One of the most famous first lines in English literature is found in Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The sentence immediately introduces the theme of marriage, a topic that is explored in the novel by following the character of Elizabeth Bennet, the second oldest of five daughters in a family of landed gentry, and her relationship with a man of great wealth and property named Mr. Darcy. The first line also establishes the wry humor and irony which Jane Austen employs throughout the book; as the reader quickly realizes, the novel is not so much about the fact that a “single man” wants a wife—but that a single woman, particularly one without a fortune, is in dire need of a husband. The marriage theme is also explored through the characters of the Bennet sisters and Elizabeth’s friend, Charlotte Lucas.
Jane Austen once described her work as existing within “that little bit (two inches wide) of ivory, in which I work with so fine a brush as produces little effect after much labour.” However, in focusing so narrowly on the life and trials of the Bennet family, its daughters, and their suitors, Austen creates in Pride and Prejudice a surprisingly incisive and revealing portrait of how social ritual, class, and gender were woven into the fabric of life in eighteenth century England. That Austen’s original title for the book was First Impressions provides fodder for discussion; there are clear episodes in the plot that illustrate how exterior markers such as appearance or fortune don’t always provide an accurate basis for making assumptions or judging others too quickly. The eventual title, Pride and Prejudice, perhaps encapsulates this theme more precisely.
The novel also depicts the reality that women—particularly if they were unfortunate enough to have their family estate entailed away as in the case of the Bennet daughters—were rarely in positions of power or authority. In creating the witty, intelligent, and assertive character of Elizabeth Bennet, Austen found a way to challenge the constraints of gender and the paradoxical rules that governed social institutions like marriage.
Few novels from any time period have the long-lasting cultural relevance of Pride and Prejudice. It has been adapted into well-known television productions, such as the BBC miniseries starring Elizabeth Ehle and Colin Firth; a 2005 film version earned its star, Keira Knightly, an Oscar nomination. It also has inspired many other works with titles ranging from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2005) to Death Comes to Pemberley (2011), a murder mystery by well-known author P.D. James.
Jane Austen was born in 1775, the seventh child of the rector of Steventon parish located near Basingstoke, England. She remained at Steventon with her family until her father retired in 1801 and they moved to Bath. From the time she was a child, she wrote stories. Four of her novels were published during her lifetime, including Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1816). Two other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published after her death in 1817.
By the end of the unit the student will be able to:
1. Describe what makes Elizabeth Bennet an appealing and interesting heroine, particularly given the time period of the novel.
2. Explain why the first line of the novel is among the most famous in English literature.
3. Analyze the way the social institution of marriage is both clearly explained and treated with gentle irony.
4. Identify the way social class and economic status affects the central characters.
5. Find examples in the text of how Austen illustrates the social hypocrisy of the era.
6. Explore the implications of gender in nineteenth-century society and how gender affects Elizabeth’s struggle between constructions of femininity and independent selfhood.
7. Describe what makes the novel a timeless classic.
8. Explain how the novel, through various characters, presents embodiments of “pride” and of “prejudice.”
This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.
Student Lesson Guide
- The Lesson Guide is organized for study of the book in sections as indicated by chapters. Lesson Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.
- Lesson Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in reading each section of the book and to acquaint them generally with its content.
- Before Lesson Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading...
(The entire section is 534 words.)
1. Why might Austen want to write a novel about marriage? What complexities or insights into nineteenth-century society might be illuminated by this particular focus?
2. Is the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet depicted as a happy one? What background issues of class and economics inform the nature of their relationship?
3. Compare and contrast the ways that Elizabeth and Charlotte view marriage. Which of their views reflects the way society of the time viewed marriage? Which of them do you agree with?
4. What is the appeal of Wickham for Elizabeth? What type of basic human error does she make that prevents her from seeing the truth?...
(The entire section is 633 words.)
acquaintance: one’s slight knowledge of or friendship with someone
acquainted: to have personal knowledge of; to have been brought into social contact
advantage: a more favorable or improved condition or position
amends: corrects, fixes
assemblies: formal social gatherings
assuring: restoring or intending to restore confidence
caprice: an impulsive change of mood or behavior
chaise: a horse-drawn traveling carriage, usually two seated and chair backed
circumspection: marked by caution and earnest attention to all possible circumstances
conjecturing: making suppositions and speculations as to possible outcomes...
(The entire section is 1019 words.)
affectation: the act of taking up or displaying a feeling, attitude, or opinion not natural to oneself or not genuinely felt
air: aura, manner, style
amiable: of a generally agreeable nature
ascertaining: determining with certainty
beheld: seen, witnessed
Boulanger: Georges Ernest Boulanger, a French general
candour: unreserved, honest, or sincere expression
circulation: passage or transmission from person to person
commendation: the expression of approval
conceited: having overly high self-esteem or self-regard
conceive: to imagine, to visualize
(The entire section is 1714 words.)
accosted: confronted; approached boldly or aggressively
application: the act of fixing one’s mind closely or attentively
archly: slyly, playfully
arising: originating from a specified source
asserting: stating plainly or strongly
bestow: to provide
capital: most enjoyable; excellent
civil: adequate in courtesy and politeness
Commerce: popular nineteenth century card game
complaisance: archaic complacence; a ready attitude to please, often indicated by agreeing to a request
compliment: a formal expression of esteem or respect; praise, flattering remark
composure: calmness of mind in appearance...
(The entire section is 1585 words.)
abominable: quite disagreeable or unpleasant
affinity: an attraction to or liking of something
alternative: a choice, an option
ample: plenty, more than enough
apothecary: British a physician
benevolence: disposition to do good
brilliancy: brightness (often associated with beauty)
capacity: the power or ability to hold, receive, or contain
clerk: an employee in charge of keeping records or accounts; one who performs routine office tasks
coach: a large, usually enclosed, four-wheeled carriage with side doors, passenger seats, and an elevated driver’s seat...
(The entire section is 1655 words.)
adhering: holding, following, or maintaining loyalty steadily and consistently (as to a person, group, principle, or way)
advisable: wise, sensible
affront: to insult especially to someone’s face by behavior or language
alacrity: a quickness in responding; eagerness
amendment: the act of changing something, especially for the better
apparent: obvious, easily seen or noticed
appertain: to belong or be connected as a rightful part or attribute
approbation: approval; good or positive opinion
atoned: made up for an improper action; made amends
aweful: archaic awful, unpleasant,...
(The entire section is 1265 words.)
amused: pleasantly diverted
anecdote: a usually short story of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident
civility: courtesy; polite social behavior
congratulation: an expression of sympathetic pleasure regarding an achievement
diffuseness: the state of being widespread
failing: a personality defect or character weakness
implacable: not able to be settled or appeased
inquiry: a request for information
insufferably: acting in a way incapable of being endured
laconic: brief or concise
meditating: reflecting on, contemplating
petition: an earnest...
(The entire section is 837 words.)
abode: a home, a dwelling
absurd: ridiculously unreasonable
affability: the quality or state of being sociable
allude: to make an indirect reference
antagonist: an opponent
asperity: severity; rigor
beneficence: active goodness or kindness
breach: a break in friendly relations
christening: the ceremony of baptizing and officially naming a child
commendable: worthy of being praised
condescension: an act of descending from a higher position to relate to inferiors
constitution: the whole physical being of a person, particularly as it relates to health
(The entire section is 738 words.)
amply: generously, thoroughly
astonish: to surprise or amaze
authoritative: having an air of authority over others, often demanding submission from them
avowal: an open declaration of direct acknowledgment
bequeathed: given by formal declaration so that the thing given passes into ownership of the recipient after the death of the donor
bonnet: a woman’s hat
cessation: a pause or an end (as of an action)
conditional: not certain, dependent on other factors
conversible: pleasant or easy to talk with
corroborated: established or made firm; supported by evidence or authority
degenerate: to pass from a higher to a lower...
(The entire section is 1452 words.)
abundantly: greatly, plentifully, by a large amount
accounts: statements or opinions about a specific topic
acquit: to free, to rid
affected: given to false show; assuming or pretending to have what is not natural or real
age: a relatively long time period
alienated: made unfriendly or hostile especially in terms of friendship
allusion: an indirect or implied reference
attending: applying the mind or paying attention with a view toward understanding or performing correctly
attentions: acts of courtesy or care toward someone or something
audible: capable of being heard
ceremonious: marked by ceremony, especially by...
(The entire section is 1791 words.)
coaxed: influenced or persuaded by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering; persuaded with persistence
conference: a meeting
contemplation: deep thought
coquetry: flirtatious behavior intended to attract affection or attention
dawdled: wasted time, spent more time than necessary on a task
declaration: a formal statement or proclamation
detained: stopped, delayed
diffidence: lack of confidence
dissemble: to hide under a false appearance
disservice: unfairness, wrong, injustice
doleful: miserable, sad
earnestness: a serious state of mind; a firm sense of purpose
economy: archaic the art of...
(The entire section is 759 words.)
abatement: the ending, reduction, or lessening of something
apprehension: anticipation of future unfavorable things
assiduous: marked or characterized by constant or persistent attention
avail: to take advantage of; to use or benefit from
beaux (beaus): boyfriends, love interests
bewailed: expressed deep sorrow or regret
cease: to stop
comparatively: by comparison to a previous condition
composed: formed of
comprised: included, contained
conception: a general notion
concurrence: a meeting or coming together
continuance: the state of remaining in existence or operation
cordiality: warm regard,...
(The entire section is 1080 words.)
abhorrence: intense dislike
allowances: the taking into account of circumstances that could change an opinion or decision
appease: to satisfy, to bring to a state of contentment or peace
barbarously: horribly, cruelly
befal: archaic to befall; to take place
boisterously: noisily, roughly or rudely in behavior
conjunction: a coming together, a joining
courtier: a person who woos or seeks favor
discharging: relieving or getting rid of something that burdens
disinterestedness: freedom from selfish motives, fair-mindedness
distinction: a difference in rank or level...
(The entire section is 857 words.)
ablution: the washing of one’s body or part of it
acquiescence: acceptance, agreement
acquisition: coming into a new possession
advance: to move forward or toward something
alleviated: lessened, relieved
artful: crafty, deceitful
attachment: a feeling (as affection) that ties a person to another person
banish: to drive away, expel
cleanse: to wash, to clean
combated: fought, struggled with
defection: desertion, especially to an opposing side
detest: to hate, to intensely dislike
discourse: conversation, discussion
distractedly: in a deeply troubled or emotionally distressed manner...
(The entire section is 1122 words.)
adieu: French goodbye, farewell
amidst: in the middle of
aspect: archaic appearance to the eye or mind
attentive: regarding with care or attention
avarice: excessive desire for wealth or gain, greediness
bustle: noisy or energetic activity
cultivation: training, developing
diversified: varied or changed from the usual
drawing-room: a more or less formal reception room
fender: a low often ornamental fence of iron or brass set before a hearth to confine coals and ashes
hedge: a fence or boundary formed by a row of shrubs or low tress planted close together
mercenary: seeking only...
(The entire section is 431 words.)
antichamber (antechamber): a room or foyer placed before and leading into a chief apartment and serving as a waiting room
apparel: clothing, dress
ascended: moved upward
awful: deserving of awe or wonder
betray: to reveal something unintentionally
cassino: a card game played by two or more persons in which each player wins cards by matching or combining cards exposed on the table with cards from his/her hand
commission: a formal written warrant or authority granting certain powers or privileges and authorizing or commanding the performance of certain acts or duties
counterpart: a thing that serves to complete or...
(The entire section is 570 words.)
amiss: not quite right; inappropriate, out of place
billiard table: a pool table
concise: brief, compactly stated
convenience: suitability which provides advantage or comfort
conversing: engaging in conversation
counterbalance: a force or power that offsets or neutralizes an opposing force
emergence: a coming out into view
fingering: the act or method of using the fingers (as in playing a musical instrument)
impolitic: unwise, foolish
informed: educated, knowledgeable
retaliate: to put or inflict in return
1. While Elizabeth is playing...
(The entire section is 323 words.)
acutest: most intense, most powerful
agitating: disturbing or troubling to the mind and feelings
ardently: with warmth or heat of emotion, feeling, or sentiment; passionately
attained: reached, achieved
charge: a person or thing committed or entrusted to the care, custody, management, or support of another
degradation: reduction to a lower rank, position, or level
dependence: the state of requiring something or someone as a necessary condition
disposal: the power or authority to make use of as one chooses
encounter: to come upon face to face
exasperate: to excite or increase anger
ground-work: basis, foundation...
(The entire section is 761 words.)
accede: to give approval or consent
accordingly: therefore, so
art: slyness, cunning
connivance: assent to wrongdoing
contrariety: the state of being contrary, opposition
depravity: a corrupt or evil action
detaching: separating, withdrawing
dissipation: wasteful or immoral living
dissolved: ended, disconnected
elopement: the act of running away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent
employment: activity in which one uses time and energy
err: to turn aside from the proper path; to make a mistake
extinguished: put out, destroyed...
(The entire section is 1077 words.)
abide: to endure or put up with
abiding: living, staying
accounting: giving a reason for something
afresh: again; again with a new energy or focus
Barouche box: a four-wheeled shallow carriage with a driver’s seat high in front, two double seats inside, and a folding top over the back seat
chagrin: vexation, disquietude, or distress of mind brought on by humiliation, hurt pride, disappoint-ment, or consciousness of failure or error
commissioning: instructing or requesting something
consternation: dismaying or distressing excitement
deemed: formed an opinion of based on reflection
diminution: a decrease, a lessening in number...
(The entire section is 448 words.)
allayed: put at rest, calmed
chaperon (chaperone): to guide, to escort
coarseness: rudeness, crudeness
congenial: kindred, having the same disposition
depreciate: to lower the worth of
disclosure: a revelation of a certain knowledge or discovery
dressing: preparing food for cooking or eating especially by adding something that coats or covers the surface
encamped: settled in temporary camps or living quarters
equivocal: ambiguous, unclear, vague
harboured (harbored): contained, held
incumbrance: archaic encumbrance; something that holds back or delays an action or makes...
(The entire section is 601 words.)
anew: for an additional time
anticipation: the act of looking forward to something
augment: to increase
cast down: gloomy, depressed
clamorous: noisy, loud
commencement: the beginning of something
conjugal: relating to marriage
contracted: shortened, shrunken, narrowed
curtailed: ended prematurely, cut short in scope or duration
death-warrant: something that puts an end to the existence of another thing
detect: to discover the true character of something or someone
deter: to turn aside, to discourage
diverted: entertained, amused
drooping: becoming depressed...
(The entire section is 829 words.)
abrupt: sudden, unexpected
acrimony: bitterness or sharpness in words or manner
arrested: caught one’s attention
attributed: explained by indicating a cause
authority: a reliable source
bent: insistent, firm
circuit: a path or trail that travels in a circle or a round manner
construction: design, the form in which something is made
construed: understood or explained, often to one’s own satisfaction
coppice-wood: a grove of trees regularly cut down on a rotating basis to provide a constant supply of wood...
(The entire section is 1033 words.)
actuated: stirred or inspired to activity
bewildered: perplexed, confused
brevity: expression in few words
coherent: logically ordered, sensible
collected: composed, calm
commiseration: sympathy, compassion
confined: imprisoned, kept in narrow bounds
corps: a group having a common affiliation or purpose
creditable: respectable, deserving of praise
deranged: disordered, in a state of chaos or unrest
exigence: crisis, urgent situation
fluctuating: changing, switching
forwarded: advanced, helped on
hackney-coach: a four-wheeled carriage drawn by two horses and having...
(The entire section is 615 words.)
affliction: a cause of continued pain or distress of body or mind
balm: something that brings comfort and relieves pain
blacken: to speak evil of
brittle: easily broken
capers: leaps, playful jumps
conclude: to bring to an end
condolence: an expression of sympathy in grief
decency: conformity to standards of taste and propriety
dilatory: slow, late
dispirited: discouraged, depressed
enormity: a thing of huge size or significance
exceptionable: objectionable, offensive, immoral
faculties: abilities, skills
fare: a price charged to transport something or someone...
(The entire section is 794 words.)
advance: to supply money before it is expected or due (in context)
airing: exposing or exercising in the open air especially to promote health or fitness
connubial: relating to marriage
copse: a coppice-wood, a grove of trees regularly cut down on a rotating basis to provide a constant supply of wood
creditors: those to whom money is owed
explicitly: expressed clearly with no vagueness
farthing: British a monetary unit equal in value to a fourth of a penny
frailty: a failing, a shortcoming
impassable: unable to be crossed
inconceivable: unthinkable, unimaginable
jealous: passionate in guarding (as in a...
(The entire section is 576 words.)
abominate: to hate intensely
austerity: sternness and coldness in manner
bribery: giving something valuable to influence someone toward a certain thought or action
cogent: convincing, compelling
compromised: exposed to discredit or suspicion
confidante: a trusted person with whom one shares confidential information
palatable: acceptable or agreeable to the mind
racked: agitated with trouble, stress, anxiety, doubt, or some unpleasant emotion
saucy: disrespectful; rude
sorely: painfully; extremely
stratagems: clever tricks or schemes used for gaining an end
(The entire section is 589 words.)
confederacy: an alliance or banding together
covies: flocks of birds
dread: great anxiety; fear
forlorn: sad and lonely, often due to a loss
intervene: to occur between two things
irremediable: impossible to correct or fix
lustre: shine, gleam
privileged: having the honor or enjoyment of doing a certain task
rapacity: greed, ravenousness
speculation: gossip, rumors
twelvemonth: a year
wearisome: dull, boring
1. How much time has passed since the beginning of the novel, and how does the reader know?
It has been about a year since the...
(The entire section is 356 words.)
allurements: things that attract or charm someone
aspire: to seek to attain or accomplish a particular goal
brooking: putting up with
confirmation: the act of assuring or upholding
constitute: to form or compose
dupe: one that is easily deceived by another
equipage: an elegant horse-drawn carriage
frankness: honesty in expressing facts, opinions, or feelings
induce: to influence or persuade
industriously: diligently, with constant activity and effort
ineffectual: not producing the desired result
polluted: made unclean or impure
shift: to manage...
(The entire section is 734 words.)
annexed: attached, added
closure: an act of closing or coming to a conclusion
conscious: perceiving, noticing
constancy: fidelity, loyalty
contrariwise: oppositely, conversely
illustrious: outstanding or famous because of dignity (as of birth, rank, possession) or because of achievements or actions
instantaneous: at this instant; immediately
irreproachable: blameless, faultless
irrevocably: permanently, without any possibility for change
pitched: turned one’s thoughts toward something or someone
pleasantry: a humorous act or remark; an agreeable playfulness in conversation
pointed: obvious, noticeable...
(The entire section is 785 words.)
disposing: transferring into new hands or to the control of someone else
epithet: a rude or abusive word or phrase
licence (license): formal permission from local authorities
pin-money: money allotted by a man to his wife, daughter, or sister for her personal expenses especially for clothes
recent: new, fresh
reserved: not open in communication
vehemence: intensity, forcefulness
1. Why does Elizabeth say, after sharing the news of her engagement with Jane, “this is a wretched beginning indeed!”?
Elizabeth is not looking forward to telling her family that she is about to marry the...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
1. Describe the fate of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Kitty as described in the last chapter.
Mrs. Bennet is described as remaining as silly as ever; Mr. Bennet is described as missing Elizabeth so much that he often went to visit her at Pemberley—in keeping with his character, loving to visit “especially when he was least expected.” Kitty is described as showing great “improvement” after spending so much time with her well-mannered elder sisters.
2. What does Lydia ask for in the letter of congratulations she sends to Elizabeth? How does Elizabeth oblige her? What is the ultimate fate of Wickham and Lydia?
Lydia asks if Darcy might help...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
1. Where is Netherfield Park?
2. Who are the two eldest daughters in the Bennet family?
A. Mary and Elizabeth
B. Jane and Mary
C. Elizabeth and Lydia
D. Kitty and Mary
E. Jane and Elizabeth
3. One of the gentlemen who attends the first ball that is described in the novel is rumored to have “ten thousand a year.” Which gentleman?
C. Sir William...
(The entire section is 1027 words.)
1. Describe how the novel’s title, Pride and Prejudice, relates to the reasons Darcy and Elizabeth misunderstand each other and to what takes place that allows them to overcome their misunderstanding. Include examples from the text in your essay.
The title of the novel relates to key characteristics—which could be described as faults—in its main characters. Mr. Darcy’s fault is pride, while Elizabeth’s fault is prejudice, an inclination to prejudge without access to fact or truth. Their individual faults create misunderstanding between them and make Elizabeth in particular blind to their potential for compatibility. It is only when Darcy admits his pride and overcomes it and Elizabeth clearly sees how...
(The entire section is 3506 words.)