Pride and Prejudice Study Guide

Pride and Prejudice By Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is an enormously complex soap-opera-like tale that centers around the Bennet household, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia, all of whom Mrs. Bennet is desperate to marry off. Charles Bingley, a wealthy young gentleman and his friend Mr. Darcy, move into town in the beginning of the tangled skein that is this book, and immediately Charles falls for Jane Bennet, while Mr. Darcy slowly falls for Elizabeth (much to the dismay of Charles' sister Miss Bingley, who is also competing for Mr. Darcy's attention).

Enter Mr. Collins; a young clergyman who stands to inherit Mr. Bennet's property (which cannot legally go to any of his daughters). He immediately proposes to Elizabeth, and is turned down. At the same time Elizabeth meets Wickham, who tells her of Mr. Darcy's cruelty in cheating him out of an inheritance.

Winter comes, and the Bingleys and Darcy move away. Word comes that Mr. Collins has become engaged to Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth's best friend. Marriage prospects for the Bennet household look grim.

Spring arrives, and Elizabeth visits Charlotte, where Mr. Darcy stumbles upon her and immediately proposes. She refuses, citing his disinheritance of Wickham and his manipulating Mr. Bingley away from Jane as proof of his unpleasantness. He explains in a letter that he was afraid that Mr. Bingley was not serious about Jane, and that Wickham had attempted to elope with his sister. Elizabeth rethinks things and is cold toward Wickham. Lydia gets permission to summer in Brighton, where Wickham's milita regiment is staying for the summer.

June warms the air, and Elizabeth takes a trip north to the neighborhood of Darcy's estate. With him gone, she evaluates the man through the words of his servants. Suddenly, he arrives and acts cordially toward her, with no mention of his prior proposal. She receives news from home that Lydia has eloped with Wickham and disappeared, so Elizabeth hastens home. No one can find the couple, but news arrives that they have married in exchange for Wickham's receiving an annual income. Elizabeth learns that it is Darcy who is paying the income, essentially saving her family's honor.

Shortly after, Mr. Bingley returns and resumes courting Jane. Mr. Darcy comes to visit again, but makes no mention of his proposal. Charles pushes forward with his proposal, to everyone's delight. As the family celebrates, a noblewoman related to Darcy corners Elizabeth and tries to force her to promise not to marry Darcy, but Elizabeth refuses. Finally, Darcy admits that his feelings have not changed, and Elizabeth agrees to marry him, sealing valid marriages for the three eldest Bennet girls and making Mrs. Bennet a very happy mother.

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Why is this book still relevant today? So many of the practices of that time have changed yet the book is still admired and used in schools. WHY?

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Social standing was incredibly important in the Victorian age, but Austen didn’t believe it was, instead, virtue, kindness and authenticity were proven more important in Pride and Prejudice. What would society think of such manner taken by both men and women with different social standing? And to what extent will they accept their inevitability?
One of the themes in Austen’s novel is class. Class defined the world Austen lived in. Specific rules in how people with different social class interact were important.