the first place.

·         Plus, he waited until the Netherfield contingent had left before he started spreading his anti-Darcy story around.

·         Hmm. It's not looking good for Wickham.

·         Plus, Mr. Darcy might be kind of a jerk, but he's not actually immoral.

·         Cue another character transformation. Lizzy is suddenly ashamed of herself: she's been prejudiced against Darcy.

·         She even admits that Jane didn't act much like she loved Bingley.

·         There's still the little matter of him thinking her family is disgusting—but, um, he's actually right about that.

·         When she returns to the house, Elizabeth discovers that Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam had dropped by to say good-bye (they're heading out of town), and now they're gone.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 37 Summary

·         With the dudes gone, Lady Catherine is bored. She sends an invitation for Elizabeth and the Collinses to come visit.

·         But Elizabeth is too wound up in Darcy to pay much attention. She can't figure out how she feels: sometimes sorry for him, sometimes still mad.

·         But she's definitely sorry for the way she's acted.

·         She's also basically given up on ever making her family behave, and she's just sorry that it means Jane has lost the guy she loved because they're so embarrassing.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 38 Summary

·         Before Elizabeth can leave, she has to listen to Collins go on and on about how happy he is in his marriage, how he and Charlotte think with one mind, how fortunate they are to have Lady Catherine's patronage, etc.

·         Elizabeth and Jane meet up in London and travel home together, and Lizzy spends most of her time wondering how much to tell Jane.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 39 Summary

·         The girls meet their youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia, near the inn where they were to meet the Bennet carriage.

·         They eat together, while Lydia tells the latest news about Wickham: Mary King, the girl he was courting, has gone to stay with her uncle in Liverpool.

·         Lydia says Wickham is safe, but Elizabeth thinks Mary King is the safe one.

·         In fact, Lizzy notices that Lydia talks about Wickham an awful lot. Very suspicious.

·         At home, Lydia wants to go to Meryton, but Elizabeth nixes that idea. She doesn't want the town to talk about how the Bennet girls are barely home before they're running off to see men—plus, she really doesn't want to see Wickham.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 40 Summary

·         When Elizabeth is finally able to tell Jane about Mr. Darcy's proposal, Jane feels sorry for Mr. Darcy's disappointment.

·         Ugh, she would.

·         It's hard for her to believe Darcy's side of the Wickham story because she just wants to think the best of everyone, but finally she gives in.

·         Should Lizzy tell the town?

·         No, because then she'd have to expose Miss Darcy, which Mr. Darcy specifically asked her not to do.

·         One thing she doesn't tell Jane: the part about Bingley.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 41 Summary

·         The younger girls are depressed because the military regiment (i.e., the attractive men in uniform) will be leaving soon.

·         But good news! The wife of the regiment's colonel invites Lydia to go to Brightonwith them.

·         Brain Snack: Brighton is a beach town and really fashionable in the Regency, so it's kind of like heading to, oh, Ft. Lauderdale for spring break or something: parties, drinking, boys trying to get you to take your shirt off, that sort of thing.

·         Right, so you can tell that spring break + Lydia = really bad idea.

·         Lizzy points this out to her dad, but he's unswayed. He says it's better to let Lydia get her kicks out in Brighton rather than in Meryton, where she'll embarrass the family.

·         Uh, Lydia already embarrasses the family, she says.

·         Mr. Bennet can tell she's upset, but he says that Jane and Elizabeth's reputations cannot possibly be hurt by their three very silly sisters.

·         It's settled: Lydia's off, and Elizabeth can finally say good riddance to Wickham. He's really lost his charm for her.

·         She does get one dig in: she tells Wickham that she spent three weeks with Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. She lets Wickham know that she liked the colonel immensely, and adds that Mr. Darcy's personality and manners improve as she gets to know him better.

·         This is a really subtle way of telling him that she knows he's a lying liar.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 42 Summary

·         Elizabeth realizes that her parents don't exactly have a model marriage (you think?), and she feels bad that her father makes fun of his wife all the time.

·         This is a key moment for Lizzy, because she finally starts to see that her dad is partly to blame for the family, too. He could have intervened with the kids, helping to make sure the daughters grew up into respectable young women by, say, hiring a governess.

·         Instead, he just spends all his time in his library avoiding his wife.

·         Lydia is apparently having a grand time buying gowns and flirting in Brighton, and now it's time for Lizzy's second trip, her summer holiday with the Gardiners.

·         But there's a change of plans, and they're not going to the Lake Country after all: they're going to Derbyshire, which—dun dun dun—just so happens to be the location of Mr. Darcy's estate Pemberley.

·         Of course, Mrs. Gardiner wants to visit Pemberley.

·         Historical Context Lesson: Proper middle-class folk, like Elizabeth and her family, could visit grand estates belonging to people like Mr. Darcy. Think of it as their version of MTV Cribs, except they get to do it in person.

·         Elizabeth doesn't want to go, for obvious reasons.

·         It's cool, though: the chambermaid at their inn lets her know that the family isn't down for the summer, which means there's no risk of running into Darcy.

·         Cool! Field trip!

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 43 Summary

·         Elizabeth is nervous and excited as their carriage approaches Pemberley.

·         When the housekeeper shows them around, Elizabeth is delighted. It's all decked out in really good taste, and she can't help thinking that it could have been herhouse.

·         Then she checks herself, realizing that Darcy would never have let her invite her aunt and uncle to visit.

·         Mrs. Gardiner calls Elizabeth over to see a painting of Mr. Wickham, and the housekeeper explains that Wickham was a son of the late master's steward. He has gone in the army, she says, and has become very wild.

·         Also, Mr. Darcy is the best landlord and the best master EVAR. She really digs him.

·         She shows them the rooms Mr. Darcy set up specifically to make his sister happy.

·         Hm, thinks Elizabeth. Maybe she's really misjudged him.

·         They're just leaving the house to check out the gardens when …

·         It's Mr. Darcy!

·         !!1!!!!

·         Elizabeth manages not to run away and hide. Instead, she just blushes. So does he, but then he comes forward and greets her with total politeness.

·         In fact, she's never seen him act so nice. He asks about her family and—well, it's actually super awkward. But he's definitely trying.

·         They walk back to her aunt and uncle, and Mr. Darcy asks for an introduction.

·         She figures he can't possibly think they're related to her, because they look and act so nice, and a little part of her is looking forward to seeing him backtrack when he realizes who they are.

·         But he continues to be friendly and polite, even inviting Mr. Gardiner to come fish in his very own personal pond with his very own personal tackle.

·         Could Mr. Darcy possibly still love her??

·         Well, he's definitely inviting her to meet his sister, which is a pretty good sign. That's the biggest compliment he can pay her.

·         Later, the Gardiners insist that Mr. Darcy is perfect in every way, and they're a little surprised that his behavior differed so dramatically from Wickham's description.

·         Uh, says Elizabeth, it's possible that Wickham isn't as reliable as they had all believed.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 44 Summary

·         The very morning of Miss Darcy's arrival, she and Mr. Darcy come to call on Elizabeth and the Gardiners.

·         Lizzy is nervous, and the Gardiners realize that something is up. Like, Mr. Darcy might be in love with her.

·         Miss Darcy is totally sweet, just a little shy—but definitely not proud.

·         And now it's a real reunion, because Mr. Bingley shows up and is super excited to see them all. (And he's definitely not in love with Georgiana Darcy, which, if you ask us, is a good thing, because the girl is like 16 years old.)

·         Before they leave, the Darcys invite everyone to Pemberley for dinner the night after next.

·         Bingley says he has a lot to talk to Elizabeth about, like (hint, hint) her sister.

·         The Gardiners soon discover that people in Lambton have a great opinion of Darcy, while they don't have many kind words for Wickham.

·         Well, that's telling. If anybody would know whether Mr. Darcy is actually cruel and unjust, it would be the people who have lived near him (and probably paid rent to him) all his life.

·         Elizabeth thinks about Darcy all night. Mostly, she feels grateful—grateful that he's not holding her past behavior against her.

·         Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner decide that it would be polite to call on Miss Darcy the next morning.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 45 Summary

·         Elizabeth now realizes that Miss Bingley is so nasty because she's jealous, so she's not really looking forward to seeing her tomorrow morning.

·         But the visit is okay. Miss Darcy is friendly but shy, and the Bingley sisters are polite.

·         When Mr. Darcy walks in, Miss Bingley tries to get Lizzy to say something nice about Wickham.

·         Bad move. She doesn't know the whole Georgiana story, so she ends up looking really bad, while Elizabeth manages to answer politely.

·         Once they're gone, Miss Bingley starts ragging on Lizzy, but Miss Darcy won't join.

·         Neither will Darcy, who says that he thinks Elizabeth is one of the most attractive women he knows—which is just about what Miss Bingley deserves for being such a rhymes-with-itch.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 46 Summary

·         If you're thinking, "Boy, these characters spend a lot of time talking and walking and not much time running away for some illicit underage sex," then this chapter is for you: Lizzy gets two letters from Jane saying that Lydia has run off with Wickham.

·         The first letter says that they've gone to Scotland, where it was a lot easier to get married without, you know, permission.

·         And that's bad enough, but the second letter is worse: they haven't gone to Scotland but to London, i.e. Wickham isn't planning to marry her at all.

·         The idea is that he's convinced her to have sex with him by promising that they'll be married, and eventually he'll abandon her. She'll never be able to marry a respectable man, and her sisters might not, either.

·         Lizzy's just freaking out when Mr. Darcy comes in. She knows he'll understand, so she blurts out the whole story in tears.

·         This is majorly bad news for the Bennet family, who are going to be shamed for having a daughter run off like that.

·         It's also bad news for Lizzy, since Darcy is never going to be okay with marrying into a family like hers.

·         Elizabeth and the Gardiners head home immediately.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 47 Summary

·         As they head back home, the Gardiners try to put the best face on the situation.

·         They say Wickham can't possibly mean not to marry Lydia. Could he expect the regiment not to force him to marry her? Or kick him out?

·         Still, Elizabeth is not convinced. She knows Wickham will never marry a woman who has no money.

·         She says she has good reason to believe that he has no scruples to speak of.

·         At home, Mrs. Bennet is inconsolable and throwing fits. Mr. Bennet has gone off and Mrs. Bennet believes he will fight Wickham and die, and then the Collinses will move in to their house.

·         Mr. Gardiner assures her that he will go to London immediately to help Mr. Bennet find Lydia.

·         Everybody is really upset, but at least it looks like Lydia really did intend to marry Wickham.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 48 Summary

·         Public opinion turns against Wickham in about two seconds, and most of the action in this chapter happens through letters.

·         Mr. Gardiner writes to say he has tried to find out from Wickham's direct superior if he has any relatives or friends who might hide him in London; on second thought, though, Elizabeth might be in a better position than anybody to give that information, i.e. she knows Darcy.

·         They receive a letter from Mr. Collins, who says that Lydia's actions will forever ruin the chance that the other daughters will marry.

·         He congratulates himself on not marrying Elizabeth after all and suggests that they cut Lydia out of their life forever.

·         Nice guy, right? That's some real Christian compassion.

·         Mr. Gardiner writes again to say that things might be worse than feared—Mr. Wickham has gambling debts. Big ones. He's still looking, but Mr. Bennet is on his way home.

·         When he does get home, he says he's finally learned his lesson—which, great, but isn't it a little late for that?

·         Meanwhile, there's silence from Mr. Darcy.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 49 Summary

·         The good news: they've been found.

·         The bad news: they're not married.

·         The good news: as long as Mr. Bennet can promise to send them a little money every year, they will be.

·         Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth discuss the fact that somebody else, probably Mr. Gardiner, must have paid a great deal of money to convince Mr. Wickham to marry Lydia only asking for such a small annual sum.

·         He thinks that it probably cost at least 10,000 pounds to make Mr. Wickham marry Lydia.

·         Comparing sums of money isn't as straightforward as multiplying by whatever, but believe us: that is a ton of money. Darcy gets 10,000 pounds a year from his estates, so, take an enormous yearly income of today—high six or low seven figures—and that's probably how much money we're talking about.

·         (Want more speculation about money in Austen? Here's a cool article that translates some of those pounds into dollars—but 1989 dollars, so the amounts would be even higher today.)

·         Mrs. Bennet is delighted that her daughter will be married and figures that it's perfectly okay for Mr. Gardiner to pay for it. (To be fair, she doesn't realize exactly how money is at stake.)

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 50 Summary

·         Mr. Bennet had never saved money, assuming that he would eventually have a son who would then inherit the family estate.

·         Bad assumption. Instead, they had girl after girl after girl after girl after girl, at which point it was too late to start saving for the girls' future.

·         He writes a letter of thanks to his brother-in-law, Mr. Gardner, for essentially bribing Wickham into marrying Lydia and promising to pay him back.

·         Mrs. Bennet discusses the wedding plans, but Mr. Bennet says he will not give his daughter even the tiniest amount of money for wedding clothing, and he refuses to receive the couple at Longbourn.

·         Historical Context Lesson: "Receiving" someone is similar to diplomatic recognition. If no one receives you, you basically don't exist in their eyes.

·         Elizabeth begins to wish she had never told Mr. Darcy about the Lydia-Wickham situation, since everything is turning out okay, now.

·         In fact, she's starting to realize that Mr. Darcy is pretty much perfect for her.

·         Mr. Gardiner writes that Mr. Bennet should never mention the debt again. He also says that Wickham has been convinced to leave his regiment and joins the Regulars (another variety of military service) so he won't be settling nearby—a relief to everyone except Mrs. Bennet.

·         Eventually, the sisters convince Mr. Bennet to let Lydia come for a visit.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 51 Summary

·         When the couple arrives on their wedding day, everyone is shocked that they're acting as though they haven't just committed a huge social mistake. (Everyone except Mrs. Bennet, that is.)

·         They act like everything is totally normal—especially Lydia, who loves gloating about being married.

·         Boy, we are glad that Lydia didn't have a Facebook account. Can you imagine?

·         Wickham, unsurprisingly, doesn't seem as into Lydia.

·         Oh, and Lydia has some surprising news. Mr. Darcy was at her wedding.

·         Whaaaaaa?

·         Oh LOL, she wasn't supposed to have said anything at all but the damage is done now, teehee!

·         Elizabeth refuses to give Lydia the satisfaction of knowing she wants to hear more, so she writes to her aunt instead.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 52 Summary

·         Here's the story, as told by Mrs. Gardiner:

·         Mr. Darcy left his house a day after Elizabeth had. He went to London and located Mr. Wickham and Lydia.

·         Darcy tried to convince Lydia to leave Mr. Wickham, but she wouldn't, assuming they would marry at some time or another.

·         Wickham, however, was definitely not keen on the idea of marrying Lydia, since he was still planning to marry rich.

·         So, Darcy settled Wickham's debts and gave him a fortune to marry Lydia.

·         This is all super secret, BTW. And Mrs. Gardiner makes sure to mention what a gentleman Darcy was about the whole thing.

·         Elizabeth has a lot of feels about this.

·         More than anything, she's grateful: Mr. Darcy met with a man he despised and bribed him to do the right thing for a girl who Mr. Darcy couldn't respect.

·         Could he possibly have done it for her?

·         She goes out walking and Wickham joins her. He fishes around to find out what she knows about his past. Elizabeth admits to him what she knows, but in a genteel manner, and she basically tells him to drop it.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 53 Summary

·         Wickham is so satisfied with this conversation that he never bothers dear Elizabeth again.

·         Elizabeth is thankful that she's figured out how to shut him up.

·         When the happy couple leaves, everyone except Mrs. Bennet (and Kitty) is relieved.

·         And now for some good news: at long last, Bingley is coming back to Netherfield.

·         Mrs. Bennet pressures her husband to visit Bingley. Mr. Bennet agrees, but only after some sighing about how Mrs. Bennet promised that, if he did this last year, it would result in one of his daughters getting married, but that hasn't happened.

·         But he doesn't have to bother himself about it, because Mr. Bingley not only arrives at Netherfield, but comes calling only three days later. Mr. Darcy's with him, too. Awkward!

·         They sit around silently together, until Mrs. Bennet starts prattling on foolishly about her youngest daughter's marriage to George Wickham and being as embarrassing as usual.

·         When the men leave, Mrs. Bennet invites them to return for dinner soon, and they must really like the Bennet girls, because they actually accept.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 54 Summary

·         Elizabeth mopes around. Why did Darcy come at all if he was just going to be silent and serious?

·         She decides she won't think about him anymore.

·         That resolution lasts about five minutes.

·         When Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy come for dinner, it's clear that Mr. Bingley and Jane are totally into each other.

·         Mr. Darcy has to sit next to Mrs. Bennet. The two simply endure each other.

·         Elizabeth hopes all evening that she'll get a chance to speak to Mr. Darcy but, alas, like any good romance, she gets thwarted at every turn.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 55 Summary

·         A few days later, Bingley comes for dinner all by his lonesome.

·         After dinner, Mrs. Bennet manages to maneuver them all out of the room so Jane and Bingley can be alone.

·         This is super embarrassing to Jane and Elizabeth, and it doesn't work.

·         So obviously, she tries it again the next evening. And it works! Bingley proposes.

·         Woohoo! Now come lots of congratulations and happiness and Mr. Bennet's teasing.

·         Mr. Bingley starts coming every day and, when he and Jane aren't attached at the hip, one of them is talking Elizabeth's ear off.

·         Jane wishes that Elizabeth could be as happy. Elizabeth says that it's impossible —she's not made like Jane.

·         In her own dry manner, Elizabeth says she only hopes that she may have good enough luck to find another Mr. Collins. Hah!

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 56 Summary

·         The great Lady Catherine makes a surprise visit to the Bennet home to strong-arm Elizabeth into promising not to become engaged to Mr. Darcy, who Lady Catherine claims is engaged to her daughter.

·         Are they engaged? Elizabeth enquires.

·         Well, no, Lady Catherine hems and haws, but there has always been anunderstanding… the two mothers always wished it…but no, they're not actually engaged.

·         Well, neither is she, Elizabeth says. But she's sure not going to make Lady Catherine any promises.

·         Lady Catherine leaves in a huff, but only after declaring how ungrateful Elizabeth is after all she did for her while visiting the Collinses.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 57 Summary

·         Elizabeth can't help but wonder where Lady Catherine's extraordinary idea came from.

·         She finds out the next morning, when Mr. Bennet calls Elizabeth into his study to congratulate her on her connection to Mr. Darcy.

·         Apparently Mr. Collins has written to (1) congratulate Mr. Bennet on Jane's engagement and (2) warn him that Lady Catherine isn't too happy about Elizabeth's engagement to Mr. Darcy.

·         Mr. Bennet thinks this is totally hilarious, since they obviously hate each other.

·         (But we have to wonder: where did Collins get this idea? From Charlotte?)

·         Elizabeth laughs too, even though she really wants to cry.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 58 Summary

·         The moment you've all been waiting for: Colin Firth takes off his shirt.

·         Sorry, no. That was the movie.

·         But what happens in this chapter is even better!

·         Mr. Darcy comes back from London, where he's been staying, and he and Mr. Bingley go out walking with Jane and Elizabeth.

·         As soon as she finds herself alone with Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth starts thanking him on behalf of her family.

·         It was all for you, he says. And he wants to know if she feels the same way about him as she did last April.

·         He feels the same, i.e. he still loves her.

·         Elizabeth, of course, lets him know that she is completely in love with him, although she does it in an incredibly roundabout way.

·         She soon learns that it was his aunt that clued him in to Elizabeth's change of heart.

·         Lady Catherine called on him in London on her way back to her estate and told him the details of her conversation with Elizabeth, hoping to convince him that Elizabeth was unsuitable as a wife.

·         Instead, she just managed to convince him that Lizzy liked him.

·         Okay, this isn't exactly making out in the rain, but it's still a really sweet love scene. You should check it out.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 59 Summary

·         That evening, while the family talks and plays together, Elizabeth wonders how she'll tell her parents about her engagement.

·         She starts by telling Jane, who is confused—doesn't Lizzy hate Darcy?—but happy for her once Lizzy explains that she actually loves the guy.

·         They stay up half the night talking and Elizabeth also reveals Darcy's role in Lydia's marriage.

·         The next morning, Bingley finagles it so that Darcy and Elizabeth are able to go for a long walk together—alone.

·         Mrs. Bennet apologizes to Elizabeth that she has to spend so much time with the nasty Mr. Darcy but "it is only for Jane's sake" so that she can spend time alone with Mr. Bingley.

·         On their long walk, Elizabeth and Darcy decide he will talk to Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth will talk to her mother.

·         Elizabeth doesn't know whether her mother will be happy because Mr. Darcy is fabulously wealthy, or unhappy because she doesn't like him.

·         After Mr. Darcy returns from her father's study, she goes in so he can make sure that she's not just marrying him for his money.

·         Elizabeth's all, "But you don't know what he's really like!" Finally, Mr. Bennet gives his blessing.

·         Then, and only then, Elizabeth tells him what Darcy did for Lydia.

·         Now it is up to Elizabeth to convince her mother. At first, she doesn't say anything—not a word, not a single syllable.

·         And then she begins to fuss about how rich Elizabeth will be; she is so happy, so charmed, such a nice handsome man, so tall! And so rich!

·         The best part is that Mrs. Bennet is so in awe of Darcy that she says almost nothing to him the next day, except to defer to his opinion.

·         Mr. Bennet claims that Wickham is his favorite son-in-law (sarcasm at work here), but he likes Mr. Darcy already, just as much as he likes Mr. Bingley.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 60 Summary

·         Elizabeth soon gets over her shyness and becomes playful and flirty again.

·         She asks Mr. Darcy how he came to fall in love with her. It's the sort of lovey-dovey talk that never gets old between two new lovers but is extremely tiresome to everyone else, so we won't recap it—but definitely check it out for yourself.

·         One thing Lizzy says is that she's pretty sure what Darcy liked about her was that she didn't fawn all over him, like other women.

·         We also find out in this chapter that Mr. Bennet really enjoys letting Mr. Collins know that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are, in fact, engaged.

·         He advises Mr. Collins to remain in good standing with Mr. Darcy, who has, ahem, a lot more money than Lady Catherine.

 

Pride and Prejudice Chapter 61 Summary

·         The narrator wishes she could tell us that, with three daughters married, Mrs. Bennet became sensible, friendly, and happy —but no.

·         There's good news for some of our other characters, though:

·         Mr. Bennet misses Elizabeth a great deal and makes many surprise visits to Pemberley.

·         Mr. Bingley and Jane buy property near the Darcys, as far away from the other Bennets as possible.

·         Kitty improves by spending a lot of time with Jane and Elizabeth, and Mr. Bennet keeps her from visiting Lydia (who promises lots of dances and young men).

·         Mary stays at home and grows out of her bookish ways.

·         Lydia writes to Elizabeth, saying that it is so wonderful she is so rich and hopes that, when Elizabeth has some spare time or nothing better to do, she will think of them (and give them money).

·         Elizabeth decides she has many better things to do and writes a firm response to Lydia to put a stop to such requests. She does occasionally send some money, and Darcy helps Wickham out in his career—although obviously he's not welcome at Pemberley.

·         Lady Catherine eventually gives up her grudge, as does Miss Bingley. (Ten thousand pounds a year will win you a lot of friends.)

·         And the Gardiners are always welcome: they're the ones who brought Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth back together again in the first place.

 

Themes

Love

Pride and Prejudice contains one of the most cherished love stories in English literature: the courtship between Darcy and Elizabeth. As in any good love story, the lovers must elude and overcome numerous stumbling blocks, beginning with the tensions caused by the lovers’ own personal qualities. Elizabeth’s pride makes her misjudge Darcy on the basis of a poor first impression, while Darcy’s prejudice against Elizabeth’s poor social standing blinds him, for a time, to her many virtues. (Of course, one could also say that Elizabeth is guilty of prejudice and Darcy of pride—the title cuts both ways.) Austen, meanwhile, poses countless smaller obstacles to the realization of the love between Elizabeth and Darcy, including Lady Catherine’s attempt to control her nephew, Miss Bingley’s snobbery, Mrs. Bennet’s idiocy, and Wickham’s deceit. In each case, anxieties about social connections, or the desire for better social connections, interfere with the workings of love. Darcy and Elizabeth’s realization of a mutual and tender love seems to imply that Austen views love as something independent of these social forces, as something that can be captured if only an individual is able to escape the warping effects of hierarchical society. Austen does sound some more realist (or, one could say, cynical) notes about love, using the character of Charlotte Lucas, who marries the buffoon Mr. Collins for his money, to demonstrate that the heart does not always dictate marriage. Yet with her central characters, Austen suggests that true love is a force separate from society and one that can conquer even the most difficult of circumstances.

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, and 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

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.

 

Analysis of Major Characters

Elizabeth Bennet

The second daughter in the Bennet family, and the most intelligent and quick-witted, Elizabeth is the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice and one of the most well-known female characters in English literature. Her admirable qualities are numerous—she is lovely, clever, and, in a novel defined by dialogue, she converses as brilliantly as anyone. Her honesty, virtue, and lively wit enable her to rise above the nonsense and bad behavior that pervade her class-bound and often spiteful society. Nevertheless, her sharp tongue and tendency to make hasty judgments often lead her astray; Pride and Prejudice is essentially the story of how she (and her true love, Darcy) overcome all obstacles—including their own personal failings—to find romantic happiness. Elizabeth must not only cope with a hopeless mother, a distant father, two badly behaved younger siblings, and several snobbish, antagonizing females, she must also overcome her own mistaken impressions of Darcy, which initially lead her to reject his proposals of marriage. Her charms are sufficient to keep him interested, fortunately, while she navigates familial and social turmoil. As she gradually comes to recognize the nobility of Darcy’s character, she realizes the error of her initial prejudice against him.

Fitzwilliam Darcy

The son of a wealthy, well-established family and the master of the great estate of Pemberley, Darcy is Elizabeth’s male counterpart. The narrator relates Elizabeth’s point of view of events more often than Darcy’s, so Elizabeth often seems a more sympathetic figure. The reader eventually realizes, however, that Darcy is her ideal match. Intelligent and forthright, he too has a tendency to judge too hastily and harshly, and his high birth and wealth make him overly proud and overly conscious of his social status. Indeed, his haughtiness makes him initially bungle his courtship. When he proposes to her, for instance, he dwells more on how unsuitable a match she is than on her charms, beauty, or anything else complimentary. Her rejection of his advances builds a kind of humility in him. Darcy demonstrates his continued devotion to Elizabeth, in spite of his distaste for her low connections, when he rescues Lydia and the entire Bennet family from disgrace, and when he goes against the wishes of his haughty aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, by continuing to pursue Elizabeth. Darcy proves himself worthy of Elizabeth, and she ends up repenting her earlier, overly harsh judgment of him.

Jane Bennet and Charles Bingley

Elizabeth’s beautiful elder sister and Darcy’s wealthy best friend, Jane and Bingley engage in a courtship that occupies a central place in the novel. They first meet at the ball in Meryton and enjoy an immediate mutual attraction. They are spoken of as a potential couple throughout the book, long before anyone imagines that Darcy and Elizabeth might marry. Despite their centrality to the narrative, they are vague characters, sketched by Austen rather than carefully drawn. Indeed, they are so similar in nature and behavior that they can be described together: both are cheerful, friendly, and good-natured, always ready to think the best of others; they lack entirely the prickly egotism of Elizabeth and Darcy. Jane’s gentle spirit serves as a foil for her sister’s fiery, contentious nature, while Bingley’s eager friendliness contrasts with Darcy’s stiff pride. Their principal characteristics are goodwill and compatibility, and the contrast of their romance with that of Darcy and Elizabeth is remarkable. Jane and Bingley exhibit to the reader true love unhampered by either pride or prejudice, though in their simple goodness, they also demonstrate that such a love is mildly dull.

Mr. Bennet

Mr. Bennet is the patriarch of the Bennet household—the husband of Mrs. Bennet and the father of Jane, Elizabeth, Lydia, Kitty, and Mary. He is a man driven to exasperation by his ridiculous wife and difficult daughters. He reacts by withdrawing from his family and assuming a detached attitude punctuated by bursts of sarcastic humor. He is closest to Elizabeth because they are the two most intelligent Bennets. Initially, his dry wit and self-possession in the face of his wife’s hysteria make him a sympathetic figure, but, though he remains likable throughout, the reader gradually loses respect for him as it becomes clear that the price of his detachment is considerable. Detached from his family, he is a weak father and, at critical moments, fails his family. In particular, his foolish indulgence of Lydia’s immature behavior nearly leads to general disgrace when she elopes with Wickham. Further, upon her disappearance, he proves largely ineffective. It is left to Mr. Gardiner and Darcy to track Lydia down and rectify the situation. Ultimately, Mr. Bennet would rather withdraw from the world than cope with it.

Mrs. Bennet

Mrs. Bennet is a miraculously tiresome character. Noisy and foolish, she is a woman consumed by the desire to see her daughters married and seems to care for nothing else in the world. Ironically, her single-minded pursuit of this goal tends to backfire, as her lack of social graces alienates the very people (Darcy and Bingley) whom she tries desperately to attract. Austen uses her continually to highlight the necessity of marriage for young women. Mrs. Bennet also serves as a middle-class counterpoint to such upper-class snobs as Lady Catherine and Miss Bingley, demonstrating that foolishness can be found at every level of society. In the end, however, Mrs. Bennet proves such an unattractive figure, lacking redeeming characteristics of any kind, that some readers have accused Austen of unfairness in portraying her—as if Austen, like Mr. Bennet, took perverse pleasure in poking fun at a woman already scorned as a result of her ill breeding.

 

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28

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