Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: Summary, Characters, and Themes

Jane Austen’s most famous work, Pride and Prejudice, is unquestionably one of the most influential novels in the world of literature. Walter Scott, Virginia Woolf, Richard Arlington, and many others praised Austen’s writing ability. Her language is intelligent and beautiful. The rural England of the XVIII century that hosts the events of this novel is magnificently depicted. The characters’ relationships develop like an intriguing and graceful dance. Mr Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s love story, in which they overcame their pride and prejudice, is the happy ending that so many people seek.

 

The setting of Pride and Prejudice: Cultural and Historical Background of the Story

The author does not specify the period in which the novel takes place. Historically, it is known that Jane Austen wrote the book between 1796 and 1797, but it was not published until 1813. The story was edited before it was published, reflecting the customs and traditions of the 1790s through the 1810s. The events begin in September and last a full calendar year.

Readers need to remember the cultural context of the time: this was a time when wealth was measured in estates, status was both a privilege and a duty to maintain, and women had far less freedom than they do today. Female children were regarded as a burden unless they married someone who could care for them—and preferably their family as well. The vicious cycle was exemplified because, unless a girl was born into a wealthy family, her chances of finding a rich husband were virtually non-existent. Men frequently took advantage of their position and made most of the decisions for women.

 

Characters from the novel Pride and Prejudice

The plot revolves around the five Bennet daughters and their friends, who have several potential husbands, but not all are significant in the text.

 

Characters of Interest

Mr Bingley, despite his wealth, is a simple man who does not like to boast about his position. He is described as “good-looking and gentlemanlike; he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners” at the start of Chapter 3. Bingley is an open-minded and optimistic man who enjoys conversing with and meeting new people. He is sincere and acts on his emotions. His friend is the polar opposite of him; Mr Darcy is full of self-confidence and believes in his uniqueness and significance. He keeps to himself and prefers to hang out in the same circles. The nature of the two young men’s relationships reflects their personalities. Jane Bennet and Bingley are both straightforward and trusting; they like each other right away and are open about their feelings. Jane is the eldest of five sisters, and she is most likely the most trusting and naive. She is lovely and sweet.

Darcy and Elizabeth have a unique relationship. They both have exceptional personalities and have chosen to be in a love/hate relationship. Elizabeth Bennet is a lovely young lady who is self-sufficient, intelligent, quick-witted, and true to herself. She is obstinate and persistent:

Chapter 20 “Even though her demeanour changed, her determination remained constant.”

It is possible to see her grace and sensitivity even when her pride shields her. Darcy’s bias repels her and converts her sympathy into solid hate for the character. Conversations between them, which begin due to their mutual interest in one another, gradually devolve into a verbal brawl between their two strong personalities. The couple will have to work through their issues to be reunited at the end of the day.

Character, however, is not the only factor that stands in the way of the couples reconciling in happiness. Mr Collins takes advantage of the fact that he will be inheriting the Bennets’ estate and wishes to marry Elizabeth to “rescue” her from herself. William Collins is a “tall, heavy-looking young guy of five-and-twenty,” according to the description. His demeanour was solemn and dignified, and his behaviour was highly formal” (end of Chapter 13). Mr Jones is an uninspiring and shallow man who knows how to satisfy others but does not know how to be nice himself. Despite his flaws, he is chosen to marry Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas, despite his shortcomings. Charlotte was described as “a smart, clever young woman, perhaps twenty-seven years old” (Chapter 5), and being single at that age placed a great deal of pressure on her to find a husband quickly. Mrs Bennet used to remark things like, “Lucases are a perfect sort of girls…,” and she was right. Unfortunately, they aren’t beautiful!” (See Chapter 9 for more information.)

 

Secondary Characters

Mr Bennet, the family’s patriarch, is regarded as a man of noble birth. He is solid, apathetic, has a fatalistic view of life, and is sarcastic towards himself and those around him. He is incredibly sarcastic toward his wife, Mrs Bennet, who lacks high intelligence, family orientation, and good looks. The mother of five daughters is ridiculous, blatantly inept, and excessively self-centred.

Looking at older Mrs Bennet, it’s easy to see why Miss Caroline Bingley was so vehemently opposed to her brother’s marriage to Jane; she was only concerned with her social standing and didn’t want to be associated with a family of such bad manners and origins. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is another self-centred character in the story. She is Darcy’s aunt as well as Mr Collins’ boss; she “has very recently given him (Collins) a living” (Chapter 16). This woman is unconcerned about other people’s feelings and only sees things on the surface.

Aunt and Uncle Gardiner are the Bennet girls’ father’s side relatives. They are prosperous and well-educated. Mrs Gardiner provides Jane and Elizabeth with the support and advice they could not obtain from their mother. The sisters accompany them on a trip around England, which allows the girls to reflect on the relationships in their lives.

Mary Bennet is Jane and Elizabeth’s middle sister. She frequently discusses morality and lives primarily in her books. The younger Bennet sisters are given much less attention in the book and are portrayed as rather frivolous troublemakers; Lydia and Kitty Bennet quickly fall for the officers’ uniforms and arms, and Lydia even runs away with one of them, George Wickham. Mr Wickham harbours a grudge against Darcy and tells lies to humiliate her, even though he was the one who attempted to make a move on Darcy’s shy underage sister, Georgiana Darcy. Georgiana learns how to express herself through Elizabeth’s example and realizes that a woman can allow herself to talk to her husband in a way that no little sister can.

 

Complete Summary of How the Love Story in Pride and Prejudice Plays Out

Mr Bingley and his sisters, along with their friend Darcy, move into the most luxurious Netherfield Park mansion in the area at the story’s start. Bingley is a young, wealthy, and single man. It appears to be a perfect solution for the Bennet family. They have five unmarried daughters and are preoccupied with getting them married to secure their family’s financial well-being. Jane Bennet is invited over for dinner one day, but she becomes ill when she arrives. Elizabeth travels to Netherfield to care for her sister. That’s how the two couples – Jane and Mr Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy – meet and fall in love. Later, Mr Bingley and his sisters visit Bennet’s mansion to invite them to a ball.

Mr Collins (Mr Bennet’s cousin and sole heir to the family estate—there are no male heirs to the Bennet family) pays a visit to the family at the same time. Before announcing his visit, he wrote a letter stating his intention to marry one of the Bennet girls. He selfishly expects all of them to want to marry him to keep their family mansion and is surprised when Elizabeth declines his proposal at the ball. Following that, William Collins, determined to find a wife, proposes to Charlotte Lucas, who agrees to marry simply out of social pressure.

The Bingley sisters were concerned that their brother would bring shame to the family by marrying Jane, who was not of their social class. They do everything they can to break up the couple and eventually force him to relocate to London. Jane and Elizabeth Bennet arrive in London after a while. Elizabeth runs into Darcy again while visiting her friend Charlotte. They re-engage in heated debates. Darcy confesses his feelings for Elizabeth and proposes to her, but he does so in a snobbish manner that Elizabeth rejects him. His act, however, altered her perception of him, and her dislike for him evolved into something more complex and profound.

The next day, Darcy writes a long letter to Elizabeth. He comes clean, sincerely explains why he interfered in Jane and Mr Bingley’s relationship (which he sincerely regrets) and explains that Mr Wickham’s stories about him are lies. Elizabeth changes her mind about Darcy, but she doesn’t contact him to tell him. The next time the lovebirds see each other is when Lizzy travels to Darcy’s Pemberley estate with her aunt and uncle. She overhears people praising him, and Darcy himself conducts himself admirably in public. Darcy comes across Elizabeth in tears after learning that her younger sister Lydia has run away with officer Wickham. Fortunately for everyone, uncle Gardiner could locate the lovers in London and easily persuade the young man to marry the girl he had seduced. Only later did Elizabeth realize Wickham agreed to marry Lydia because Darcy had paid off all of his debts.

The story concludes with a happy ending when Mr Bingley, the sisters, and Darcy return to Netherfield Park. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth for the second time, and she accepts, and the couple moves into the opulent Pemberley House. Mr Bingley marries Jane, and the couple has a happily ever after.

 

Pride and Prejudice Themes

Family

The story revolves around the concept of family. First and foremost, the Bennet sisters are desperate to start their own families (at least so their mother thinks). Second, family ties frequently link the characters, such as Mr Collin’s boss being Mr Darcy’s aunt. At the same time, we see how much society values family unity: British law did not allow females to inherit property, so Mr Bennet’s wife and daughters are homeless because only their father’s closest male relative can inherit their home.

 

Pride

The story’s central theme is pride, which prevents the protagonists from developing intimate relationships. When Darcy proposes to Elizabeth for the first time, he is not afraid to make a few remarks to demonstrate his superiority over Elizabeth’s family. Even though the two had a connection, the girl’s pride couldn’t take it. In any case, the story shows that it is possible to overcome one’s pride. It took Elizabeth a while to recognize Darcy’s redeeming qualities, but she eventually realized his true heart.

 

Class

Around the time this book was written, the class was at the heart of everything people did and said. Darcy and Bingley, the two sisters, resisted the idea of tying their names to the Bennet family, citing class differences: Elizabeth and Jane had no large estate or inheritance to offer their potential husbands. Families did everything they could to avoid being around people of high status and origin or to preserve their current reputation for the future. Lydia’s escape with some officer could have damaged Bennet’s family name irreparable damage. The troubled sister had the potential to ruin the lives of all her unmarried siblings: such shame would have meant that Elizabeth would never have been able to marry Darcy or any decent man because their family name would have become tarnished.

 

Prejudice

In the story, prejudice is another impediment to developing loving relationships. It was more important at the time to marry someone of your social standing than to marry someone you love. That’s why Miss Bingley is adamant that her brother not marry Jane, even though the two are in love. That’s why Darcy keeps proving his superiority to the woman he adores. Lady Catherine de Bourgh, the right and honorable, is the polar opposite of prejudice in her willingness to appreciate people for their hearts.

 

Love and Marriage

While Pride and Prejudice are often referred to as a love story, and there is much love in it, marriages in the 18th century were not. Charlotte, for example, marries Mr Collins solely because she is 27 years old, which was considered too old at the time to hope for better options. Lydia is forced to marry the wicked Wickham to save her family’s reputation, even though Wickham only marries Lydia because Darcy paid off his debts (they regard Darcy as a hero for forcing the drunk, lying man to marry Elizabeth’s sister!). Marriage was required, but it was not needed to be happily married. As Charlotte correctly stated:

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance,” says Chapter 6. If the dispositions of the parties are known to each other or are similar in advance, it does not advance their happiness in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to cause some annoyance, and it is preferable to know as little as possible about the flaws of the person with whom you are to spend your life.”

 

Women

In this story, the role of women in society and family deserves special attention. It was challenging to be a woman at the time, whether you were rich or poor. You could come from a noble family, but you weren’t safe from hearing one day that “my cousin, Mr Collins, who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases” (Chapter 13). Women, on the other hand, had little control over their futures. Elisabeth’s father made an exception to support her decision not to marry Mr Collins:

“From this day forward, you must be a stranger to one of your parents.” If you marry Mr Collins, your mother will never see you again, and I will never see you again.”

It made no difference that the mother wanted the marriage to take place. Only if Elizabeth’s father insisted would she be forced to spend the rest of her life with a man she neither respected nor liked.