Pride and Prejudice Summary
Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice follows Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters, who must marry well in order to ensure their financial security.
- Wealthy bachelors Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy arrive in Netherfield, much to the excitement of the Bennet daughters. While Bingley is charming and affable, Darcy is cold and prideful, and Elizabeth immediately dislikes him.
When Elizabeth unexpectedly encounters Mr. Darcy again, and he proposes marriage to her. Shocked and offended by his manners and behavior, Elizabeth rejects him.
- Darcy writes Elizabeth a letter explaining his behavior, and she comes to realize she has severely misjudged his character.
In 1813, Jane Austen anonymously published her second—and arguably most popular—novel, Pride and Prejudice. Originally written years earlier as First Impressions, a manuscript she tried but failed to sell, the revised novel was met with instant success.
Despite Pride and Prejudice’s 19th-century setting, its biting wit, sharp eye for the nuances of human relationships, and opposites-attract romance continues to resonate with contemporary readers. The novel has become a fixture in popular culture and has been adapted into countless films, plays, and television series. Even people who don’t know the details of the plot are probably familiar with the novel’s famous opening line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
The novel’s main characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, meet at a village ball, where they don’t interact directly but form negative opinions of each other. Darcy dismisses Elizabeth as shallow and uninteresting, while Elizabeth deems Darcy arrogant and rude. As each struggles with mismatched suitors, friendship woes, and family drama, their lives become more intertwined and their relationship shifts from one of mutual loathing to one of mutual respect and love—and they learn that first impressions aren’t always reliable.
When rich bachelor Mr. Charles Bingley moves to the English town of Meryton, one longtime resident, Mrs. Bennet, plots how to get him to marry one of her five daughters—Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine, and Lydia—much to the annoyance of her inattentive husband, Mr. Bennet. Her eagerness is not unwarranted, however: single women of middle-class status like the Bennets were not allowed to inherit money or property at the time. If the Bennet sisters did not find suitable and financially-secure husbands, they would likely become poor spinsters.
The opportunity for the Bennet sisters to meet Mr. Bingley arrives in the form of a ball held in town. Bingley dances with Jane and suggests that his friend Mr. Darcy dance too. But Darcy refuses and insults most of the women in attendance, including Elizabeth, in the process. Gossip has spread about Mr. Darcy’s wealth, which is much greater than Mr. Bingley’s. At first, Mrs. Bennet and those at the ball respect him, but after seeing his manner and refusal to dance, they decide Mr. Darcy is too proud. After the dance, Jane expresses interest in Bingley, and Elizabeth encourages her to pursue him.
When Jane falls ill and is bedridden during a visit to Mr. Bingley's estate, Netherfield, Elizabeth joins her there. The Bennet family become subjects of gossip between Miss Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, Charles’s sisters, who snobbishly find the less well-to-do family lacking in taste and depth of character. Mr. Darcy, however, has a change of heart about Elizabeth upon discovering her wit, sharp mind, and fine eyes. This angers Caroline Bingley, who wants Mr. Darcy for herself. Mrs. Bennet arrives to see Jane, boasting about Jane’s beauty, and gets in a disagreement with Mr. Darcy, which embarrasses Elizabeth.
After Jane recovers and she and her sister return...
(The entire section contains 1516 words.)
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