Austen wrote the first version of the novel in 1796 and 1797, calling it
Impressions, but failed to get it published. In 1809, she began revising
the novel and completed it in 1812 for publication by Thomas Edgerton on
January 28, 1813 in London.
action takes place in England between the fall of 1811 and the Christmas
season of 1812 in the counties of Hertfordshire, Derbyshire, Kent, and
Sussex and in the city of London.
Mr. Bennet: Husband
and father of five daughters who owns a small estate, Longbourn, and runs
his home on a modest income of his own, supplemented by money his wife
brought to their marriage. He is generally a passive observer of events
involving his daughters, although he takes an active part in attempting
to find a daughter who has run off with a man of questionable reputation.
He tries to stand clear of his wife's schemes to match their daughters
with well-to-do bachelors. The Bennets have been married twenty-three years.
Mrs. Bennet: Wife
of Mr. Bennet. She devotes her time to finding opportunities for her daughters
to meet young men of wealth and social status. Her efforts are often clumsy
and comical, making her something of a caricature of the matchmaking mother.
Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet:
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's second-oldest daughter (not yet twenty-one early
in the novel) and the novel's main character. She is attractive, witty,
compassionate, and morally upright. When confronted with rude or unreasonable
behavior, she is not afraid to stand up for herself. At first, she is attracted
to George Wickham and repelled by the FitzWilliam Darcy. Later, when she
learns more about Wickham and Darcy, she gradually softens toward the latter
and eventually falls in love with him.
Wealthy bachelor, about twenty-eight, and owner of a sprawling estate,
Pemberley, in Derbyshire. When he attends a dance in Meryton, he looks
down on the local attendees--including Elizabeth Bennet--thinking them
common and provincial. However, in time, he falls in love with Elizabeth,
finding her intelligent and attractive with an independent spirit. Next
to Elizabeth, he is the most important character in the novel.
Old Mr. Darcy: Deceased
father of Darcy. He was married to Lady Anne FitzWilliam, the daughter
of an earl surnamed FitzWilliam.
Bennet: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's oldest daughter, about twenty-two. She
is blessed with beauty and a sweet disposition. She suffers great disappointment
when the man she loves--a genial and handsome bachelor, Charles Bingley,
who is well endowed with money and property--one day severs all connections
Wealthy young bachelor attracted to Jane Bennet. While sojourning near
the Bennet home, he develops a promising relationship with Jane, then abruptly
ends it and takes up residence in London.
Lydia Bennet: Outspoken,
irresponsible daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. She is an incessant talker
who is "untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless" (Chapter 51). Lydia,
described in Chapter 29 by Elizabeth as "not sixteen," is enthralled with
the young military officers stationed at Meryton and eventually runs away
with one of them.
George Wickham: Handsome,
charming lady-killer who deceives Elizabeth into believing that Darcy cheated
him out of an inheritance. After he joins the military at Meryton, he attracts
the attentions of Lydia, and they run off and live together. To prevent
a scandal that would ruin the Bennet name, Darcy tracks them down and makes
a financial arrangement with Wickham that requires him to marry Lydia.
Mary Bennet, Catherine
(Kitty) Bennet: Daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. They are the only
Bennet siblings who remain unmarried at the end of the novel.
Caroline Bingley, Mrs.
Louisa Bingley Hurst: Snobbish sisters of Charles Bingley. They look
down upon the Bennets and belittle Jane and Elizabeth in the eyes of Charles
Bingley and Darcy.
Mr. Hurst: Husband
of Louisa Bingley Hurst.
Colonel FitzWilliam Darcy:
Affable thirty-year-old cousin of the aforementioned FitzWilliam Darcy.
He and Darcy share the name of their grandfather, an earl.
Brother of Mrs. Bennet. Unlike her, he exhibits refinement and good judgment.
Mrs. Gardiner: Edward
Gardiner's elegant wife, who is a favorite of the Bennet girls. When Jane
Bennet visits London, she stays with the Gardiners.
Mrs. Phillips: Sister
of Mrs. Bennet. Lydia and the other Bennet girls visit her often at her
home in Meryton. She provides them the latest news of the area, especially
when it concerns the officers of the militia regiment stationed in the
Mr. Phillips: Husband
of Mrs. Phillips. He took over the law office of the deceased father of
Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Phillips.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh:
Officious, arrogant aunt of the Darcy cousins and widow of Sir Lewis de
Bourgh. She is mistress of a lavish estate, Rosings Park, in Kent. Lady
Catherine attempts to control the lives of others and succeeds in turning
Mr. Collins into her lackey. Elizabeth Bennet rebuffs her when she attempts
to make Elizabeth sever her relationship with Darcy (of Pemberley).
Anne de Bourgh: Daughter
of Lady Catherine.
The Rev. Mr. Collins:
Pompous, long-winded but harmless distant cousin of Mr. Bennet. The twenty-five-year-old
Collins, who is in line to inherit the Bennet property, proposes to Elizabeth.
After she turns him down, he marries Elizabeth's friend, Charlotte Lucas.
Thanks to the sponsorship of Lady Catherine, to whom he kowtows, he receives
a parsonage and a good income.
Sixteen-year-old sister of Darcy (of Pemberley).
Sir William and Lady
Lucas: Good friends of the Bennets.
Twenty-seven-year-old daughter of Sir William and Lady Lucas. She is Elizabeth's
best friend. A practical young lady, she marries the well-placed Colllins.
Maria Lucas: Daughter
of Sir William and Lady Lucas.
Mrs. Long: Neighbor
of Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet both vilifies and praises her, depending
on whether she acts against or in accord with Mrs. Bennet's wishes.
Nieces of Mrs. Long:
Young ladies whom Mrs. Bennet regards as rivals to her own daughters in
their attempts to win the attentions of young bachelors.
A commander in the militia regiment at Meryton.
Young wife of Colonel Forster. In temperament, she is not unlike Lydia
Bennet, and the two young ladies become good friends.
Mr. Denny: Member
of the militia regiment at Meryton and an acquaintance of Wickham and the
Member of the militia regiment at Meryton and an acquaintance of Lydia
Captain Carter: Member
of the militia regiment at Meryton. Lydia Bennet is attracted to him before
she turns her attention to George Wickham.
Mr. Pratt: Member
of the militia regiment at Meryton.
Mrs. Hill: The Bennets'
Mrs. Reynolds: Housekeeper
Mrs. Jenkinson: Companion
of Lady Catherine's daughter, Anne.
Nieces of Mrs. Jenkison:
Young ladies for whom Lady Catherine finds a governess.
Mr. Jones: Apothecary
who treats Jane Bennet when she becomes ill at Netherfield Park.
Mary King: Wealthy
young lady at one time wooed by Wickham.
Dawson: Lady Catherine's
Miss Grantley: Acquaintance
spoken of by Caroline Bingley.
Lady Metcalf: Acquaintance
of Lady Catherine.
Mr. Morris: Owner
of Netherfield Park, which he rents to Charles Bingley.
Miss Pope: Governess
whom Lady Catherine found for the home of Lady Metcalf.
Mr. Nicholls: Charles
Bingley's cook at Netherfield Park.
Mrs. Nicholls: Wife
of Charles Bingley. She reports to Mrs. Phillips news of Bingley's return
to Netherfield Park. Mrs. Phillips, in turn, tells her sister, Mrs. Bennet,
retained by Edward Gardiner to handle legal matters involving Lydia Bennet
and George Wickham.
Mr. and Mrs. William
Goulding: Neighbors of the Bennets.
John: Servant at
the Collins parsonage.
John: Servant at
the Gardiner home.
Mr. Robinson: Man
at the Meryton ball who asks Charles Bingley which young lady he believes
to be the prettiest in the room.
Mr. Stone: London
business acquaintance of Mr. Gardiner.
of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips.
adds, however, that the manners of Bingley's sisters were not as commendable
as his, although Jane—who tends to speak well of everyone—says she admires
Bingley's sisters and notes that the unmarried one will be living with
him. Elizabeth, a more astute judge of character than Jane, has correctly
assessed Bingley's sisters as, in the words of the narrator, “proud and
conceited.” They believe their wealth, education, high social standing,
and good looks set them apart.
and Darcy, good friends in spite of their marked differences in personality,
also review the evening's events. Bingley praises the people he met for
their openness and easygoing manner, and he thinks Jane is angelic. Darcy
says the young women were lacking in fashion and beauty, although he acknowledges
that Jane was attractive.
the morning, the daughters of Sir William and Lady Lucas visit the Bennet
home to discuss the dance. Twenty-seven-year old Charlotte tells Mrs. Bennet
and her daughters of a conversation between Bingley and another guest,
Mr. Robinson, in which Bingley said Jane was “beyond a doubt” the prettiest
of all the young ladies at the ball. When the conversation turns to Darcy,
Charlotte sympathizes with Elizabeth for his snubbing of her. Jane reports
that Miss Bingley told her that Darcy tended to remain aloof among strangers
but was “remarkably agreeable” among his close friends.
wish he had danced with Eliza,” Jane says.
Mrs. Bennet says she hopes Elizabeth never dances with him if an opportunity
presents itself, Charlotte observes that his pride is at least somewhat
forgivable: “One cannot wonder that so very fine a young man, with family,
fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly of himself.”
replies, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine."
Bennet observes that pride differs from vanity: “Pride relates more to
our opinion of ourselves,” she says, and “vanity to what we would have
others think of us."
due time, Miss Bingley and her sister, Mrs. Hurst, visit the Bennet girls
at Longbourn. In turn, the Bennets visit the Bingley sisters at Netherfield
Park. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst seem pleased with Jane but little interested
in the other Bennets. Elizabeth continues to notice a haughtiness in the
manner of Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, and she attributes their favorable
treatment of Jane to their brother's interest in her. Jane, meanwhile,
seems to be falling in love with Bingley, whom she sees frequently at social
gatherings. However, she is not one to display her feelings in public.
Charlotte tells Elizabeth that such reticence in Jane could work against
her, observing that Bingley “may never do more than like her, if she does
not help him on.” Elizabeth responds that Jane's interest in Bingley is
obvious to her. And if it is obvious to her, she says, it must be obvious
to Bingley. Elizabeth also notes that Jane does not yet know Bingley well
enough to reveal her heart to him.
Darcy's assessment of Elizabeth as merely “tolerable” has been changing
for the better. Whenever they encounter each other in public, her face
and her figure become more appealing to him, and the “easy playfulness”
of her manners intrigues him. At a gathering at the Lucas home, he listens
in on a conversation between Elizabeth and Colonel Forster. Elizabeth tells
Charlotte that she thinks Darcy impertinent and later decides to let him
know that she noticed his intrusion, saying, “Did you not think, Mr. Darcy,
that I expressed myself uncommonly well . . . when I was teasing Colonel
Forster to give us a ball at Meryton?”
great energy,” he says, “but it is always a subject which makes a lady
interrupts to ask Elizabeth to sing to her own accompaniment at the keyboard.
Elizabeth resists at first but then yields. She performs pleasingly, though
not expertly, and Mary then plays a concerto and a few Scotch and Irish
songs. Several of her sisters and some of the Lucas girls dance with officers.
Sir William tells Darcy “what a charming amusement” it is to see young
people dancing, Darcy replies, “[I]t has the advantage also of being in
vogue among the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can
dance.” Sir William responds good-naturedly and continues the conversation,
making small talk. When Elizabeth comes there way, Sir William suggests
that Darcy dance with her, saying he cannot refuse to do so when “so much
beauty” stands before him. Darcy is about to accept her hand, presented
to him by Sir William, when Elizabeth retreats, saying, “I have not the
least intention of dancing. I entreat you not to suppose that I moved this
way in order to beg for a partner.” Her feistiness only intensifies Darcy's
interest in her.
time to time, the youngest Bennet daughters—Catherine (Kitty) and Lydia—frequently
walk to Meryton to visit their aunt, Mrs. Phillips, who is Mrs. Bennet's
sister. It was in Meryton that Mrs. Bennet's father practiced law until
his death, at which time he bequeathed four thousand pounds to her. His
clerk, Mr. Phillips, took over the law office and married Mrs. Bennet's
sister. Catherine and Lydia like to visit her because she brings them up
to date on the latest town news. Visiting Meryton also gives them an opportunity
to make the acquaintance of young officers in a militia regiment stationed
in the town. Lydia develops a liking for a certain Captain Carter.
Mr. Bennet hears them discussing officers, he regards the conversation
as silly girl talk. But Mrs. Bennet says, “[I]f a smart young colonel,
with five or six thousand a year, should want one of my girls, I shall
not say nay to him.”
servant from Netherfield arrives with a note for Jane from Bingley's sisters.
It is an invitation to dine with them while their brother is out dining
with Darcy, Hurst, and certain officers. She eagerly accepts the invitation.
Because the carriage horses are needed for farm work, Jane rides to Netherfield
on horseback. On her way, a storm drenches her in cold rain. At Netherfield,
she becomes ill and bedridden.
the morning, after receiving a note from Jane informing her of what happened,
Elizabeth walks to Netherfield Park to be with her, arriving somewhat mud-spattered
from traversing puddles. After Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst greet her, they
show her to Jane's room. She is feverish. An apothecary comes and declares
that she has a very bad cold and must remain in bed. Miss Bingley invites
Elizabeth to remain into the next day.
dinner that evening, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst generally ignore Elizabeth,
preferring instead to talk with Darcy. However, Bingley himself is quite
attentive to her, making her feel less of an intruder than his sisters
do. Mr. Hurst occupies himself mainly with eating and drinking. After dinner,
when Elizabeth returns to Jane's room, Bingley's sisters criticize Elizabeth's
looks, demeanor, manners, and ability to converse.
Hurst says, "She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an
excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She
really looked almost wild."
Bingley defends her, and Darcy says her eyes “were brightened by the exercise”
of her three-mile walk.
next day, Elizabeth sends a note to her mother, asking her to come to Netherfield
to see Jane. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Bennet arrives with Lydia and Catherine.
Although Jane is not seriously ill, Mrs. Bennet rejects Elizabeth's suggestion
that they move Jane back to Longbourn. The apothecary agrees with the mother—to
her delight. After all, Jane's presence at Netherfield can only enhance
her chances of snaring Bingley, Mrs. Bennet thinks. She compliments Bingley
on his decision to lease so handsome a residence as Netherfield and expresses
the hope that he will not soon leave.
Bennet continues her little intrigues on behalf of her daughter. Caroline
Bingley, meanwhile, begins making a play for Darcy. Darcy, however, remains
interested in Elizabeth—not openly, of course—although he still has reservations
about her social status.
Jane recovers and life returns to normal for the Bennet family, William
Collins, a cousin of Mr. Bennet, arrives at Longbourn from Hunsford, Kent,
for a visit. Collins is a recently ordained clergyman of the Church of
England and the designated heir of Longbourn. (According to a legal agreement,
the Longbourn estate must always pass to a male when the owner dies. Under
this agreement, Mr. Bennet inherited Longbourn as a custodian of the property,
not the owner. Upon his death, another male is to assume control of the
estate. Since Bennet had fathered five daughters but no sons, he is obliged
to bequeath the estate to his closest male relative, who happens to be
Collins. The practice of reserving an estate for a single heir of a specific
line of heirs—called entail in the law—was commonplace in England between
the mid-1500s and the late 1800s.) Collins—a tall, heavy-set twenty-five
year old—says the purpose of his visit is to assure the family that when
the time comes for him to take control of the property he will not turn
the daughters out of house and home. But this is not his only purpose;
he has a second one—to marry one of the Bennet daughters.
Receives Position and
though a well-wishing fellow, is a pompous, long-winded boob and, therefore,
somewhat amusing for the Bennets to observe. He recently assumed the rectorship
of a Hunsford church and has his own parsonage, thanks to the sponsorship
of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who resides at an estate, Rosings Park, near
morning after his arrival, he tells Mrs. Bennet of his desire to marry
one of his daughters, who will then become mistress of his parsonage. He
has the comely Jane in mind. Although Mrs. Bennet is pleased at the prospect
of marrying off a daughter to a clergyman with a good income, she makes
it known that Jane is likely to be engaged soon to another man. Collins
then sets his sights on Elizabeth.
he talks at length with Mr. Bennet in the study. His boring conversation
tires Bennet. So, when all the girls except Mary decide to walk into Meryton,
Mr. Bennet suggests that Collins go along. To Bennet's relief, the young
man agrees to tag along, and he bores the girls all the way to town. There,
the girls start looking for officers, and they do not have to wait long
before they encounter one they know, Mr. Denny. He introduces them to a
handsome young man, George Wickham, who has signed up with the militia
regiment and is to receive a lieutenant's commission. By the by, Bingley
and Darcy are riding through town and pull up after they see the Bennets.
says he was on his way to Longbourn to call upon Jane. Just then, the eyes
of Darcy and Wickham meet, and the two men react strangely—as if they already
know each other. They greet each other with finger salutes but do not exchange
words. A moment later, Bingley and Darcy ride on. The Bennets then visit
their aunt, Mrs. Phillips. Collins, Denny, and Wickham accompany them.
During the visit, Mrs. Phillips invites everyone to dinner and table games
the next day.
all the guests arrive at the Phillips home, Wickham—who attracts the gaze
of the females—sits next to Elizabeth in the drawing room and asks her
how long Darcy has been sojourning at Netherfield.
a month,” she says. “He is a man of very large property in Derbyshire,
then says he has known Darcy a long time. After Elizabeth tells him that
Darcy is not well liked in Hertfordshire because of his obvious pride,
Wickham tells her that Darcy's father was “one of the best men that ever
breathed” but that Darcy disgraced his memory. Wickham explains that the
elder Darcy, his godfather, had designated Wickham as an heir who was to
receive a considerable bequest. But because “there was such an informality
in the [legal] terms of the bequest,” Wickham says, the younger Darcy challenged
the bequest, maintaining that Wickham “had forfeited all claim to it by
extravagance, imprudence.” Young Darcy prevailed, and Wickham received
nothing even though “I cannot accuse myself of having really done anything
to deserve to lose it.” He tells Elizabeth that Darcy despises him because
he could not brook the affection that the elder Darcy showed toward Wickham.
Elizabeth is appalled. Wickham then reveals that Lady Catherine, the sponsor
of Mr. Collins, is Darcy's aunt. He describes her as an overbearing woman.
the following days, events begin to move quickly, as follows:
holds a ball at which his attentions to Jane suggest—to Mrs. Bennet, at
least—that they will soon marry. Meanwhile, out of courtesy, Elizabeth
dances with Collins, who sets his sights on Elizabeth as his future wife.
Later, she agrees to dance with Darcy but remains cool toward him.
next day, Collins proposes to Elizabeth but she rejects him, to her mother's
dismay and her father's delight. Several days later, Caroline Bingley sends
a message to Jane saying that her brother and his guests have abandoned
Netherfield Park for London. She also announces shocking news: Bingley
intends to marry Darcy's teenage sister, Georgiana. Jane and Elizabeth
hold out hope that Miss Bingley deliberately falsified the report out of
disdain for the Bennet family.
woos and marries Charlotte Lucas. Elizabeth is disappointed in her friend
for accepting him.
thereafter, Mrs. Bennet's brother and sister-in-law—Mr. And Mrs. Gardiner—come
to Longbourn for their annual Christmas-season visit. They are pleasant,
well-bred folk who get along with the Bennets. Mrs. Gardiner is an “intelligent,
elegant woman, and a great favorite with all her Longbourn nieces,” the
narrator says. After hearing about Bingley's seeming abandonment of Jane
and Jane's great disappointment, Mrs. Gardiner proposes to take her back
to London with her for a change of scenery that might revive her spirits.
Because she lives in a section of town a good distance from where Bingley
stays, she believes an awkward encounter between Jane and Bingley is unlikely.
Elizabeth thinks a London visit is an excellent idea.
the week that the Gardiners stay with the Bennets, many visitors call—Mr.
and Mrs. Phillips, Sir William and Lady Lucas, and military officers, including
Wickham. Mrs. Gardiner cautions Elizabeth not to become too involved with
Wickham, saying he has serious financial problems. Elizabeth accepts her
counsel and promises to be careful.
long after the Gardiners leave with Jane, Collins arrives in Hertfordshire
for his marriage to Charlotte Lucas. It is to take place on a Thursday.
The day before the ceremony, Charlotte visits Elizabeth and asks her to
visit her at her new home, the Hunsford parsonage, in March. Charlotte's
father and her sister, Maria, will also be visiting at that time. Elizabeth
a letter that Jane sends Elizabeth from London, Jane says she has visited
Bingley's sister, Caroline, who resides apart from Bingley. Caroline tells
Elizabeth that her brother has been well and has been preoccupied with
Darcy's sister, Georgiana. More than a month later, Caroline pays a return
visit—but not because she wants to be friendly. Rather, she wants to make
it known once and for all that Bingley no longer has feelings for Jane.
However, her conversation betrays a hidden fear that the opposite may be
Bingley also indicates, perhaps inadvertently, that her brother is aware
of Jane's presence in London.
at about this time, Elizabeth learns that Wickham has turned his attentions
toward a Miss King, who has received a bequest of ten thousand pounds from
March arrives, Elizabeth, Sir William, and Maria depart for the Collins
parsonage in Hunsford, Kent, but stop first at the Gardiner residence in
London, just twenty-four miles from Longbourn. There, Mrs. Gardiner and
Elizabeth further discuss Wickham. Mrs. Gardiner remains suspicious of
him; Elizabeth seems little concerned that Wickham is wooing Miss King.
following day, the three travelers arrive at the parsonage. Over the next
several weeks, they accept invitations from Mr. Collins's patron, Lady
Catherine, to dine with her and her daughter at Rosings Park. On one occasion—when
Darcy and his cousin, FitzWilliam, are also dinner guests—Darcy continues
to harbor an interest in Elizabeth, although they are frequently at odds
in their conversations. When he and his cousin later visit her and Charlotte
at the parsonage, Charlotte begins to wonder whether Darcy is in love with
cousin seems an amiable chap. During one his conversations with Elizabeth,
he tells her that Darcy recently prevented a friend from making a bad match
with a young lady. Realizing that he is speaking of Bingley and Jane, Elizabeth
becomes furious. Her anger deepens when Darcy comes to the parsonage one
day to announce that he wishes to marry her even though she comes from
a socially inferior family background. Elizabeth spurns the proposal and
repudiates him for interfering in Bingley's relationship with her sister
and for apparently maltreating Wickham.
later delivers a letter to her that explains his behavior. First, he says,
upon closely observing Jane and Bingley together, he concluded that she
was not truly committed to the relationship. If his assessment was wrong
and he caused Jane to suffer, Darcy says, Elizabeth's “resentment has not
been unreasonable.” However, he adds, he strongly believes he did the right
thing for all concerned.
to the other matter, Darcy says Wickham's father, “a very respectable man,”
had served the elder Darcy with distinction in managing his Pemberley estates.
Consequently, old Mr. Darcy helped support young George at school and later
at Cambridge. Old Darcy thought highly of George and had hopes that the
young man would become a clergyman. Before he died, Mr. Darcy directed
his son to continue to assist Wickham if he decided to become a minister.
Wickham was to receive one thousand pounds, as well as help in finding
a church position. After Mr. Darcy died and Wickham's own father followed
him to the grave shortly thereafter, Wickham chose to study law. Nevertheless,
Darcy provided him more than he was obliged to--three thousand pounds;
in return, Wickham renounced all claims to further assistance. In the next
three years, he spent the money, then asked Darcy for more, telling him
that he had decided to study for the clergy after all.
will hardly blame me,” Darcy says in the letter, “for refusing to comply
with this entreaty, or for resisting every repetition to it. His resentment
was in proportion to the distress of his circumstances—and he was doubtless
as violent in his abuse of me to others as in his reproaches to myself.”
letter also informs Elizabeth that Wickham once contrived to make Darcy's
impressionable sister, Georgiana—then only fifteen—fall in love with him.
His goals were clear: to elope with the girl, thereby gaining access to
her fortune of thirty thousand pounds and at the same time getting even
with Darcy. Fortunately, “Georgiana, unable to support the idea of grieving
and offending a brother whom she almost looked up to as a father, acknowledged
the whole to me.”
reflecting on the letter, Elizabeth realizes that Darcy is telling the
truth: Wickham is a thoroughgoing scoundrel.
Jane and Elizabeth return to Longbourn, Lydia—ever enthralled with the
idea of striking up a romance with an officer— accompanies Colonel Forster
and his wife to Brighton, to which the Meryton officers have been transferred.
then goes on a vacation with the Gardiners. While traveling through Derbyshire,
they pass through historic towns and tour beautiful estates. After checking
into an inn at Lambton, where Mrs. Gardiner once lived, the latter expresses
a desire to see the Darcy estate at Pemberley and its “delightful grounds.”
Elizabeth opposes the idea until she learns that Darcy himself is not home.
While they tour the vast estate, the housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, speaks
highly of Darcy and says all his tenants think as much of him as she does.
When he will marry is a question, she says, because she does not know of
a woman worthy of him. Mrs. Gardiner calls Elizabeth's attention to a picture
of Wickham above a mantel. Mrs. Reynolds then recites a bit of his history
and notes, “I am afraid he has turned out very wild.”
housekeeper's observations begin to alter Elizabeth's opinion of Darcy
and help to confirm the latter's charges against Wickham.
Elizabeth and the Gardiners are touring the grounds, Darcy arrives earlier
than expected. Both he and Elizabeth are embarrassed, and Elizabeth regrets
her decision to visit the estate. However, Darcy treats her and everyone
else with the greatest civility, and Elizabeth asks herself, “Why is he
so altered? From what can it proceed?”
morning, Darcy and his sister, Georgiana, visit Elizabeth and the Gardiners
at the inn. Georgiana—a pleasant, attractive young lady—is extremely shy.
After the Darcys arrive, Bingley also shows up. He conducts himself with
utmost courtesy. He does not mention Jane specifically; rather, he asks
about all of Elizabeth's sisters. Elizabeth thinks his inquiry and his
manner suggest that he might remain interested in Jane. As for Darcy, he
also comports himself with great cordiality, exhibiting not a hint of the
pride or arrogance that Elizabeth previously noted in his manner.
thereafter, Elizabeth receives word from Jane that Lydia has run off with
Wickham. According to Jane, Wickham apparently has no intention of marrying
her. Elizabeth and the Gardiners then return to Longbourn, where they learn
that Wickham owes large sums as a result of gambling and his prodigal ways.
Mr. Bennet and his brother-in-law, Mr. Gardiner, travel to London to look
for them. When they find no clues to their whereabouts, Bennet returns
to Longbourn. However, he later receives a letter from Gardiner stating
that Lydia and Wickham have turned up. Wickham says he is willing to marry
Lydia if Mr. Bennet assures him that Lydia will share in the money he bequeaths
to his family upon his death. Furthermore, Bennet is to provide her an
annual income of one hundred pounds.
Bennet is surprised that Wickham has asked for so little.
a fool if he takes her with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds,”
he says. He therefore concludes, as does Elizabeth, that Gardiner must
have paid Wickham a considerable sum to entice him to marry Lydia and thus
avoid bringing scandal upon her and the rest of the family. Whatever the
case, Bennet agrees that Lydia and Wickham should marry. Mrs. Bennet is
ecstatic that one of her daughters is going to the altar.
the wedding, the Bennets learn that it was Darcy who found Lydia and Wickham.
He first tried to persuade Lydia to return home. She would not hear of
it. He then worked out a financial settlement with Wickham after deciding
that he might be redeemable. In fact, Wickham appears to be a changed man
when he and Lydia visit Longbourn.
long after the newlyweds embark on their new life, Darcy and Bingley return
to Netherfield Park. In due time, Bingley proposes to Jane, and she accepts.
About a week later, Lady Catherine de Bourgh visits Longbourn. As usual,
she is haughty and condescending. When she and Elizabeth go for a walk,
Lady Catherine says she wishes to put to rest a rumor that Darcy and Elizabeth
are to be married. Darcy, she says, is meant for her own daughter, not
Elizabeth, and she attempts to get Elizabeth to pledge not to accept a
proposal from Darcy, saying that “honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest”
forbid a marriage between them. But Elizabeth refuses to make any such
commitment, saying Lady Catherine has no right to interfere in her life.
fact, Darcy does propose to her later after admitting that his proud behavior
toward her was wrong and, in addition, that he was wrong about Jane's feelings
toward Bingley. For her part, Elizabeth says she had been wrong in prejudging
him. She accepts the proposal.
more weddings then take place. Darcy and Elizabeth settle down to married
life at Pemberley, and Bingley and Jane occupy Netherfield for a year before
moving to a new residence near Pemberley. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are pleased
that all has ended so well for Elizabeth and Jane.
presents the novel in third-person point of view, often omniscient, enabling
her to reveal the ruminations of the protagonist, Elizabeth, as in the
They had now entered
a beautiful walk by the side of the water, and every step was bringing
forward a nobler fall of ground, or a finer reach of the woods to which
they were approaching; but it was some time before Elizabeth was sensible
of any of it; and, though she answered mechanically to the repeated appeals
of her uncle and aunt, and seemed to direct her eyes to such objects as
they pointed out, she distinguished no part of the scene. Her thoughts
were all fixed on that one spot of Pemberley House, whichever it might
be, where Mr. Darcy then was. She longed to know what at the moment was
passing in his mind--in what manner he thought of her, and whether, in
defiance of everything, she was still dear to him. Perhaps he had been
civil only because he felt himself at ease; yet there had been that in
his voice which was not like ease. Whether he had felt more of pain or
of pleasure in seeing her she could not tell, but he certainly had not
seen her with composure. (Chapter 43)
In seeing Bingley, her thoughts
naturally flew to her sister; and, oh! how ardently did she long to know
whether any of his were directed in a like manner. Sometimes she could
fancy that he talked less than on former occasions, and once or twice pleased
herself with the notion that, as he looked at her, he was trying to trace
a resemblance. But, though this might be imaginary, she could not be deceived
as to his behaviour to Miss Darcy, who had been set up as a rival to Jane.
No look appeared on either side that spoke particular regard. Nothing occurred
between them that could justify the hopes of his sister. On this point
she was soon satisfied; and two or three little circumstances occurred
ere they parted, which, in her anxious interpretation, denoted a recollection
of Jane not untinctured by tenderness, and a wish of saying more that might
lead to the mention of her, had he dared. He observed to her, at a moment
when the others were talking together, and in a tone which had something
of real regret, that it "was a very long time since he had had the pleasure
of seeing her;" and, before she could reply, he added, "It is above eight
months. We have not met since the 26th of November, when we were all dancing
together at Netherfield." (Chapter 34)
The author also frequently reveals
the thoughts of other characters. For example, the following sentences
from Chapter 2 present the concerns of Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Lucas.
Mrs. Bennet was
quite disconcerted. She could not imagine what business he could have in
town so soon after his arrival in Hertfordshire; and she began to fear
that he might be always flying about from one place to another, and never
settled at Netherfield as he ought to be. Lady Lucas quieted her fears
a little by starting the idea of his being gone to London only to get a
large party for the ball. . . .
However, Austen sometimes keeps
secret what a character is thinking in order to heighten suspense and keep
the reader turning the page. The following passage demonstrates this approach:
But why Mr. Darcy
came so often to the Parsonage, it was more difficult to understand. It
could not be for society, as he frequently sat there ten minutes together
without opening his lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of
necessity rather than of choice--a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure
to himself. He seldom appeared really animated. Mrs. Collins knew not what
to make of him. Colonel Fitzwilliam's occasionally laughing at his stupidity,
proved that he was generally different, which her own knowledge of him
could not have told her; and as she would liked to have believed this change
the effect of love, and the object of that love her friend Eliza, she set
herself seriously to work to find it out. She watched him whenever they
were atRosings, and whenever he came to Hunsford; but without much success.
He certainly looked at her friend a great deal, but the expression of that
look was disputable. It was an earnest, steadfast gaze, but she often doubted
whether there were much admiration in it, and sometimes it seemed nothing
but absence of mind. (Chapter 32)
Travails of Courtship
Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare wrote, "The course of true love
never did run smooth" (Lysander, 1. 1. 134). That statement appears to
sum up the theme of Pride and Prejudice. True, Elizabeth and Darcy,
Jane and Bingley, and Lydia and Wickham all end up in what promise to be
happy marriages. But they all had to overcome formidable obstacles to get
to the altar.
Pride and Prejudice
exhibits undue pride at the beginning of the novel, believing he is superior
to the Hertfordshire denizens, while Elizabeth exhibits prejudice, believing
she correctly judges Darcy's character. But because she lacks substantial
information about his background, she actually prejudges him. However,
both later realize and acknowledge their shortcomings, preparing the way
for their reconciliation and marriage.
Lady Catherine, and Bingley's sisters all exhibit hauteur in the company
of people they believe are inferior in terms of breeding, social status,
education, and wealth. Only Darcy reforms his ways; the others remain insufferably
Catherine, Bingley's sisters, and other characters measure others according
to their rank, money, property, and social connections rather than their
integrity, compassion, humility, and other qualities.
and Prejudice devotes considerable attention to self-discovery. The
ancient Greeks so valued self-knowledge that they inscribed the words "Know
Thyself" at the entrance to one of their most sacred shrines, the Temple
of the oracle at Delphi. At the beginning of the novel, both Elizabeth
and Darcy are ignorant of their own shortcomings. Elizabeth readily perceives
the faults of others but fails to perceive a serious character flaw in
herself: her tendency to prejudge others, notably Darcy. Likewise, Darcy
quickly recognizes the deficiencies of the people he meets but overlooks
a considerable defect in himself: great pride. As the novel progresses,
however, Elizabeth and Darcy begin to discover their own imperfections
and eventually acknowledge and apologize for them. Knowing themselves,
they realize, enables them to root out the pride and prejudice that has
stood between them and then prepare the way for their life together.
refuses to conform to the expectations of society. She tramps through mud
to visit her ailing sister, no doubt well aware that her less-than-ladylike
appearance will invite criticism. She refuses a proposal of marriage from
Mr. Collins, who has a parsonage, an income, and the favor of Lady Catherine.
And, as the pièce de résistance, she refuses the first proposal
of marriage from the august Darcy—the handsome master of a vast estate.
In all of her decisions, she acts on principle, eschewing the dictates
of custom and society in favor of what her conscience tells her to do.
and Prejudice, members of the upper classes generally wish to maintain
their reputations as wealthy, cultured, and powerful citizens of the realm.
Members of the middle classes, such as Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins, generally
wish to enhance their reputations by linking their destinies with the high
and mighty. Lydia Bennet threatens the aspirations of both upper and middle-class
characters when she runs off with Wickham and lives with him out of wedlock.
Her scandalous behavior threatens to ruin the reputation of the entire
Bennet family and destroy her sisters' chances of marrying a respectable
young man. Darcy comes to the rescue, of course, providing the wherewithal
for Lydia and Wickham to marry. One may fairly wonder, though, whether
Darcy acts out of goodwill or whether he wishes to purify a family into
which he plans to marry.
climax of a novel or another literary work, such as a short story or a
play, can be defined as (1) the turning point at which the conflict begins
to resolve itself for better or worse, or as (2) the final and most exciting
event in a series of events. According to the first definition, the climax
of Pride and Prejudice occurs the moment that Elizabeth begins to
alter her negative opinion of Darcy. This moment occurs when Elizabeth
reevaluates Darcy's character while perusing his letter (Chapter 36). According
to second definition, the climax occurs when Darcy and Elizabeth admit
their faults to each other (Chapter 58) and acknowledge their feelings
for each other, preparing the way for their engagement and eventual marriage.
. Austin's Writing
writes lively and lucid prose. The vocabulary is relatively simple, and
there are few, if any, obscure allusions. Chapters are short, and the author
intersperses narrative and descriptive passages with dialogue to avoid
the monotony of long blocks of type.
Austen frequently describes a character directly—as tall or haughty, for
example—she just as frequently delineates him (or her) through what he
says, what he does, or what he thinks. For example, we know that Mr. Collins
is a sycophant because of his groveling praise of Lady Catherine. And we
know that Caroline Bingley is a bumptious snob because of her unfair criticism
of the Bennet girls.
satirizing the English society of her time, Austin sometimes uses caricature.
Collins, Lady Catherine, Caroline Bingley, and Mrs. Bennet are all cartoonish
figures who had their real-life English counterparts in churches, in the
drawings rooms of great estates, and in parlors of modest homes with mothers
contriving to append their daughters to wealthy bachelors. The author draws
her caricatures skillfully so that they act and sound—albeit with a goodly
modicum of exaggeration—like people we know, people we love to laugh at,
or people we love to despise.
the Meryton dance in Chapter 2, Darcy seems incurably arrogant, every bit
as toplofty as Lady Catherine in later chapters. But in Chapter 43, his
housekeeper characterizes him as almost saintly, saying he has been a perfect
gentlemen since childhood. What accounts for his "dual personality"? Before
attempting to answer that question, let us first consider key passages
in both chapters, the first attesting to Darcy's arrogance and the second
attesting to his seeming impeccability.
A conversation between
Darcy and Bingley when the latter coaxes him to dance with one of the young
certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly
acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this it would be insupportable.
Your sisters are engaged, and there is not another woman in the room whom
it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with."
would not be so fastidious as you are," cried Mr. Bingley, "for a kingdom!
Upon my honour, I never met with so many pleasant girls in my life as I
have this evening; and there are several of them you see uncommonly pretty."
are dancing with the only handsome girl in the room," said Mr.Darcy, looking
at the eldest Miss Bennet.
She is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld! But there is one of her
sisters sitting down just behind you, who is very pretty, and I dare say
very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you."
do you mean?" and turning round he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till
catching her eye, he withdrew his own and coldly said: "She is tolerable,
but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give
consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better
return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time
A conversation at Pemberley
in which Mr. Gardiner asks the housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, about Darcy.
your master would marry, you might see more of him."
sir; but I do not know when that will be. I do not know who is good enough
and Mrs. Gardiner smiled. Elizabeth could not help saying, "It is very
much to his credit, I am sure, that you should think so."
say no more than the truth, and everybody will say that knows him," replied
the other. Elizabeth thought this was going pretty far; and she listened
with increasing astonishment as the housekeeper added, "I have never known
a cross word from him in my life, and I have known him ever since he was
four years old."
what Mrs. Reynolds says is true—that Darcy never uttered a “cross word”
since his childhood—what accounts for his abominable behavior at Meryton?
Is he a Jekyll and Hyde? In a sense, perhaps. When Austen wrote the novel,
England and other European countries were nervous about the outcome of
the French Revolution. In that landmark historical event, the common people
overthrew the monarchy and the established social order. Consequently,
the upper classes lost their inherited titles and privileges; sometimes
they lost their heads to the guillotine. Meanwhile, the English upper classes
feared that revolutionary fervor would cross the channel and upset the
social order there. As a result, many of the entrenched aristocrats became
highly protective of their privileges and domains and looked with suspicion
and disdain upon those beneath them in the social structure. Darcy's arrogance
thus may well have been a conscious or unconscious expression of the prevailing
attitude of long-standing aristocrats toward anyone who would invade their
ranks—socially, militarily, or otherwise. In other words, in Meryton he
may have viewed the gathered provincial folk as a potentially threatening
group. Elizabeth, of course, was part of this group. Later, however, he
began to view her as an individual--as he had always viewed Mrs. Reynolds
and the others at Pemberley.
Treatment of Women
treatment of women is an issue in Pride and Prejudice. At the time
that the novel was written, it was not uncommon in England for a property
owner to will his real estate to a male heir with the condition that the
heirs of succeeding generations also had to be male. If, in these succeeding
generations, the current custodian of the estate had no sons (like Mr.
Bennet in Pride and Prejudice), he had to bequeath the property
to his nearest male relative (Mr. Collins, in
Pride and Prejudice)
even if he had at least one daughter.
unfair practice was used at a time when society generally refused to allow
women to become lawyers, physicians, bankers, architects, and so on. Consequently,
the only way for many young women to prosper was to marry an affluent bachelor.
This situation partly explains why Mrs. Bennet and other mothers, as well
as marriageable young ladies, are preoccupied with discovering well-to-do
bachelors, such as Darcy. Consider the attention he receives when he enters
the dance at Meryton: "Mr. Bingley was good-looking and gentlemanlike .
. . but his friend Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his
fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which
was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his
having ten thousand a year."
Questions and Essay Topics
Besides Elizabeth, which female
character in Pride and Prejudice do you most admire? Explain your
female character do you least admire? Explain your answer.
an essay that compares and contrasts Elizabeth and Jane Bennet.
an essay that attempts to explain why Charles Bingley is so warm and friendly
and his sister Caroline is so cold and condescending.
of Lady Catherine are reflected in the appearance of Rosings Park?
provides the wherewithal for Lydia and Wickham to marry, his action seems
noble and selfless. Is it possible, though, that his sole motive is to
maintain the reputation of the family into which he plans to marry? If
Lydia and Wickham had refused Darcy's help and foolishly decided to live
together without marrying, would Darcy have married Elizabeth?
47, Lydia writes in a letter to Harriet Forster that she and Wickham are
bound for Gretna Green. Where was Gretna Green? Why was it a popular destination
of young couples?
After the Meryton ball, Mrs.
Bennet says she hopes Elizabeth never dances with Darcy if an opportunity
presents itself. However, Charlotte Lucas observes that his pride is at
least somewhat forgivable: “One cannot wonder that so very fine a young
man, with family, fortune, everything in his favour, should think highly
of himself.” Do you agree or disagree with her observation? Explain your