Pride and Prejudice is a novel of manners 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 the British Regency. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a country gentleman, Mr. Bennet, living in Longbourn.
Set in England in the early 19th century, Pride and Prejudice tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr. Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr. Darcy, have moved into their neighbourhood. While Bingley takes an immediate liking to the eldest Bennet daughter, Jane, Darcy is disdainful of local society and repeatedly clashes with the Bennets’ lively second daughter, Elizabeth
The novel centres on Elizabeth Bennet, the second of the five daughters of a landed country gentleman. Elizabeth’s father, Mr. Bennet, is a bookish man and somewhat neglectful of his responsibilities. In contrast Elizabeth’s mother, Mrs. Bennet, a woman who lacks social graces, is primarily concerned with finding suitable husbands for her five daughters, who will inherit little or nothing from their father due to primogeniture laws. Jane Bennet, the eldest daughter, is distinguished by her kindness and beauty; Elizabeth Bennet shares her father’s keen wit and occasionally sarcastic outlook; Mary is not pretty but is studious, devout and musical albeit lacking in taste; Catherine, sometimes called Kitty, the fourth sister, follows where her younger sister leads while Lydia is flirtatious and lacks maturity.
The narrative opens with news in the Bennet family that Mr. Bingley, a wealthy, charismatic and sociable young bachelor, is moving into Netherfield Park in the neighbourhood. Mr. Bingley is soon well received while his friend Mr. Darcy makes a less favourable impression by appearing proud and condescending at a ball that they attend (he detests dancing and is not one for light conversation). Mr. Bingley singles out Jane for particular attention, and it soon becomes apparent that they have formed an attachment to each other. While Jane does not alter her conduct for him, she confesses her great happiness only to Lizzie. By contrast, Darcy slights Elizabeth, who overhears and jokes about it despite feeling a budding resentment.
Upon paying a visit to Mr. Bingley’s sister, Caroline, Jane is caught in a heavy downpour, catching 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 act less coldly towards her.
Mr. Collins, a clergyman and heir to Longbourn, the Bennet estate, pays a visit to the Bennets. Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth are 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. It soon becomes apparent that Mr. Collins has come to Longbourn to choose a wife from among the Bennet sisters (his cousins), and Jane is initially singled out, but because of Jane’s budding romance with Mr. Bingley, Mrs. Bennet directs him toward Elizabeth. After refusing his advances, much to the consternation of her mother, Elizabeth instead forms an acquaintance with Mr. Wickham, a militia officer who relates having been very seriously mistreated by Mr. Darcy despite having been a godson and favourite of Darcy’s father. The accusation and her attraction to Mr. Wickham both increase Elizabeth’s 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, and the Bennet family, with the exception of Jane and Elizabeth, make a public display of poor manners and decorum. The following morning, Mr. Collins proposes marriage to Elizabeth, who refuses him, much to her mother’s distress. Mr. Collins recovers and promptly becomes engaged to Elizabeth’s close friend Charlotte Lucas, a homely woman with few prospects. Mr. Bingley abruptly quits Netherfield and returns to London, which devastates Jane, and Elizabeth becomes convinced that Mr. Darcy and Caroline Bingley have conspired to separate him from Jane.
Jane is persuaded by letters from Caroline Bingley that Mr. Bingley is not in love with her but goes on an extended visit to Aunt and Uncle Gardiner in London in the hope of maintaining her relationship with Caroline, if not with Charles Bingley. There, she visits Caroline and, eventually, her visit is returned. She does not see Mr. Bingley and is forced to realise that Caroline does not care for her.
In the spring, Elizabeth visits Charlotte and Mr. Collins in Kent. Elizabeth and her hosts are frequently invited to Rosings Park, the home of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy’s aunt; coincidentally, Darcy also arrives to visit. Elizabeth meets Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who vouches for Darcy’s loyalty by using as an example how Darcy had recently stepped in on behalf of a friend, who had formed an attachment to a woman against whom “there were some very strong objection”. Elizabeth rightly assumes that the said friend is none other than Mr. Bingley, and her dislike of Darcy deepens. Thus, she is no mood to accept when Darcy arrives and, quite unexpectedly, confesses love for her and begs her hand in marriage. His proposal is flattering, as he is a very distinguished man, but it is delivered in a manner that is ill suited. He talks of love but also of revulsion at her inferior position and family. Despite assertions to the contrary, he assumes she will accept him.
Elizabeth rebukes him, and a heated discussion follows; she charges him with destroying the happiness of both her sister and Bingley, with treating Mr. Wickham disgracefully and with having conducted himself towards her in an arrogant, ungentleman-like manner. Mr. Darcy, shocked, ultimately responds with a letter giving a good account of his actions: Wickham had exchanged his legacies for a cash payment, only to return after frittering away the money to reclaim the forfeited inheritance; Wickham then attempted to elope with Darcy’s young sister, Georgiana, which would have secured her fortune for himself. Regarding Jane and Bingley, Darcy claims he had observed no reciprocal interest in Jane for Bingley and had assumed that she was not in love with him. In addition to this, he cites the “want of propriety” in the behaviour of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and her three younger daughters. Elizabeth, who had previously despaired over this very behavior, is forced to admit the truth of Mr. Darcy’s observations, and begins to see that she has misjudged him. She, quite rightly, attributes her prejudice to his coldness towards herself at the beginning of their acquaintance.
Some months later, Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle Gardiner visit Pemberley, Darcy’s estate, believing he will be absent for the day. He returns unexpectedly and is surprised but gracious and welcoming, quite unlike his usual self. He treats the Gardiners very civilly, surprising Elizabeth, who assumes he will “decamp immediately” on learning who they are. Darcy introduces Elizabeth to his sister, which Elizabeth knows is the highest compliment he can bestow. Elizabeth begins to acknowledge her own attraction to him. Their reacquaintance is cut short, however, by the news that Lydia has run off with Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth and the Gardiners return to Longbourn (the Bennet family home), where Elizabeth grieves that her renewed acquaintance with Mr. Darcy will end as a result of her sister’s disgrace.
Lydia and Wickham are soon found and are persuaded to marry, which enables the Bennet family to preserve some appearance of decorum. Jane, Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet conclude that Uncle Gardiner must have bribed Wickham to marry Lydia, and they are ashamed of their indebtedness and inability to repay him.
Mrs. Bennet, quite typically, has no such scruples; being ecstatic to have a daughter married, she never stops to consider the want of propriety and honesty throughout the affair. Mr. and Mrs. Wickham visit Longbourn, where Lydia lets slip that Mr. Darcy attended their wedding but that it was to have been a secret. From a letter, Elizabeth discovers from Aunt Gardiner that in fact, Mr. Darcy was responsible for finding the couple and negotiating their marriage at great personal and monetary expense for him. Elizabeth is shocked and flattered as “her heart did whisper that he had done it for her” but is unable to dwell further on the topic because of Mr. Bingley’s return and subsequent proposal to Jane, who immediately accepts.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh pays an unexpected visit to Longbourn. She has heard a rumour that Elizabeth will marry Mr. Darcy and attempts to persuade Elizabeth to agree not to marry. Lady Catherine wants Mr. Darcy to marry her daughter (his cousin) Anne De Bourgh and thinks that Elizabeth is beneath him. Elizabeth refuses her demands. Disgusted, Lady Catherine leaves, promising that the marriage can never take place. Elizabeth assumes she will apply to Darcy and is worried that he may be persuaded.
Darcy returns to Longbourn. Chance allows Elizabeth and Darcy a rare moment alone. She immediately thanks him for intervening in the case of Lydia and Wickham. He renews his proposal of marriage and is promptly accepted. Elizabeth soon learns that his hopes were revived by his aunt’s report of Elizabeth’s refusal to promise not to marry him.
The novel closes with a “happily-ever-after” chapter including a summary of the remaining lives of the main characters. None of the characters changes very much in this summary, but Kitty has grown slightly more sensible from association with Jane and Elizabeth and distance from Lydia, and Lady Catherine eventually condescends to visit the Darcy family.
Elizabeth Bennet The reader sees the unfolding plot and the other characters mostly from her viewpoint. The second of the Bennet daughters, she is twenty years old and is intelligent, lively, playful, attractive, and witty—but with a tendency to judge on first impression (the “prejudice” of the title) and perhaps to be a little selective of the evidence on 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. As the story progresses, so does her relationship with Mr. Darcy. The course of Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship is ultimately decided when Darcy overcomes his pride, and Elizabeth overcomes her prejudice, leading them both to surrender to their love for each other.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the male protagonist of the novel and is twenty eight years old. He is the wealthy owner of the renowned family estate of Pemberley in Derbyshire, and is rumoured to be worth at least £10,000 a year. This is equivalent to anywhere from around £200,000 ($290,120 USD) a year to around £10 million ($14.5 million USD) a year in 2014, depending on the method of calculation, but such an income would have put him among the 400 wealthiest families in the country at the time. Handsome, tall, and intelligent, Darcy lacks the social ease that comes so naturally to his friend Bingley. Others frequently mistake his aloof decorum and rectitude as further proof of excessive pride (he is the “pride” of the title). While he makes a poor impression on strangers, such as the landed gentry of Meryton, Darcy is greatly valued by those who know him well.
As the novel progresses, Darcy and Elizabeth are repeatedly forced into each other’s company, resulting in each altering their feelings for the other through better acquaintance and changes in environment. At the end of the work, both overcome their differences and first impressions to fall in love with each other.
Mr. Darcy has been as exemplary character upon which the archetype of stable, wealthy men such as that from the Fifty Shades Of Grey, Mr. Grey, were constructed from.
Mr Bennet is the patriarch of the Bennet family, a gentleman of modest income with five unmarried daughters. Mr. Bennet has an ironic, cynical sense of humour that irritates his wife. Though he loves his daughters (Elizabeth in particular), he often fails as a parent, preferring to withdraw from the never-ending marriage concerns of the women around him rather than offer help. In fact, he often enjoys laughing at the sillier members of his family, partially the reason many have fatal faults, as he has not taken pains to amend them. Although he possesses inherited property, it is entailed—that is, it can only pass to male heirs—so his daughters will be on their own upon his death.
Mrs. Bennet is the wife of her socially superior Mr. Bennet and mother of Elizabeth and her sisters. She is frivolous, excitable, and narrow-minded, and she imagines herself susceptible to attacks of tremors and palpitations when she is displeased. Her public manners and social climbing are embarrassing to Jane and Elizabeth. Her favourite daughter is the youngest, Lydia, who reminds her of herself when younger, though she values the beauty of the eldest, Jane. Her main ambition in life is to marry her daughters to wealthy men; whether or not any such matches will give her daughters happiness is of little concern to her.
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. As Anna Quindlen wrote, Jane is “sugar to Elizabeth’s lemonade.” 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.
She falls in love with Mr. Bingley, a rich man who has recently moved to Hertfordshire, and a close friend of Mr. Darcy. Their love is initially thwarted by Mr. Darcy and Caroline Bingley, who are concerned by Jane’s low connections and have other plans for Bingley. Mr. Darcy, aided by Elizabeth, eventually sees the error in his ways and is instrumental in bringing Jane and Bingley back together.
Mary Bennet is the only plain Bennet sister, and rather than join in some of the family activities, she mostly reads and plays music, although she is often impatient to display her accomplishments and is rather vain about them. She works hard for knowledge and accomplishment, but has neither genius nor taste. Like her two younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia, she is seen as being silly by Mr. Bennet. Mary is not very intelligent but thinks of herself as being wise. When Mr. Collins is refused by Elizabeth, Mrs. Bennet hopes Mary may be prevailed upon to accept him and we are led to believe that Mary has some hopes in this direction, but neither of them know that he is already engaged to Charlotte Lucas by this time. Mary does not appear often in the novel.
Catherine, or Kitty, Bennet is the fourth daughter at 17 years old. She is the shadow of Lydia, although older than she, she follows in her pursuits of the ‘Officers’ of the regiment. She appears but little, although she is often portrayed as envious of Lydia and also a ‘silly’ young woman. However, it is said that she has improved by the end of the novel.
Lydia Bennet is the youngest Bennet sister, aged 15 when the novel begins. She is frivolous and headstrong. Her main activity in life is socializing, especially flirting with the officers of the militia. This leads to her running off with George Wickham, although he has no intention of marrying her. 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 no remorse for the disgrace she causes her family.
Charles Bingley is a handsome, good-natured, and wealthy young gentleman (a Parvenu/Nouveau riche) of 23, who rents Netherfield Park near Longbourn. He is contrasted with his friend Mr. Darcy as being more kind and more charming and having more generally pleasing manners, although not quite so clever and experienced. He lacks resolve and is easily influenced by others. His two sisters, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst, both disapprove of Bingley’s growing affection for Jane Bennet.
Caroline Bingley is the snobbish sister of Charles Bingley, with a dowry of twenty thousand pounds. Miss Bingley harbours romantic intentions for Mr. Darcy and therefore is jealous of his growing attachment to Elizabeth. She attempts to dissuade Mr. Darcy from liking Elizabeth by ridiculing the Bennet family in Darcy’s presence, as she realises that this is the main aspect of Elizabeth with which she can find fault. She also attempts to convey her own superiority over Elizabeth, by being notably more polite and complimentary towards Darcy throughout. She often compliments his younger sister, Georgiana – suspecting that he will agree with what she says about her. Miss Bingley also disapproves of her brother’s esteem for Jane Bennet, and it is acknowledged later that she, with Darcy, attempts to separate the couple. She sends Jane letters describing her brother’s growing love for Georgiana Darcy, in attempt to convince Jane of Bingley’s indifference towards her. When Jane goes to London she ignores her for a period of four weeks, despite Jane’s frequent invitations for her to call upon her. When she eventually does, she is rude and cold, and is unapologetic for her failure to respond to Jane’s letters. Jane, who is always determined not to find fault with anybody, is forced to admit that she had been deceived in thinking she had a genuine friendship with Caroline Bingley, the realisation of which she relays to Elizabeth in a letter.
George Wickham has been acquainted with Mr. Darcy since childhood, being the son of Mr. Darcy’s father’s steward. 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 he is found to have been the wrongdoer himself. He runs off with Lydia, with no intention of marrying her, which would have resulted in her complete disgrace, but for Darcy’s intervention to bribe Wickham 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, and lacking in common sense. Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Collins’s 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
Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who possesses wealth and social standing, is haughty, pompous, domineering, and condescending, although her manner is seen by some as entirely proper and even admirable. Mr. Collins, for example, is shown to admire 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 he later courts her disapproval by marrying Elizabeth in spite of her numerous objections.
Mr and Mrs Gardiner
Mr and Mrs Gardiner: Edward Gardiner is Mrs. Bennet’s brother and a successful lawyer of sensible and gentlemanly character. Aunt Gardiner is close to her nieces Jane and Elizabeth. 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 eloped with Mr. Wickham, who sought 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. Georgiana is extremely timid and gets embarrassed fairly easily. She idolises her brother Mr. Darcy (Fitzwilliam Darcy), and the two share an extremely close sibling bond, much like Jane and Elizabeth. She is extremely talented at the piano, singing, playing the harp, and drawing. She is also very modest.
Charlotte Lucas is Elizabeth’s friend who, at 27 years old (and thus past prime marriage age), fears becoming a burden to her family and therefore agrees to marry Mr. Collins, whom she does not love, to gain financial security. Though the novel stresses the importance of love and understanding in marriage (as seen in the anticipated success of Elizabeth–Darcy relationship), Austen never seems to condemn Charlotte’s decision to marry for money. Austen uses Lucas as the common voice of early 19th Century society’s views on relationships and marriage. She is the daughter of Sir William Lucas and Lady Lucas, friends of Mrs. Bennet.
Louisa Hurst is the older sister to Caroline Bingley and Charles Bingley, and wife of Mr. Hurst. She is the nicer of the two sisters, but like Caroline, she doesn’t encourage her brother’s admiration toward Jane Bennet because of her connections.