Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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What Happens in Pride and Prejudice?

  • Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters are unmarried, much to their parents' dismay. The sisters attend the Meryton Ball, where they meet the eligible bachelor Mr. Charles Bingley. He is kind to the Bennet sisters and takes an immediate liking to Jane, Elizabeth's older sister. His friend Mr. Darcy is another wealthy bachelor, but is cold, haughty, and at first unkind to Elizabeth.
  • The Bennet sisters are excited when Mr. Bingley moves to Netherfield. Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet fall in love. Elizabeth fends off the ridiculous Mr. Collins, taking an interest in Mr. Wickham instead. Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy is beginning to fall for Elizabeth, unbeknownst to her. 

  • With the help of Caroline, Bingley’s sister, Mr. Darcy draws Mr. Bingley away from Jane and her lower-class connections. Mr. Darcy leaves Netherfield with Mr. Bingley and hopes to never see Elizabeth again out of fear of falling in love with her. When Elizabeth visits Rosings Park, she runs into Mr. Darcy, who realizes he loves her and proposes. She rejects him. Jane follows Mr. Bingley to London with no luck.

  • Later, Elizabeth visits Mr. Darcy’s estate, and the two begin to resolve their misunderstandings. Elizabeth's youngest sister elopes with Mr. Wickham. Mr. Darcy pays Wickham to marry Lydia, patching the scandal that threatens the Bennet family. In the end, Mr. Bingley marries Jane, and Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy. Both sisters have found true and happy love. 

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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.

Plot Summary

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...

(The entire section is 1,516 words.)