discuss briefly the role setting and locations play in Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" in bringing out its themes.

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katwood001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice takes place in two regions of England:  

Hertfordshire is the general location for Loughbourn, where the Bennets live; Neitherfield Park, which belongs to Mr. Bingley;  Rosings, which is the estate of Lady Catherine De Bourgh;  Lucas Lodge that belongs to the Lucases; and Meryton, the small village where the militia is quartered in the book.  Derbyshire is the region where Mr. Darcy's Pemberley is located.  While Hertfordshire and Derbyshire are real locations in England, the estates mentioned in the book do not really exist.  

The major themes of Pride and Prejudice surround Class, Reputation, and Love.  Both the setting's period and the physical location of the story are so much a part of these themes, it is almost a character and, if not the antagonist, a major obstacle in the story.  

The English Regency period, in which the story is set, was a time of strict class levels, manners, and traditions.  In many ways, Jane Austin satirizes the wealthy, pointing out the uselessness of pretensions throughout the plot.  Manners, duties, traditions, and civilities appear in every chapter, becoming obstacles instead of making things easier.  These social boundaries contribute the title of the story, and the various characters’ attachments to these pretensions that make the story humorous yet endearing. A good example is the difference of attitudes between Mr. Collins and Mr. Bingley.  Mr. Collins is rigid in his views about class and society structure, whereas Mr. Bingley is part of the upper class, like Collins, but is more gallant about his station and less inclined to be persnickety about rules and station.  The journey Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth's take toward ultimately getting married and breaking these rules of society is a crucial part of the plot.      

Regarding the actual settings that exist in the story: You have three major views of the Regency: 1) Lower upper class, Longbourn; 2) Middle upper class, Netherfield; and 3) Upper Class, Rosings and Pemberley.  (I find Rosings more akin to Neitherfield in comparison to Pemberley; however, Austin thematically compares the two houses, one to another, so I put them together)

The Bennet's house: Longbourn: Mr. Bennet and his family are on the lower end of the upper class.  They have an estate, but it is small and only earns them around two-thousand pounds per year.  He married a woman that was beneath his station.  Mrs. Bennet is from the middle class- her father was a lawyer.  The Bennet household is not as large as Netherfield, owned by Mr. Bingley or Rosings owned by Lady Catherine.  The three houses are used to show the difference in levels between Elizabeth's world and the world of the upper class.  When Mr. Collins visits, he comments that the drawing room is like a small summer breakfast parlor at Rosings.  

Netherfield is a much larger estate than Longbourn.  At Netherfield, the reader is introduced to the social customs and traditions of the upper class. Austin also uses this location as well as Rosings to provide a forum for Elizabeth to observe and comment on the attitudes, prejudices, worries, and foibles of the upper class. While Rosings is extremely large, it is not as impressive as Pemberley.  

Pemberley, Mr. Darcy's home is massive compared to Rosings; however, it is natural.  Unlike Rosings, the land has been worked to enhance it not change it to be beautiful.  In many ways, the residences depicted in the books are representations of those who live in them.  Darcy's home is quietly elegant despite its expense like its owner.  It could be also considered overbearing and intimidating which is a good representation of Darcy at the beginning of the book.  

By using the physical settings of Longbourn, Netherfield, Rosings, and Pemberley Austin is able to show the social issues between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy being married rather than long narratives explaining that Elizabeth is somewhat out of her league on the social ladder.  

By use of the four main estates in the book, Austin is able to represent the issues between the class levels between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy that set them at odds when they first meet.  In all three locations, the reader is shown how honor and duty are interpreted throughout the social classes in Regency England.  The differences presented throughout the book between Elizabeth's social standing and Darcy's social standing are layered so that as the plot progresses through the couple's relationship, the reader is able to grasp how much "love" is able to span the distance between Longbourn and Pemberley.  

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Pride and Prejudice

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