Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice is an early 19th century British novel by Jane Austen about a family with five marriageable girls living on their estate in the rustic English countryside.

The book's title refers to the pride of Mr. Darcy whose immense wealth puts him in the highest rank of local society and the prejudice of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, whose family is of the lower financial and social rung on the social ladder. Lizzie's prejudice and Darcy's pride interact in an unfortunate way in the matter of Mr. Wickham, with Lizzie taking Wickham's side immediately on hearing his account of his relations with Darcy's family - probably spurred on by a reaction to Darcy's proud and disdainful coldness.

Plot Summary

Mrs. Bennet has five daughters, all out. She's at her wit's end to get any of them married before her husband's death transfers possession of their entailed estate to their relation Mr. Collins.

Mr. Bingley, a wealthy man from London, and his wealthier friend, Mr. Darcy, come to live nearby; and Mr. Bennet arranges a social call, which leads to parties and dances. Mr. Bingley falls in love with Jane, the eldest Miss Bennet, and all seems well.

But, Mr. Darcy, a good man and proud of it, intervenes to break up the couple and takes Mr. Bingley to London. Darcy believes that Jane does not love Bingley, because of her cool reserve (a bit of prejudice echoed by Lizzie's prejudice toward Darcy because of his cool manners).

Elizabeth, the second Bennet daughter and the novel's protagonist, takes an instant dislike to Darcy because of his seeming coldness and pride. Darcy is attracted to Elizabeth, although she does not encourage his attentions, but his friends take every opportunity to distract him from her, on account of her family's lower economic level.

Elizabeth encounters a dashing young officer named Wickham. He tells her a false story about how Mr. Darcy has cheated him out of his living, and reduced him to a poor soldier. For a time, Wickham and Elizabeth flirt with one another, until Wickham ignores her and pays attention to another rich young lady instead.

During the summer, Jane goes to stay with her aunt and uncle in London, while Elizabeth visits her friend Charlotte who is married to the vicar, Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins fawns upon his patroness, the excessively rich Lady Catherine de Bourgh, with a seemingly endless stream of obsequious compliments. Lady Catherine, who forces her opinions upon everyone, is a relative of Mr. Darcy's, and he is expected to marry her sickly daughter, Anne. Mr. Darcy and a friend visit Lady Catherine during Elizabeth's stay.

Shortly before his departure, Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth to marry him, remarking that he likes her against his and his family's better judgment. Elizabeth is shocked, and refuses him scathingly, blaming him for ruining Wickham's fortune and Jane's happiness. Darcy leaves the house in anger, but finds Elizabeth the following morning, and gives her a letter, which he asks her to read. In the letter, Darcy explains that he separated Jane and Bingley because he was convinced that Jane did not love Bingley. He goes on to relate that George Wickham is in fact a lazy scoundrel who cares only for money, and tried to elope with Darcy's younger sister in order to gain her large fortune. Elizabeth is astonished by this letter, and goes home regretting that she was so harsh.

Upon reaching home, Elizabeth finds her younger sisters, Lydia and Kitty terribly upset by the news that the regiment is leaving the town for Brighton. Lydia, a silly and headstrong girl finally gains permission to go to Brighton for the summer with her friend. Lizzy, meanwhile sets out for Derbyshire with her aunt and uncle. While there, they tour Pemberly, Mr. Darcy's home and estate. Mr. Darcy returns unexpectedly during their visit, and they meet. All of his former coldness has vanished, and he treats Elizabeth with amiable kindness. Elizabeth's stay in Derbyshire is cut short by the terrible news that Lydia has eloped with Mr. Wickham, and they leave in a hurry.

Back at home, Elizabeth realizes that she loves Darcy after all, but now has no hope of his ever loving her, especially now that her sister has disgraced the family by running away with Wickham. Mr. Darcy secretly finds Lydia and Wickham and bribes Wickham to marry her. Meanwhile, the Bennet family is excited by the news that Mr. Bingley is returning to town. He visits Jane along with Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth is disappointed to find that Darcy is cold and silent once again, nothing like the way he behaved at Pemberly. Watching Jane closely, Mr. Darcy decides that she does love Bingley after all, and tells his friend of this. Mr. Darcy leaves for town, and Jane and Bingley are engaged soon afterward.

Assuming she has no hope of winning Mr. Darcy now, Lizzy is astonished by the arrival of Lady Catherine de Bourgh who has come fifty miles to find out whether Lizzy is really engaged to Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth reveals they are not engaged, but refuses to promise that they never will be. Lady Catherine is enraged, and goes to see Darcy, repeating to him with great anger what Elizabeth said. Her endeavors to separate the two have the opposite effect. Darcy's hope of Elizabeth's love are rekindled by Lady Catherine's news. He returns to the Bennets home, and asks Lizzy whether she has changed her mind. She tells him she has, and the couple is engaged.

Paired opposites

The 'pride' of Mr. Darcy is opposed by the 'prejudice' of Elizabeth.

"The happy-go-lucky Mr. Bingley is heavily contrasted with his good friend, the proud, “disagreeable” Mr. Darcy." [1]

The generous and genial Bingley contrasts with the grasping hypocrite and social misfit, Mr. Collins.

The shrewd and penetrating character of Elizabeth contrasts with the trusting nature of her older sister Jane, who is determined to see only the good in everybody.

Mr. Bennet is sensible and sensitive. His wife is flighty and thinks only of marrying off her daughters.

Elizabeth is determined to marry for love, and gets the intelligent, worthy and immensely rich Darcy. Her best friend marries for security, and gets stuck with Mr. Collins.

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