Pride and Prejudice

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Novels

Title Pride and Prejudice
Author Jane Austen (originally published anonymously)
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher T. Egerton, Whitehall
Released 28 January 1813
Media type Print ( Hardback & Paperback)
Preceded by Sense and Sensibility
Followed by Mansfield Park

Pride and Prejudice, first published on 28 January 1813, is the most famous of Jane Austen's novels. It is one of the first romantic comedies in the history of the novel and its opening is one of the most famous lines in English literature—"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Its manuscript was first written between 1796 and 1797, and was initially called First Impressions, but was never published under that title. Following revisions, it was first published on 28 January 1813. Like both its predecessor and Northanger Abbey, it was written at Steventon Rectory.

Plot summary

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Mrs Bennet is greatly excited by news of the arrival of a single man "of considerable fortune" in the neighbourhood. Mr Bingley has leased the Netherfield estate where he plans to temporarily settle with his two sisters, Miss Bingley and Mrs Hurst, and his sister's husband, Mr. Hurst. Soon afterwards, Bingley and his party, which now includes his close friend Fitzwilliam Darcy, attend a public ball in the village of Meryton. At first, Darcy is admired for his fine figure and income of £10,000 a year. However, he is soon regarded contemptuously as the villagers become disgusted with his pride. This is brought home to the Bennet family when Elizabeth Bennet overhears Darcy decline Bingley's suggestion that he dance with her. Bingley, on the other hand, proves highly agreeable, dancing with many of the eligible ladies in attendance and showing his decided admiration for Jane Bennet. Eager to encourage this highly advantageous match, Mrs Bennet attempts to push Jane and Bingley together at every opportunity.

Shortly after the ball, Mr Collins, a cousin who will inherit the Bennet estate because of an entail, visits the family. Collins, a pompous buffoon of a clergyman whose idea of a pleasant evening is reading to his female cousins from Fordyce's Sermons, delights in dropping the name of his great patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, with great frequency. Following Lady Catherine's imperious suggestion that he marry, Collins has decided to make amends for his role in his cousins' future impoverishment by marrying one of them. Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth but she refuses him pointblank. Although Mrs Bennet tries to promote the marriage, Elizabeth, advocated by her father, will not have him. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is introduced to Mr. Wickham, a pleasing, amiable officer in the regiment. Wickham informs her that he had known Mr Darcy his entire life, but was dealt a serious wrong after the death of Darcy's father. After the tale is told, Elizabeth begins to harbour a strong prejudice against Mr Darcy.

After Elizabeth rejects Mr Collins, he hurriedly marries her best friend, Charlotte Lucas, and Elizabeth is invited to visit the newlyweds. While she is staying with them, Darcy visits his aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, at the adjoining estate, Rosings. Elizabeth and Darcy are therefore thrown daily into each other's company. Elizabeth's charms eventually entrance Mr Darcy, leading him to finally declare his love for her "against his own will" and his desire to marry her in spite of her objectionable family. Surprised and insulted by Darcy's high-handed method of proposing, as well as having recently learnt that Darcy convinced Bingley to sever ties with Jane and still contemptuous of Darcy's supposed wrongs against Wickham, Elizabeth refuses him in no uncertain terms, saying that he is "the last man in the world whom [she] could ever be prevailed on to marry." The next day, Darcy intercepts Elizabeth on her morning walk and hands her a letter before coldly taking his leave. In the letter, Darcy justifies his actions regarding his interference in Bingley and Jane's relationship, and reveals his history concerning Mr Wickham and Wickham's true nature. The letter sheds a new light on Darcy's personality for Elizabeth and she begins to reconsider her opinion of him, particularly in the case of Wickham.

Later, while on holiday with her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners, Elizabeth is persuaded to visit nearby Pemberley, Darcy's estate, while he is away. She is therefore mortified when she bumps into him unexpectedly while on a tour of the grounds. However, his altered behaviour towards her - distinctly warmer from their last meeting - and his polite and friendly manner towards her aunt and uncle begins to persuade Elizabeth that underneath his pride lies a true and generous nature. Her revised opinion of Darcy is supported through meeting his younger sister Georgiana, a gentle-natured and shy girl whom Darcy lovingly dotes upon.

Just as her relationship with Darcy starts to thaw, Elizabeth is horrified by news that, in her absence, her headstrong younger sister Lydia has attracted Wickham's attentions and eloped with him. When the family investigates, they learn that Wickham resigned his commission to evade gambling debts. When told of this by Elizabeth, Darcy takes it upon himself to find Wickham and bribe him into marrying Lydia, but keeps this secret from Elizabeth and her family. Elizabeth accidentally learns of Darcy's involvement from Lydia's careless remarks, later confirmed by Mrs Gardiner. This final act completes a reversal in Elizabeth's sentiments, and she begins to regret having turned down Darcy's earlier proposal of marriage.

Lady Catherine discovers Darcy's feelings for Elizabeth, threatening her long cherished ambition for him to marry her own daughter. She pays Elizabeth an unannounced visit and brusquely tries to intimidate her into refusing such an engagement. Unfortunately, Catherine's visit serves to consolidate Elizabeth's intentions. Furthermore, Lady Catherine visits Darcy later, and relates the entire conversation to him, leading Darcy to the conviction that marrying Elizabeth is possible.

The book ends with two marriages: Jane and Bingley, as well as Darcy and Elizabeth. While the Bennets go their separate ways, both couples live happily ever after.

Characters in Pride and Prejudice

The following is a listing of the more significant characters of the novel.

Elizabeth Bennet

Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist of the novel. Elizabeth is the second of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet's five daughters, and is an attractive twenty year old when the story begins. In addition to being her father's favourite, Elizabeth is characterized as a sensible, intelligent woman. Misled by Darcy's cold outward behaviour, Elizabeth originally holds Darcy in contempt. However, she finds that Darcy improves on acquaintance, more so than she would expect.

Fitzwilliam Darcy

Fitzwilliam Darcy is the central male character and Elizabeth's second love interest in the novel. He is an intelligent, wealthy, extremely handsome and reserved 28-year-old man, who often appears haughty or proud to strangers but possesses an honest and kind nature underneath. Initially, he considers Elizabeth his social inferior, unworthy of his attention; but he finds that, despite his inclinations, he cannot deny his feelings for Elizabeth. His initial proposal of marriage is rejected because of his pride and Elizabeth's prejudice against him. However, at the end of the novel, he finds himself sharing his home, Pemberley of Derbyshire, with his beloved new wife, Lizzy.

Mr. Bennet

Mr. Bennet is the father of Elizabeth Bennet and head of the Bennet family. An English gentleman with an estate in Hertfordshire, he is married to Mrs. Bennet and has five daughters. Unfortunately, his property is entailed to a male descendant, meaning it can only be inherited by his closest male heir (Mr. Collins). Mr. Bennet is a somewhat gentle and eccentric man who can only derive amusement from his "nervous" wife and three "silly" daughters--Mary, Kitty and Lydia. He is closer to Jane and especially Elizabeth, his two eldest and most sensible offspring. He prefers the solitude of his study, neglecting the raising of his children, which leads to near-disaster.

Mrs Bennet

Mrs. Bennet is the querulous, excitable and ill-bred wife of Mr. Bennet and mother of Elizabeth and her sisters. Her main concern in life is seeing her daughters married well to wealthy men, so that they will be taken care of following Mr. Bennet's death. However, her foolish nature and frequent social faux pas often impede her efforts towards this end.

Jane Bennet

Jane Bennet is the eldest Bennet sister. She is twenty-two years old at the start of the novel, and is generally considered to be the most beautiful amongst her sisters. The depth of her feelings is difficult to discern by those who do not know her well, due to her reserved manner and pleasantness to all. She is incapable of suspecting the worst of people, seeing only the good. She falls in love with Charles Bingley, and is devastated when he abruptly breaks off their developing relationship without explanation. Eventually however, the misunderstanding on his part is cleared up and she accepts his hand in marriage. Together, they live at Netherfield for about a year before moving to a new estate in Derbyshire and a mere 30 miles away from her favorite sister and sister's husband.

Lydia Bennet

Lydia Bennet is the youngest of the Bennet sisters. Fifteen years old when the narrative begins, Lydia is extremely flirtatious, naive, headstrong and reckless. She is described as being idle and indulging in frivolous pursuits, especially chasing after the officers stationed at Meryton. Her father often calls her 'silly'. She is seduced by Mr Wickham and runs away with him without much thought for the consequences to her family, but Mr Wickham is convinced to marry her by Mr Darcy.

Charles Bingley

Charles Bingley is the closest friend of Mr Darcy, despite the differences in their personalities. He is an outgoing, extremely good-natured, and wealthy young man who leases property near the Bennets' estate at the beginning of the novel. Unlike many of those in his circle, he is approachable and mingles easily in company the others consider beneath them. He is attracted to Jane Bennet, who reciprocates his feelings but is too shy and reserved to fully express them.

William Collins

William Collins is the 25-year-old cousin of Mr Bennet. A clergyman, he is the closest male relation to the Bennet family, and as such stands to inherit Longbourn on Mr Bennet's death. Collins is a pompous, narrow-minded sycophant who is excessively devoted and flattering to his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Advised by Lady Catherine to find a wife, he initially selects Jane, only to instantly transfer his affections to Elizabeth upon learning of Jane's impending match with Mr Bingley. After being rejected by his second choice, he proposes to Charlotte Lucas, who accepts him.

George Wickham

George Wickham is the enemy of Mr Darcy. He is a dashing, charming and handsome young soldier who attracts the attention of Elizabeth Bennet. His father was the manager of the Darcy estate, so he grew up with Mr Darcy and his sister and was a favorite of Darcy's since-deceased father. Wickham's charm skillfully conceals a more conniving and dishonorable nature, and there is bitter enmity between him and Darcy due to his attempt to elope with Georgiana Darcy for her substantial inheritance. He later runs off with Lydia Bennet, but is tracked down by Darcy and he marries her where Darcy pays for the marriage.

Mary Bennet

Mary Bennet is the most serious and the most accomplished of all the Bennet girls, partly because she is the least good looking sister. Mrs Bennet had hoped that she could be persuaded to marry Mr Collins on his next visit, as she found him somewhat interesting, and suitably serious, but otherwise she is not very interested in society, seeing balls as a duty rather than a pleasure.

Kitty Bennet

Kitty Bennet although older than her sister Lydia, is somewhat of a sidekick to her. She follows everything that Lydia does, and becomes insanely jealous when only Lydia is invited to go to Brighton with the troops, as she wishes to go herself.

Charlotte Lucas

Charlotte Lucas is the neighbour and best friend of Elizabeth. She is 27 years old and, after Mr. Collins proposed to Elizabeth, Charlotte herself accepted him (thereby losing Elizabeth's respect). She enjoys her marriage by staying away from Mr. Collins as much as possible and taking care of her household and poultry.


A comprehensive web showing the relationships between the main characters in Pride and Prejudice
A comprehensive web showing the relationships between the main characters in Pride and Prejudice

Spoilers end here.

Artistic depictions of and related to Pride and Prejudice

See main article: List of artistic depictions of and related to Pride and Prejudice

Film, television, and theatrical adaptations

Pride and Prejudice has engendered numerous adaptations. Some of the notable film versions include that of 2005 starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, and that of 1940 starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Notable television versions include two by the BBC: 1995 version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and 1980 version starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. First Impressions is a Broadway musical version.

Related works of film and literature

Pride and Prejudice has inspired a number of other works. Bride and Prejudice, starring Aishwarya Rai, is a Bollywood adaptation of the novel, while Pride and Prejudice (2003 film) places the novel in contemporary times. Books inspired by Pride and Prejudice include Mr. Darcy's Daughters (novel) and The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy by Elizabeth Aston, Pemberley : Or Pride & Prejudice Continued and An Unequal Marriage: Or Pride and Prejudice Twenty Years Later by Emma Tennant, The Book of Ruth by Helen Baker and Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll. The novel Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (and the film made of it) was also directly inspired by Pride and Prejudice. For instance, the protagonist finds herself choosing between a charming, but sleazy man and an honourable, but uncouth man named Mr. Darcy, played by Colin Firth. Also, the mother is trying to fix her daughter up with a husband, but the father remains gloriously detached from the whole process.

Awards and nominations

  • In 2003 the BBC conducted the largest ever poll for the " UK's Best-Loved Book" in which Pride and Prejudice came second, behind The Lord of the Rings.

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