Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
Pride and Prejudice revolves around love and marriage in an acquisitive society. While the Bennets are members of the leisure class, the family fortune is entailed upon a male heir. This difficulty causes Mrs. Bennet to act frantically to find husbands for her five daughters. Elizabeth, the heroine, looks toward marriage with her clear sense of self and her ability to judge others accurately. To unite with a worthy husband, however, she must change her perceptions and grow in understanding. The novel is presented in three volumes, the sections mirroring Elizabeth Bennet’s emotional growth through her response to the hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy.
The story begins with Elizabeth, like the other young women in Meryton community, looking forward to a party that introduces two eligible bachelors with fortunes. She sees with pleasure that Charles Bingley is attracted to her older sister Jane. She dismisses the other bachelor, the aristocrat Darcy, as a proud man who considers himself their social superior. Elizabeth painfully recognizes the truth of his assessment as she observes her mother and sister Lydia in unseemly attempts to ensnare any possible suitor. Elizabeth’s sentiments and values are further revealed when she rejects the offer of Mr. Collins, the pompous, condescending gentleman on whom their fortune is entailed and is instead attracted to the handsome Wickham, who beguiles her with his charm and his story of ill-treatment by Darcy. His...
(The entire section is 527 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Longbourn Estate. Home of the Bennet family in southeastern England’s Hertfordshire. The estate is “entailed,” meaning that it can be passed down only through male heirs. Austen uses the estate to point up the condition of single women in early nineteenth century England, demonstrating why they have an intense need to marry. The Longbourn estate is to pass to Mr. Collins, a pretentious young clergyman who stands to inherit Mr. Bennet’s property. After the heroine Elizabeth Bennet turns down Collins’s proposal of marriage, her best friend, Charlotte Lucas, accepts his proposal because she is poor and needs to marry.
Netherfield Park. Estate rented by Mr. Bingley, the neighborhood’s new eligible bachelor, in which Austen sets up the novel’s action. The Bennets have five unmarried daughters, and their silly mother is anxious to see them all married. Mr. Bingley soon falls for Jane, the oldest, and it is through him that Elizabeth meets the arrogant Fitzwilliam Darcy, Bingley’s best friend. The complex social goings-on at Netherfield illuminate a society in which women scramble to find husbands amid financial snobbery and class prejudice.
Rosings. Home of Mr. Collins’s arrogant patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is also Darcy’s aunt. After Charlotte marries Mr. Collins, she moves to the cleric’s cottage near the Rosings estate.
Pemberley. Darcy’s well-ordered home, in which he and Elizabeth come to view themselves as they truly are: Elizabeth recognizes her own prejudice, and Darcy recognizes his own pride. Pemberley is the perfect setting for the ultimate triumph of romantic love. After Elizabeth spurns Darcy, she eventually begins to regard her decision as a mistake, especially as she realizes that she might have been the mistress of Pemberley, in whose miles and miles of grounds she takes great delight.
Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Pride and Prejudice is a novel about marriage. The author’s purpose is to make it possible for her two most interesting characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, to be united. In order to accomplish the author’s purpose, they must overcome both external obstacles and the personal flaws suggested in the title of the book. Although he is attracted to Elizabeth, the proud aristocrat Darcy is prejudiced against her family because of their social inferiority, which is evident to him in the folly of Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters, as well as in the fact that the family has a kinsman in trade. Elizabeth’s own pride is injured when she overhears Darcy’s slighting comment about her; her resulting prejudice is confirmed by George Wickham’s lies and by her own discovery that Darcy had advised Charles Bingley not to proceed with his courtship of Jane Bennet. If the lovers are finally to come together, not only must Wickham be exposed and Jane be reunited with Bingley, but also both Elizabeth and Darcy must become wiser, so that in the future their judgments will be based not on pride or on prejudice, but on reason.
In form, it has been noted, Pride and Prejudice is highly dramatic. Each character is introduced with a short summary much like those found in playscripts. The story proceeds through dialogue, with Austen herself functioning as an onstage commentator, summing up what has happened since the last scene or adding...
(The entire section is 538 words.)
Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Jane Austen’s heroines have long been admired. Like Elizabeth, they are all intelligent, independent, and strong-willed. Nevertheless, all of them have flaws. The imaginative young Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey (1817) tries to make a Gothic novel out of ordinary life, while in Emma (1815), the forceful title character, Emma Woodhouse, is so determined to do good that she ignores the wishes of others, with unfortunate results. The deficiencies of Austen’s heroines, however, are defects not of character, but of judgment. When, in the course of the novels, they come to know themselves better and to see others more clearly, their inherent virtues are strengthened by wisdom.
With the growth of feminist criticism, however, have come new questions about Austen’s intentions, especially where her heroines are concerned. While there is still general agreement that Elizabeth Bennet is the most admirable, as well as the most appealing, of her female characters, some critics argue that Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy represents a sacrifice of her selfhood. Even in a patriarchal society such as Austen’s, a girl whose father is as passive as Mr. Bennet can rule her own life unless, like Lydia, she blatantly defies society. Darcy, however, is quite a different kind of person from Mr. Bennet. It is questioned whether Elizabeth can maintain her independence as the wife of a man who is her equal in will and intellect and her superior in rank and wealth, especially since she will be moving in his social circle.
Since Austen wrote no sequel to Pride and Prejudice which could settle the issue, however, most critics continue to believe that the novel ends happily. They see Elizabeth as a woman who will assert herself, no matter what her situation, and Darcy as a man who would never attempt to destroy the very qualities in Elizabeth that initially elicited his admiration. Perhaps the significance of these questions is not merely that they emphasize how repressive Jane Austen’s environment actually was, but also that they underline her amazing achievement. In a society dominated by males, she managed to bring to life a number of strong-willed female characters and to produce some of the finest literary works of her era.
Volume One, Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. Where does the opening scene take place?
2. What does Mrs. Bennet want her husband to do?
3. Why does Mrs. Bennet seem excited?
4. What does Mrs. Bennet consider to be her mission in life?
5. Why does Mr. Bennet favor Lizzy?
6. Who does Mrs. Bennet say will probably visit Mr. Bingley first?
7. How much money does Mr. Bingley earn annually?
8. What is meant by the word “let” in this sentence?
“Netherfield Park is let at last.”
9. What does Mrs. Bennet say a woman with five grown daughters should give up?
10. How many years have the Bennets been married?
(The entire section is 206 words.)
Volume One, Chapters 2-3 Questions and Answers
1. How does Mr. Bennet tease his family?
2. What annoying habit does Kitty have?
3. How does Mrs. Bennet show favoritism to Lydia?
4. Why did Bingley turn down the first invitation to dinner?
5. Who came back from London with Bingley?
6. What are the first impressions of most women of Darcy?
7. Who does Bingley find attractive?
8. Why does Elizabeth sit down for two dances?
9. Who overhears Darcy’s speech to Bingley? How does she react?
10. What most impresses Mrs. Bennet about Bingley’s sisters?
1. He doesn’t tell them right away that he...
(The entire section is 207 words.)
Volume One, Chapters 4-8 Questions and Answers
1. How does Jane describe Bingley to Elizabeth?
2. What does Elizabeth say Jane never sees?
3. What did Charlotte overhear at the ball?
4. What did Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst think of Mrs. Bennet and the younger daughters?
5. At the second ball, what does Darcy do that irritates Elizabeth?
6. What is an entailment?
7. What happens to Jane when she visits Bingley’s sisters?
8. How do the Bingley sisters react to Elizabeth’s appearance when she arrives at Netherfield?
9. What is the name of Darcy’s estate?
10. Who is Mr. Jones and why was he sent for?
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Volume One, Chapters 9-12 Questions and Answers
1. How does Mrs. Bennet describe Charlotte?
2. What does Miss Bingley ask Charles?
3. To whom does Darcy compose a letter?
4. Why does Miss Bingley get jealous?
5. What weaknesses do Darcy says expose “a strong understanding to ridicule”?
6. What type of entertainment is usually enjoyed after dinner at Netherfield?
7. How long did Jane stay at Netherfield?
8. Why does Darcy hardly speak to Elizabeth on their last day at Netherfield?
9. Why is Mrs. Bennet upset that the two daughters returned so soon?
10. How do the other daughters react to their reunion?
(The entire section is 220 words.)
Volume One, Chapters 13-18 Questions and Answers
1. How long does Mr. Collins plan to visit?
2. What is the first subject Mrs. Bennet discusses with Collins?
3. How does Collins describe young Miss de Bourgh?
4. What is the name of the de Bourgh estate?
5. How does Lydia embarrass Collins?
6. Which daughter is of first interest to Collins?
7. What did Darcy and Wickham do on first meeting?
8. What job had Wickham’s father held?
9. Does Bingley have any knowledge of Wickham?
10. What does Miss Bingley say to Elizabeth at the ball?
1. He plans to stay two weeks.
2. She brought up...
(The entire section is 183 words.)
Volume One, Chapters 19-23 Questions and Answers
1. What is Mr. Collins’ first argument to Elizabeth explaining why he should marry?
2. What does Mr. Bennet say to Elizabeth that he will do if she accepts Collins’ proposal?
3. What does Wickham say about his absence from the ball?
4. Who sends Jane a letter?
5. Who does the letter imply should receive Mr. Bingley’s affections?
6. Who received Mr. Collins’ second proposal?
7. Why does Charlotte agree to become married?
8. How does Mrs. Bennet react to Charlotte’s marriage plans?
9. How long will Bingley be absent from Netherfield?
10. How does Charlotte’s age reflect on her...
(The entire section is 231 words.)
Volume Two, Chapters 1-3 Questions and Answers
1. Who sends Jane a letter from London?
2. What does Elizabeth say to Jane about her feelings toward others?
3. How does Elizabeth describe Mr. Collins?
4. What does Mrs. Gardiner have in common with Wickham?
5. What does Mrs. Gardiner warn Elizabeth about?
6. Who returns from another visit to Hertfordshire?
7. What favor does Charlotte ask of Elizabeth?
8. Who does Jane visit in London?
9. Who does Wickham court?
10. What does Elizabeth confess in her letter to Mrs. Gardiner?
1. Miss Bingley sends a letter saying that the Bingley clan is...
(The entire section is 214 words.)
Volume Two, Chapters 4-8 Questions and Answers
1. When Elizabeth visits Heresford, where does she stop over?
2. How far was the journey to Collins’ parsonage?
3. What do the Gardiners propose to Elizabeth?
4. Who unexpectedly comes to offer dinner?
5. What is Elizabeth’s first impression of Miss de Bourgh?
6. How does Lady de Bourgh assess Elizabeth?
7. What games are played after dinner at the fashionable de Bourgh estate?
8. How old is Elizabeth?
9. Who arrives at the de Bourgh’s for a visit?
10. Why is Elizabeth attracted to Colonel Fitzwilliam?
1. She stops over for a day at the...
(The entire section is 167 words.)
Volume Two, Chapters 9-12 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Fitzwilliam refrain from marriage?
2. Who does Fitzwilliam remind Elizabeth of?
3. What does Fitzwilliam inform Elizabeth that Darcy has done for Bingley?
4. What is Elizabeth doing just prior to Darcy’s proposal?
5. What are the reasons that Darcy feels superior to her?
6. Why does Elizabeth reject his proposal?
7. How does Darcy react to her answer?
8. How does Elizabeth hurt Darcy the most?
9. When Darcy leaves, what does Elizabeth do?
10. When Elizabeth receives Darcy’s letter the next day, why does she begin to chastise herself?
(The entire section is 189 words.)
Volume Two, Chapters 13-19 Questions and Answers
1. What fault did Darcy place on Jane that encouraged him to break up the relationship with Bingley?
2. How much money was Wickham given?
3. When his money ran out, who did Wickham try to win over?
4. What did Elizabeth say had been her folly?
5. Who came to visit Elizabeth while she read and re-read Darcy’s letter?
6. What does Lady Catherine ask Elizabeth to do?
7. Why do Elizabeth and Maria stop at the Gardiners on their way home?
8. What news does Lydia give Elizabeth about Wickham?
9. Why are Lydia and Kitty so agitated?
10. What does Elizabeth warn her father about?
(The entire section is 201 words.)
Volume Three, Chapters 1-5 Questions and Answers
1. What does Elizabeth insist upon before her visit to Pemberley?
2. What does Darcy ask of Elizabeth that totally “floors” her?
3. What do the Gardiners perceive about Darcy?
4. How does Caroline Bingley try to insult Elizabeth?
5. Why does Jane send two letters to Elizabeth?
6. How does Darcy react to this family scandal?
7. What is Mr. Gardiner prepared to do?
8. Why is it unlikely that Wickham will marry Lydia?
9. How does Mrs. Bennet react to this new predicament?
10. What does Elizabeth admire about Pemberley?
1. She wants assurances...
(The entire section is 213 words.)
Volume Three, Chapters 6-10 Questions and Answers
1. Why did Wickham really leave Meryton with Lydia?
2. What does Mr. Collins say about what should be done to Lydia?
3. When Mr. Bennet returns, what does he tell Kitty?
4. Why are Jane and Elizabeth shocked when Mr. Gardiner tells them about the intended marriage?
5. What is one regret Mr. Bennet has about his failure to plan for the future when he was younger?
6. Why was Wickham shipped to a regiment in the north?
7. How do Lydia’s actions after her wedding show her true character?
8. Even though promised to secrecy, Lydia blurts out that another person was involved in her wedding. Who was it?
(The entire section is 322 words.)
Volume Three, Chapters 11-15 Questions and Answers
1. Soon after Lydia leaves with her new husband, who returns to town?
2. What does Mrs. Bennet ask her husband to do? What is his answer?
3. Who did Darcy sit next to when he was invited to the Bennets’ for dinner?
4. What does Jane tell Elizabeth about the current status of her relationship with Bingley?
5. When Bingley arrives for his second dinner invitation, what surprises the Bennet family?
6. How was it obvious that Mrs. Bennet wanted to leave Bingley and Jane alone?
7. What does Bingley do after the third dinner at the Bennets?
8. How does Lady Catherine shock Elizabeth when she unexpectedly calls at...
(The entire section is 268 words.)
Volume Three, Chapters 16-19 Questions and Answers
1. What does Darcy beg of Elizabeth as they are walking after his aunt’s intervention?
2. What do Darcy and Elizabeth both admit?
3. Who are the only people who are not surprised by Elizabeth’s engagement to Darcy?
4. How does Mrs. Bennet’s reaction to the pairing of Elizabeth and Darcy show more of her shortcomings and shallow character?
5. What does Mr. Bennet warn Elizabeth against?
6. What does Darcy say first attracted him to Elizabeth?
7. What does Elizabeth admit to her father after Darcy’s proposal?
8. How does Mr. Bennet’s concern differ from his wife’s?
9. How does Georgiana...
(The entire section is 266 words.)
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For Further Reference
Bibliography and Further Reading
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Interpretations: Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Contains nine essays treating such topics as manners and propriety, love, intelligence, and society. Includes a chronology and bibliography.
Brown, Julia Prewitt. Jane Austen’s Novels: Social Change and Literary Form. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979. A response to critics who claim that Austen does not write about important issues because she writes about domestic life. Choosing a spouse points to life’s complexity, which intelligent characters know; the foolish choose badly, dooming...
(The entire section is 823 words.)