This paper presents a critical review of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. It elucidates the main themes in the novel while providing a summary of the plot.
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a complex novel that relates the events surrounding the relations, lives, and loves of a middle-upper class English family in the late nineteenth century. Because of the detailed descriptions of the events surrounding the life of the main character of the story, Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice is a very involving novel whose title is very indicative of the themes contained therein. The first volume opens in the Bennet household at Longbourn in England. As there are five unmarried daughters living in the home at the time, the matron of the family, Mrs. Bennet, is quite interested when news of a wealthy man moving to Netherfield, a place in the near vicinity. Mrs. Bennet, in the best interest of her daughters, soon after begins urging her husband to meet with the newly arrived neighbor, a Mr. Bingley, but he is quite reluctant to do so. Soon after, Mr.Bennet surprises his daughters and his wife by announcing that he had visited Netherfield and found Bingley to be “quite agreeable.” The interest of the Bennet daughters arises when they learn that certain members of the Bingley party will be in attendance at an upcoming ball in Meryton. At the ball, acquaintances between the families are made, and all find both Mr.Bingley and his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy to be exceedingly handsome, however Darcy’s pride is so irritating and repulsive, it makes his character almost totally disagreeable. It is at this ball, however, that the oldest Bennet daughter, Jane, becomes involved with Mr.Bennet; her younger sister Elizabeth, however, falls victim to Mr. Darcy’s pride and is shunned by him during the entire ball. Beginning with this event, Elizabeth forms a prejudice towards Mr. Darcy that will prevent her future involvement with him. It is here then that the two main themes of he work, pride and prejudice, are first presented. Soon after the ball, it becomes obvious that Mr. Bingley’s feelings towards Jane deepen, and Jane’s feelings also appear when the family visits their neighbors the Lucases after the Meryton Ball. This, however, produces concern from both his older sister and Mr. Darcy, who dislike the behavior of her family and, being part of the upper class, are prevented by their pride from liking anyone of lower status. Mr. Darcy’s attitude towards Elizabeth Bennet, however, soon begin to change, as he appreciates her subtle beauty. It is because of her prejudice against him, however, that Elizabeth does not recognize his affections; he begins to join her conversations, and even expresses to his cousins his feelings. Mr. Darcy’s sister, however, seems to have feelings for him and criticizes her unrefined character, however, Mr. Darcy, for the first of several times, is unaffected. He, however, has already established his own prejudice against the Bennet family, which would later be shaken upon meeting the Gardiners, Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle. Jane soon receives an invitation to Netherfield, however, to her disappointment, it is not from Mr. Bingley but his sister Caroline. Still, she is pleased to go, and her mother advises her to go on horseback, as in the event that it might rain, she would be obliged to stay. Mrs. Bennet’s plan works, however Jane is caught in the rain and becomes ill. She writes to Elizabeth and the latter decides to walk to Netherfield to attend to her sister. Upon her arrival at Netherfield, Mr. Bingley’s sisters remark on the wildness of her appearance, but Darcy is markedly impressed. After Jane’s condition remains poor, Mrs. Bennet is called upon, but she sees her daughter’s illness is not severe. Still, she remains there long enough so that Elizabeth, through a series of interactions with those living at Netherfield, convinces the sisters that she is unfit company, but attracts Mr. Darcy further. At Longbourn, Mr. Bennet receives a letter from a Mr. Collins who will supposedly be inheriting Longbourn after Mr. Bennet’s death, since he has no male successors. Mr. Bennet looks forward to a visit from the ridiculous Mr. Collins, and is particularly curious because of a reference in the letter to courting one of the Bennet daughters. After his arrival, Mr.Bennet is pleased to find that Mr. Collins is as rediculous as he had hoped. Elizabeth, on the contrary, dislikes Mr.Collins immensely, but he, after discovering that Jane is already involved with someone, moves to the next eligible Bennet daughter, Elizabeth. Ironically, it is she who dislikes him most in the Bennet family, and her dislike is obvious when she later refuses his marriage proposal wholeheartedly. Mr. Collins mentions his patron, a Lady Catherine deBourgh, several times, and even Mr. Bennet becomes frustrated with his continual adulation of her. During a visit to town, the Bennet daughters and Mr. Collins meet a member of the militia, George Wickham. All find him handsome and Elizabeth expresses quite a bit of interest in his direction. She soon learns, however, that some bad blood exists between Mr.Wickham and Mr.Darcy, whom she now abhors. She learns the details at a party the following night at the Phillips house. Wickham tells her that although Darcy’s father had supported Wickham, Darcy refused to help him in becoming a clergyman. Because of Elizabeth’s pre-established prejudice towards Darcy, she believes Wickham’s story without a second thought. Furthermore, Wickham passes a series of judgement upon Darcy’s family, included Lady Catherine deBourgh, saying that they are as arrogant as he. This, too, Elizabeth accepts as the truth. As Bingley had promised a ball at Netherfield as soon as Jane recuperated from her illness, the ball is planned and the Bennet family attends. Elizabeth, however, is upset to learn of Wickham’s absence, even though Wickham claimed to be unafraid of attending any event where Darcy would be present. Darcy, however, furthers his interest in Elizabeth by paying more attention to her, however Elizabeth, who cannot conceive the purpose of this behavior, is baffled. To make the evening increasingly difficult for Elizabeth, her mother’s behavior embarasses her subtantially. The following morning, Mr. Collins unexpectedly proposes to Elizabeth who refuses immediately. Collins interprets this as her being coy, and cannot grasp the earnesty of her refusal. Mr. Bennet finally convinces Collins to abandon any hopes of marrying Elizabeth, and he shifts his affections towards Elizabeth’s dear friend, Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte, to the disappointment of Elizabeth, accepts his marriage proposal for material reasons. Volume one ends with a notice from the Bingley sister that the party would be departing Netherfield for London and would probably not return for the entirety of the winter. This severely distresses the Bennet family who in general had anticipated a marriage between Jane and Mr. Bingley. No one is more disappointed than Jane herself, who anticipated the same; it is determined that the choice to leave Netherfield was orchestrated by Miss Bingley, hoping to introduce Mr. Bingley to Georgiana Darcy. Volume two begins with a visit to Longbourn from Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, the Bennet daughter’s aunt and uncle. Trusting her aunt’s judgement, Elizabeth introduces her to Wickham, who agrees that he is handsome but warns Elizabeth against marrying someone lacking money. After examining Jane’s situation, Elizabeth and the Gardiner’s agree that it would be wise for her to leave with them to London. After she arrives there, she tries in vain to contact the Bingley’s, and the eventual reply is brief and unwelcoming. Although Jane is a very warmhearted and trusting character, she begins to doubt that she curries much favor with the Bingley sisters, however she continues her stay in London. Meanwhile, at Longbourn, Elizabeth almost reluctantly accepts an invitation from Charlotte Lucas to visit her in her new home. En route she visits her sister at the Gardiners, and is content with Jane’s situation. Continuing on the trip, Elizabeth finally arrives at Rosings, Mrs. Collins’s new home. Although Mr. Collins continues to try and impress Elizabeth with the quality of his home and the the genorosity of Lady deBourgh. Elizabeth, however, finds Lady Catherine to be excessively rude and difficult to get along with, and does not once regret her refusal to Mr. Collins’s proposal. Additionally, Elizabeth learns of Lady Catherine’s plans to marry Mr. Darcy to her daughter, and Elizabeth is not upset by this news in the least. Mr. Darcy arrives for Easter, accompanied by his cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is openly attracted to Elizabeth. Elizabeth continues to be baffle by Darcy’s behavior: he seeks her conversation at social gatherings, and he follows her on walks until finally he surprises her with a wedding proposal. Darcy proposes, however, in a manner condescending to Elizabeth and her family as if he were doing a favor to her by proposing. She refuses him instantly, and blames him for Wickham’s problems, which had earlier benn described to her by Colonel Fitzwilliam and for separating Jane and Charles Bingley. Darcy does not deny these accusations and leaves bitterly. The following morning, Darcy seeks Elizabeth out on one of her walks and gives her a letter in all manner of politeness. Upon her reading it, she changes most of her preconceptions about Darcy as he answers all of her charges with the utmost eloquence and politeness. As a response to Elizabeth’s charges, Darcy claimed he wanted Mr. Bingly to marry a wealthy woman and it did not seem to him that Jane had any particular affection for him. Indeed, Elizabeth had already acknowledged that Jane did mask her feeelings to a great extent. Furthermore, Darcy claimed that he had done all in his power to help Wickham, a man he despised, and was not excessively cruel to him. Elizabeth reflects upon the letter and decides it to be the truth, and is emotionally changed in reference to Darcy. She returns to Longbourn to find her younger sisters unhappy that the militia in town would soon be leaving to Brighton. Lydia, the younger of Elizabeth’s sisters is overjoyed when she recieves an invitation to travel to Brighton with her friend, a Ms. Forster. Elizabeth advises her father to prevent Lydia from going, however he will not, and Elizabeth shift her attention to happy anticipation of the trip she will soon be taking with her aunt and uncle Gardiner. Elizabeth soon learns that her aunt wishes to visit the mansio owned by Mr Darcy at Pemberley, and when she learns he will not be there, she consents. So ends volume two. The third and final volume begins with Elizabeth on vacation traveling with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. Upon their arrival at Pemberley, she is surprised by the excessive praise the maid gives her master, and impressed by the elegance of the house itself. Although the maid claimed that Mr. Darcy would not soon be returning, Elizabeth is surprised to see him there soon after her own arrival. After some initail awkwardness, he treats with great civility and pleasantness, and Elizabeth is shocked at the tremendous change in his behavior. The following day, Darcy, Bingley, and Georgiana all visit the inn where the Gardiners and Elizabeth are staying. Elizabeth impresses Darcy’s sister who he claims was anxious to meet her, and Elizabeth begins to feel more than just respect for Darcy himself. The Gardiners remark on the interactions between the two, but Elizabeth says nothing that appears to be a commitment of any sort. When Elizabeth returns on a visit to Pemberley, Miss Bingley is there, and she continues in her criticisms of Elizabeth, although Darcy is once again in love with her. Catastrophe occurs while Elizabeth is at Pemberley as Jane writes her to notify her that Lydia has eloped with Wickham and it is highly unlikely the two have been married. Elizabeth bursts into tears but then relays the message to Darcy who understands her urgency and makes arrangements for their immediate departure. After retuning home, Elizabeth learns her father is searching for Lydia and Wickham, however Mr.Bennet soon returns and leaves Mr. Gardiner to the searching. After several days, they are located and Wickham consents to marrying Lydia for a surprisingly low monetary settlement. Mr. Bennet thinks that Mr. Gardiner offered Wickham substantially more, but it is not till later that the reader learns Darcy orchestrated the entire event. After the situation had cooled, Lydia and her new husband visit Longbourn, and Mrs.Bennet is overjoyed to have her daughter married. Lydia appears unembarrassed of the circumstances under which she was married, and Elizabeth assumes correctly that Lydia loves her husband more than he loves her. Through a careless remark by Lydia that Darcy attended her wedding, Elizabeth learns partly of hi involvement and write to her aunt asking for the details. After she learns this, she examines her feelings and realizes she truly loves Darcy. To the disappointment of his sister, Binglet returns to Netherfield and he and Jane continue their courting until he finally proposes to her and she happily accepts. Now that a second daughter has been married, Mrs. Bennet is almost overcome with joy. Elizabeth is distracted by Darcy’s unwillingness to speak with her and is somewhat troubled, when Lady Catherine visits Longbourn to confirm a rumor that Elizabeth and Darcy were to be amrried. Elizabeth responds that the two will do as they please, and ingnores Lady Catherine’s arguments that her daughter is set to wed Darcy. Lady Catherine leaves to speak with Darcy in great frustration, and it is through this that Darcy finally achieves the courage to propose once again to Elizabeth, however this time she accepts. The announcement of their marriage is a surprise to Elizabeth’s family, and her father goes so far as to warn her against marrying without love; it is implied that he made asimilar mistake. Elizabeth, however, is deeply satisfied with Darcy and their marriage is a happy one, as Dacy overcame his pride and Elizabeth her prejudice. So ends Pride and Prejudice.