Jane Austen #2: Pride And Prejudice
February 11, 2009
The book started with this sentence:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
(I’d like to think that this sentence is actually a cynical remark from Austen. This is why I love this book so much… =p)
Pride and Prejudice is my favorite amongst Austen’s books (Well, I actually can’t decide whether I love Pride and Prejudice or Emma more).
Pride and Prejudice is published on 28 January 1813, as Jane Austen’s second published novel.
The book tells the story of the Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy.
The story opens as a Mr. Charles Bingley let Netherfield Park. Mrs. Bennet, mother of five daughters, urges her husband to make a visit to Mr. Bingley, in hope that he will marry one of their five girls.
While Mr. Bennet, is portrayed to be bookish, intelligent, his wife was a frivolous, excitable, and narrow-minded woman whose objective in life was to find husbands (preferably wealthy) for her five girls. She lacks subtlety, and on most occasions are very embarassing (she’s the kind of mother that appears in everyone’s nightmare). She also constantly have fits of tremors and palpitations, also complains about “her poor nerves”. She favors her youngest daughter, Lydia, and her least favorite is Elizabeth, being described as “the least dearest to her of her daughters.”
Unlike his wife, Mr. Bennet is somewhat withdrawn from society and dislikes the frivolity of his wife and three younger daughters. He is very close to his two older daughters, especially Elizabeth. He has a dry sense of humor (which I ABSOLUTELY LIKE), and in correcting his wife and three younger daughters, he usually uses mockery.
Mr. Bennet, initially appears bent on not visiting Mr. Bingley, finally gave in and pays the visit which was returned by Mr. Bingley. After the visits, all the Bennets attend a village ball to which Mr. Bingley has agreed to appear. He appears very taken with Jane, and dances with her twice. Obvious to all, he enjoys himself and his new company, and proves a most popular young man at the ball. Contrarily, Bingley’s two sisters and his close friend Mr. Darcy are obviously bored with the ball, which causes the local populace to view them as arrogant; Mr. Darcy makes an especially obnoxious impression by openly refusing to dance with Elizabeth.
At social functions over subsequent weeks, Mr. Darcy finds himself unwillingly attracted to Elizabeth’s charm and intelligence, but still considers her socially beneath him. Jane’s friendship with Mr. Bingley and his sisters continues to develop, and Jane pays a visit to the Bingley mansion. On her way there she is caught in a downpour and catches cold, forcing her to stay at Netherfield for several days. In order to tend to Jane, Elizabeth hikes across the muddy fields and arrives with a spattered dress, much to the disdain of Bingley’s sisters. Miss Bingley’s spite only increases when she notices that Darcy, whom she is pursuing, is interested in Elizabeth.
Shortly after Elizabeth and Jane return home, a Mr. Collins, Mr Bennet’s cousin, pays a visit to their household. He is a young clergyman, and stands to inherit the Longbourn estate as Mr Bennet has no direct male heir (Mr. Bennet’s estate is entailed hence, upon his death, the estate will go to Mr. Collins and his wife and five daughters will have nothing). Mrs. Bennet in particular resents him as the estate’s future owner, but she changes her mind after he hints that he hopes to smooth over the issue of the entail by marrying one of the Bennet girls. A few days after his arrival, he proposes to Elizabeth, who turns him down because she finds him a pompous fool (Lizzie actually has to rejects him more than once). Her father supports her but her mother is furious. Meanwhile, the Bennet girls have become friendly with militia officers stationed in the nearby town of Meryton. Among them is Wickham, a handsome young soldier who is friendly toward Elizabeth and tells her how Darcy cruelly cheated him out of an inheritance.
At the beginning of winter, the Bingleys and Darcy suddenly leave Netherfield for London, much to Jane’s dismay. A further shock arrives with the news that Mr. Collins has become engaged to Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend. Charlotte explains to Elizabeth that she is getting older and needs to marry for financial reasons. After the wedding, Elizabeth promises to visit them at their new home. As winter progresses, Jane goes to London as well to visit their aunt and uncle, the Gardiners. Miss Bingley visits her late and behaves coldly, while Mr. Bingley fails to visit her at all. The marriage prospects for the Bennet girls appear bleak.
That spring, Elizabeth visits Charlotte, who now lives near the home of Mr. Collins’s patron, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is also Darcy’s aunt. Darcy comes to visit Lady Catherine and encounters Elizabeth, and they meet frequently over the following weeks. Just before he is due to leave, he makes an unexpected proposal of marriage, in which he calls the connection ‘inferior’ and claims to be moved by passion against his better judgment. Elizabeth curtly refuses, adding that she considers him arrogant and unpleasant, and accusing him of breaking up Bingley and Jane and disinheriting Wickham. Darcy, shocked by both her refusal and her accusations, delivers her a letter the next day in which he attempts to justify himself. Elizabeth learns that he did not realize that Jane was really in love with Bingley, and thought the match was being promoted mainly by Mrs. Bennet; but that he had gone so far as to conceal Jane’s being in London from Bingley. As for Wickham, Elizabeth learns that the young man has been lying to her; that Darcy did fulfill his obligations regarding Wickham’s inheritance, but Wickham continued to try to get money from him, most recently attempting to elope with his younger sister Georgiana.
This letter causes Elizabeth to reevaluate her opinion of both Darcy and Wickham. She returns home and acts coldly toward Wickham, who in any case has begun pursuing another, richer girl. The militia is preparing to leave town, which makes the younger Bennet girls distraught. Lydia manages to obtain permission from her father to spend the summer in Brighton with the regiment, staying with a colonel whose wife is a friend of hers. Lydia leaves and, in June, Elizabeth goes on another journey, this time with the Gardiners. The trip takes her to the North and eventually to the neighborhood of Pemberley, Darcy’s estate, which the Gardiners want to visit. After making sure that Darcy is away, Elizabeth agrees to come, and she delights in the building and grounds, while hearing from Darcy’s servants that he is a beloved and generous master. Darcy arrives home suddenly. Elizabeth expected him to be angry and resentful, but he behaves cordially and seems to be trying to make a good impression, entertaining the Gardiners and introducing Elizabeth to his sister.
Just then two letters arrive from home, telling Elizabeth that Lydia has eloped with Wickham, that the couple are nowhere to be found, and that they may not even be married. Dreading her family’s disgrace, Elizabeth hastens home, but not before revealing the news to Mr. Darcy. Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Bennet go to London to search for Lydia, but Mr. Bennet eventually returns home empty-handed. Just when all hope seems lost, a letter comes from Mr. Gardiner saying that the couple has been found and Wickham has agreed to marry Lydia in exchange for a small annual income. Mr. Bennet is convinced that Mr. Gardiner has paid Wickham off, and wonders how he will pay his brother-in-law back. After their wedding, Wickham and Lydia return to Longbourn briefly, where Mr. Bennet treats them coldly. Before they depart for Wickham’s new assignment in the North of England, Lydia drops a hint leading Elizabeth to discover that it was actually Darcy who found Lydia, paid off Wickham, and made the marriage possible. Elizabeth’s opinion of Mr. Darcy has now changed completely, but she hardly expects a second proposal.
Shortly after, Bingley returns to Netherfield with Darcy and, after the latter has checked out the situation and given his permission, resumes his courtship of Jane. Darcy leaves, saying he will be back in a few weeks, and Bingley proposes to Jane. While the family celebrates, a rumor goes round about Darcy and Elizabeth, causing Lady Catherine de Bourgh to pay a visit to Longbourn. She corners Elizabeth, outlines the family objections to the match, and demands that she promise not to marry Darcy. Elizabeth spiritedly refuses to make any such promise, telling Lady Catherine that it is none of her business. After she leaves, Elizabeth worries that she will convince Darcy with her arguments about family pride. On the contrary, Lady Catherine’s account of Elizabeth’s behaviour gives Darcy hope that she might accept him. He comes back to Bingley’s a few days later as planned, and as soon as they are alone together he renews his proposals and she accepts. Elizabeth’s family and friends, still under the impression that she hated Mr. Darcy, are surprised, but eventually won over. Both Jane and Elizabeth are soon married.
My favorite Pride and Prejudice movie:
The 2005 version, of the same title, starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet, Matthew Macfadyen as Fitwilliam Darcy, Simon Woods as Charles Bingley, and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh.