What is the structure of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice?
Based on Freytag's plot structure pyramid, the structure of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice begins with an inciting action in the first pages of Chapter One wherein Mrs. Bennet announces that Mr. Bingley has rented a neighboring manor and is taunted by Mr. Bennet who insists he shall never strike up a family friendship with the new tenants, leaving his wife and five daughters to fend for themselves in meeting the new young man and his friends at the upcoming town sponsored ball.
The rising action is based on the conflict--which is that Mr. Darcy is not overly impressed with Elizabeth and audibly expresses his opinion, thus setting Elizabeth's mind against him--and its complications, like Mrs. Bennet's ill-bred behavior and Miss Bingley's fondness for Mr. Darcy. The climax comes when Mr. Darcy says that he knows that Elizabeth would have told Lady de Bourgh honestly that she had no interest in Mr. Darcy if that had been true and then asks Elizabeth for her love.
The falling action is quite significant because Elizabeth has to break the news to her two parents, which is no small task because neither one likes him and Mr. Bennet has to be told that he owes Lydia's salvation to Mr. Darcy. The resolution occurs at the woefully understated wedding at which everyone who mattered to the couple was present and is followed by a brief epilogue describing the happiness of the other couples involved in the story.
Another way to consider the structure is pay attention to the divisions that were concieved by the author. Austen divides the novel into three volumes. In Volume 1 (chapter 1-23) we meet all of the main characters and learn all of their relationships and conflicts. This section of the book ends with Collin's second proposal to Charolotte and the absense of Bingley. In Volume 2 (chapters 24-42) we learn more of the complications. Immediately we learn that Bringley and his party have returned to London and of Wickham's interest in Miss King. The romantic lives of the girls appear bleak. We meet one of the most important minor characters, Lady Catherine, and hear Darcy's rather ill-conceived proposal to Elizabeth. We also get hear Darcy's side of the story as revealed in his letter to Elizabeth. We hope that things will change, but aren't sure how that can happen. Volume 3 (chapters 43 to the end) resolve all of the relationship complications. It starts with the grand visit to Pemberly and Elizabeth's realization of her true feelings and ends with the marriage of three of the Bennet sisters.