Volume One, Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Mr. Bennet: The sarcastic, indifferent father
Mrs. Bennet: The foolish and unrestrained mother
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are in their country home, and Mrs. Bennet informs her husband that a neighboring country estate has been rented by a young, wealthy, single gentleman named Bingley.
She insists that as soon as the young man settles in, Mr. Bennet must go visit him.
She already has made up her mind to snare him as the husband of one of her five eligible daughters.
Although Mr. Bennet teases his wife by saying all the daughters are silly and ignorant, he agrees to send Bingley a note telling him that, if he desires any of their daughters, it should be his favorite, Lizzy. Mr. Bennet favors Lizzy because he feels she is more intelligent than his other daughters.
They banter, and Mrs. Bennet again reminds him that he must go calling in person. Then, she complains of her nerves, and Mr. Bennet teases her more.
Discussion and Analysis
The opening sentence of this novel immediately catches one’s attention: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” It sets the ironic tone that implies that the novel will deal with universal truths. The latter part of the sentence relates to a common social situation, that a woman without a fortune is in need of a husband with one.
In the first chapter, Austen is dealing with only a small section of society. She calls it her “inch of ivory” (one piano key in relationship to the whole). It is a tiny, personal portrayal, but is significant in its relationship to the whole of society. The novel manipulates social relationships in a limited culture, and deals with them in minute detail.
There is a great contrast between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. Mrs. Bennet is effervescent and serious, while Mr. Bennet is reserved and sarcastic. He enjoys teasing her. Austen ends the chapter with her descriptions of their different personalities.