Friday, 28 October 2011

Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice  
PrideAndPrejudiceTitlePage.jpg
Author(s) Jane Austen
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Novel of manners, Satire
Publisher T. Egerton, Whitehall
Publication date 28 January 1813
Media type Print (Hardback, 3 volumes)
ISBN NA
Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen, first published in 1813. The story follows the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education and marriage in the society of the landed gentry of early 19th-century England. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a country gentleman, living near the fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire, near London.
Though the story is set at the turn of the 19th century, it retains a fascination for modern readers, continuing near the top of lists of 'most loved books' such as The Big Read.[1] It has become one of the most popular novels in English literature, and receives considerable attention from literary scholars. Modern interest in the book has resulted in a number of dramatic adaptations and an abundance of novels and stories imitating Austen's memorable characters or themes. To date, the book has sold some 20 million copies worldwide.[2]

Contents

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[edit] Plot summary

The narrative opens with Mr Bingley, a wealthy young bachelor, moving into Netherfield Park in the neighbourhood of the Bennet family (who live at Longbourne). Mr Bingley is soon well-received, while his friend Mr Darcy makes a less favourable first impression by appearing proud and condescending. When Elizabeth Bennet overhears herself slighted by Mr Darcy, she forms a prejudice against him. Mr Bingley singles out Elizabeth's elder sister, Jane, for particular attention and it soon becomes apparent that they have formed an attachment to one another.
On paying a visit to Mr Bingley's sister, Jane is caught in a heavy downpour, catches cold and is forced to stay at Netherfield for several days. Elizabeth arrives to nurse her sister and is thrown into frequent company with Mr Darcy who begins to perceive his attachment to her.
Illustration by Hugh Thomson representing Mr Collins protesting he never reads novels.
The Bennets' cousin (and heir to Mr Bennet as daughters could not inherit) Mr Collins, a clergyman, pays a visit to the Bennets. Everyone is much amused by his obsequious veneration of his employer, the noble Lady Catherine de Bourgh, as well as by his self-important and pedantic nature (with Mr Bennet and Elizabeth being rather repulsed by it). It soon becomes apparent that Mr Collins has come to Longbourne to choose a wife from among the Bennet sisters and Elizabeth has been singled out. At the same time, Elizabeth forms an acquaintance with Mr Wickham, a militia officer stationed in the village who claims to have been very seriously mistreated by Mr Darcy, despite having been a ward of Mr Darcy's father. This tale, and Elizabeth's attraction to Mr Wickham, adds fuel to her dislike of Mr Darcy.
At a ball given by Mr Bingley at Netherfield, Mr Darcy becomes aware of a general expectation that Mr Bingley and Jane will marry. Meanwhile, the Bennet family, with the exception of Jane and Elizabeth, make a public display of poor manners and decorum, much to Elizabeth's embarrassment and Darcy's disgust. The following morning, Mr Collins proposes marriage to Elizabeth, who refuses him, much to her mother's distress as the five daughters are facing a future as penniless spinsters upon their father's death. Mr Collins recovers and promptly becomes engaged to Elizabeth's close friend, Charlotte, who justifies her decision to an outraged Elizabeth by pointing out that Mr Collins is a good, respectful, well-employed man and she doesn't want to become the ridiculed spinster-figure Elizabeth's mother fears. Mr Bingley abruptly quits Netherfield and returns to London, and Elizabeth is convinced that Mr Darcy and Mr Bingley's sister have conspired to separate him from Jane.
In the spring, Elizabeth visits Charlotte and Mr Collins. Elizabeth and her hosts are frequently invited to Rosings Park, home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who also happens to be Mr Darcy's aunt, and soon Mr Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam arrive to visit. Mr Darcy finds himself, again, attracted to Elizabeth and proposes to her, albeit while belittling and insulting her family. Elizabeth, however, has recently learned from Colonel Fitzwilliam of Mr Darcy's role in separating Mr Bingley and Jane and she angrily rebukes him. During a heated discussion, Elizabeth charges him with pride, with destroying her sister's happiness, with his disgraceful treatment of Mr Wickham, and with having conducted himself in an ungentlemanly manner. Mr Darcy responds with a letter clearing himself and showing that the blame lies with Mr Wickham, proving Wickham to be a liar and philanderer who tried to seduce Darcy's younger sister (Georgiana) to profit from her dowery after he wasted his own inheritance. Regarding Mr Bingley and Jane, Mr Darcy claims that he had observed in Jane no reciprocal interest in Mr Bingley. Upon reading the letter, Elizabeth comes to acknowledge the truth of Mr Darcy's assertions.
Elizabeth tells her father that Darcy was responsible for uniting Lydia and Wickham. This is one of the two earliest illustrations of Pride and Prejudice.[3] The clothing styles reflect the time the illustration was engraved (the 1830s), not the time the novel was written or set.
Some months later, while on a holiday, Elizabeth and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner visit Pemberley, Mr Darcy's estate, believing him absent, when he returns unexpectedly. Although surprised to find her there, Mr Darcy appears gracious and welcoming, and treats the Gardiners with great civility. Mr Darcy introduces Elizabeth to his sister and Elizabeth begins to realise her attraction to Mr Darcy. Their renewed acquaintance, however, is cut short by news that Lydia, Elizabeth's youngest sister, has run away with Mr Wickham. Elizabeth and the Gardiners return to Longbourne, where Elizabeth grieves that her acquaintance with Mr Darcy will end because of her sister's disgrace.
Lydia and Mr Wickham are soon found by Uncle Gardiner, upon which Wickham is forced to marry Lydia (much to Lydia's delight) to try to stem the tide of disgrace. Upon visiting her family, a gleeful Lydia discloses that Mr Darcy was present at her wedding while boasting to her sisters. Elizabeth finds that Mr Darcy was responsible for finding the couple and arranging their marriage, at great expense to himself. Soon after, Mr Bingley returns to Longbourne and proposes marriage to Jane, who immediately accepts.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh then makes an unexpected visit to warn Elizabeth against marrying Mr Darcy, believing her to be too low born for her nephew, that the Bennet family is forever disgraced by the behaviour of Lydia, and that Darcy should marry her own daughter (who is sickly, dull and boring). While confused at the source of Lady Catherine's suspicions, Elizabeth refuses to comply. Mr Darcy, upon hearing this, realises that Elizabeth's opinion of him may have changed and again proposes. Elizabeth accepts, and both of the elder Bennet sisters are married.

[edit] Main characters

  • Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist of the novel and the reader sees the unfolding plot and the other characters mostly from her viewpoint.[4] The second of the Bennet daughters at 20 years old, she is intelligent, lively, attractive, and witty, but with a tendency to judge on first impressions and perhaps to be a little selective of the evidence upon which she bases her judgments. As the plot begins, her closest relationships are with her father, her sister Jane, her aunt Mrs Gardiner, and her best friend Charlotte Lucas.
  • Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy is the main male character. Twenty-eight years old and unmarried, Mr Darcy is the wealthy owner of the famous family estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire and is rumoured to be worth at least ten thousand pounds a year. Handsome, tall, and intelligent, but not convivial, his aloof decorum and rectitude are seen by many as an excessive pride and concern for social status. He makes a poor impression on strangers, such as the landed gentry of Meryton, but is valued by those who know him well.
  • Mr Bennet, a bookish and intelligent gentleman with a wife and five daughters. He is amused by the indecorous manners and nonsense of his wife and three younger daughters, and offers little beyond mockery by way of correcting them. He relates very well with his two eldest daughters, particularly Elizabeth, showing them much more respect than his wife and younger daughters.
  • Mrs Bennet is the wife of her social superior Mr Bennet, and mother of Elizabeth and her sisters. She is frivolous, excitable, and narrow-minded, and is imagines herself susceptible to attacks of tremors and palpitations. Her public manners and social climbing are embarrassing to Jane and Elizabeth. Her favourite daughter is the youngest, Lydia. Her main ambition in life is to marry her daughters off well.
Lady Catherine confronts Elizabeth about Darcy, on the title page of the first illustrated edition. This is the other of the first two illustrations of the novel.
  • Jane Bennet is the eldest Bennet sister. Twenty-two years old when the novel begins, she is considered the most beautiful young lady in the neighbourhood. Her character is contrasted with Elizabeth's as sweeter, shyer, and equally sensible, but not as clever; her most notable trait is a desire to see only the good in others. Jane is closest to Elizabeth, and her character is often contrasted with that of Elizabeth. She is favoured by her mother because of her beauty.
  • Mary Bennet is the only plain Bennet sister, and rather than join in some of the family activities, she reads, although she is often impatient for display. She works hard for knowledge and accomplishment, but has neither genius nor taste. She is as silly as her two younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia, though she thinks she is very wise. She is included very little in the book by the author.
  • Catherine "Kitty" Bennet is the fourth Bennet sister, aged 17. She is portrayed as a less headstrong but equally silly shadow of Lydia.
  • Lydia Bennet is the youngest Bennet sister, aged 15 when the novel begins. She is frivolous and headstrong. Her main activity in life is socialising, especially flirting with the officers of the militia. She dominates her older sister Kitty and is supported in the family by her mother. Lydia shows no regard for the moral code of her society and is remorseless for the disgrace she causes her family.
  • Charles Bingley is a handsome, good-natured, and wealthy young gentleman of 22, who rents Netherfield Park near Longbourn. He is contrasted with his friend Mr Darcy as being, kinder, more charming and having more generally pleasing manners, although not being quite so clever. He lacks resolve and is easily influenced by others.
  • Caroline Bingley is the snobbish sister of Charles Bingley with a dowry of twenty thousand pounds. Miss Bingley harbours romantic intentions on Mr Darcy, is jealous of his growing attachment to Elizabeth, and is disdainful and rude to her.
  • George Wickham has been acquainted with Mr Darcy since childhood, having been under the guardianship of Mr Darcy's father. An officer in the militia, he is superficially charming and rapidly forms an attachment with Elizabeth Bennet. He spreads tales about the wrongs Mr Darcy has done him, adding to the local society's prejudice, but eventually is found to have been the wrongdoer himself. He runs off with Lydia, and is paid to marry her.
  • William Collins, aged 25, is Mr Bennet's clergyman cousin and heir to his estate. He is "not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or society." Mr Collins is obsequious, pompous and lacking in common sense. Elizabeth's rejection of Collins' marriage proposal is welcomed by her father, regardless of the financial benefit to the family of such a match. Mr Collins then marries Elizabeth's friend, Charlotte Lucas.
  • Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who possesses wealth and social standing, is haughty, domineering and condescending. Mr Collins, among others, enables these characteristics by deferring to her opinions and desires. Elizabeth, by contrast, is duly respectful but not intimidated. Lady Catherine's nephew, Mr Darcy, is offended by her lack of manners, especially towards Elizabeth, and later, courts her disapproval by marrying Elizabeth in spite of her objections.
  • Aunt and Uncle Gardiner: Edward Gardiner is Mrs Bennet's brother and a successful businessman of sensible and gentlemanly character. Aunt Gardiner is close to her nieces Elizabeth and Jane. Jane stays with the Gardiners in London for a period, and Elizabeth travels with them to Derbyshire, where she again meets Mr Darcy. The Gardiners are quick in their perception of an attachment between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, and judge him without prejudice. They are both actively involved in helping Mr Darcy arrange the marriage between Lydia and Mr Wickham.
  • Georgiana Darcy is Mr Darcy's quiet, amiable and shy younger sister, aged 16 when the story begins. When 15, Miss Darcy almost elopes with Mr Wickham, who seeks her thirty thousand pound dowry. Miss Darcy is introduced to Elizabeth at Pemberley and is later delighted at the prospect of becoming her sister-in-law.
  • Charlotte Lucas is Elizabeth's friend who, at 27 years old, fears becoming a burden to her family and therefore agrees to marry Mr Collins in order to gain financial security.

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