Illustration of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy with neutral expressions on their faces

Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen

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Analyze the settings of Pride and Prejudice. Evaluate the social, political, and economic conditions of this period that influence the characters in the novel.

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Pride and Prejudice is set largely in the southeast of England during the Napoleonic War period of the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century. Most of the setting is in rural England, though characters frequently travel to and from London. Near the end of the book, Elizabeth and the Gardiners travel north to Derbyshire and tour Darcy's grand estate.

Socially, politically, and economically the Regency was a period of flux in Great Britain, characterized by the long Napoleonic Wars with France and the increasingly rapid growth of British industrialism. While England was still very much an agrarian society, change was occurring, and it is very likely, for example, that the Bingleys made their money in the new industrial milieu. The impact of the war can be seen in the armed forces garrisoned nearby, which are of such interest to Lydia and which bring Wickham onto the scene.

Pride and Prejudice can be read as a critique of the marriage market of the time and as a forward-looking novel emphasizing the value companionate marriage. Class prejudice and desire to keep gentry people in their place can be witnessed in Darcy's snobbery and Lady Catherine de Bourgh's attempts to bar Elizabeth from marrying Darcy. But the novel also shows the triumph of the gentry class in Elizabeth's union with an aristocrat based on love, not class ties (though, as Elizabeth points out, she is, if not an aristocrat, the daughter of a gentleman).

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