In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, how do you figure out who did and said what; is there a summary by chapter of each character's dialogue and actions?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I was unable to find a summary with respect to a blow by blow account of what each character did and said in each chapter. The most extensive chapter summaries are found under "Summary and Analysis" in the Pride and Prejudice "Study Guide" in eNotes. However, I can see that it can be difficult to figure out who is saying and doing what because of the subtleties of the language in the dialogue tags Jane Austen uses, and I can certainly review some of those with you.

For instance, in Chapter 1, Volume 1, Austen uses a very subtle dialogue tag to introduce Mrs. Bennet, specifically, Austen uses the tag "said his lady to him one day." Hence, if you did not know that "his lady" was another expression for his wife, then you would not know that it is Mrs. Bennet informing Mr. Bennet that Netherfield Park is finally being rented by a tenant. Austen does not use the direct term "his wife," until four lines further into the text when "his wife [cries] impatiently."

Austen also chooses not to use a dialogue tag when describing Mr. Bennet's condescending, yet playfully ironic answer when he replies "You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it."

Hence, if you have trouble following the subtle dialogue tags Austen uses, then you can have trouble following who is saying and doing what. Hopefully this analysis of Austen's subtleties helps. You may also want to consider watching the 1995 TV series version of Pride and Prejudice, staring Collin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, produced by the BBC. This production takes very few liberties with the text and will give you a fairly accurate account of the dialogue and actions, making it much easier for you to see who is doing and saying what.