Introduction Pride and Prejudice
The universally acclaimed tour de force of Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, a novel of manners, is also called a model of the Romantic Movement in literature. It was written and published around 1813 during the classical Regency Period. The storyline revolves around the Bennet family whose mother’s only desire is to see her daughters married to well-off and handsome young men to secure their inheritance. However, the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, shows her evolution from a rash, hasty girl to an appreciably understanding lady, who accepts her mistakes and agrees to Darcy’s proposal by the end.
Summary Pride and Prejudice
A wealthy young man, Charles Bingley, rents a manor in the proximity of Longbourn, a village, where the Bennet family resides. Having five daughters ready to be married, Mrs. Bennet sees Mr. Bingley a likely match for any one of her five daughters. She, therefore, persuades Mr. Bennet to pay him a courtesy visit following which all join a ball at Mr. Bingley’s manor, Netherfield Park. Jane, the second Miss Bennet, succeeds in attracting Mr. Bingley, toward her during the dance, and they both spend much time together. However, it happens that Mr. Darcy, too, joins them, though he is not much pleased with this party where Elizabeth is also present. Both of them show their displeasure, as Mr. Darcy does not join her in dance, a sign of arrogance considered in those social circles.
In the later weeks, when Mr. Bingley is already enjoying his friendship with Jane while Mr. Darcy hopes to see Elizabeth. One day when Jane is caught in the rainstorm and falls ill on her way to Netherfield Park, Elizabeth visits the mansion to take care of her and gets her dress muddied on the way to the mansion. Miss Bingley does not like her appearance and insults her. Mr. Darcy defends her and it angers Miss Bingley and this incident also adds jealousy toward Elizabeth.
Both of the sisters return after Jane recovers. Mr. Collins, their cousin, visits them. Mr. Collins is likely to become the heir of Bennet’s property, as he is the only male member of the family. He instantly falls in love with the Bennet girls and their manners. Soon, he starts courting Elizabeth only to face rejection.
Meanwhile, soldiers stationed near Longbourn keep the Bennet girls busy, where Wickham, a dashing soldier, turns to Elizabeth and tries to win her attention. He berates Darcy alleging that he has tried to cheat him of inherited property. When winter starts, the Bingleys, along with Darcy, return to London which disappoints Jane. Around this time, Collins also gets engaged with Charlotte Lucas, the daughter of a knight. When they get married, Elizabeth promises to visit them. Winter passes without any stir in the emotions of the Bennet sisters due to the long absence of Darcy and Bingley.
When spring arrives, Elizabeth goes to see Charlotte, Mr. Collins’ wife, residing near Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine. Darcy also visits his aunt and meets Elizabeth. He starts visiting her at the Collins’ and proposes to her which invites immediate rejection from her with some words for his arrogant behavior. However, instead of retreating, he leaves a letter for her about Jane and Bingley, and his reasons for distancing from Jane. He also informs her that Wickham, the soldier, is a habitual liar and has been trying to elope with Georgiana, Elizabeth’s younger sister. However, Mr. Darcy from whom Wickham has sought assistance has refused to assist him. This letter reveals the good nature of Darcy to Elizabeth after which she shows cold-shouldering to Wickham. Also, Lydia still seeks permission to stay at Brighton. Elizabeth gets acquainted with the Gardiners, where she, unknowingly, stumbles upon the Pemberley, the estate of Mr. Darcy. She visits and finds him generous in every way. When Mr. Darcy arrives, he serves her well without mentioning her rejection.
During Elizabeth’s stay at the estate, she comes to know that Lydia eloped with Wickham. She hurries home, while Gardiner goes to find the couple. They convince Wickham to marry Lydia at which the Bennets readily agree. They realize that they owe Gardiner as might have paid Wickham to marry Lydia. However, the source of that money remains unknown at this time.
After their marriage, though, Lydia and Wickham come to Longbourn to meet the family, they are not happily welcomed home. Disappointed, the couple leaves. Bingley, afterward, reappears and starts flirting with Jane, while Darcy is there with him to visit the Bennets. Though, he does not mention his wish for Elizabeth. So, Bingley proposes and wins Jane’s hand. Darcy seeks assistance from his aunt, Lady Catherine, who broaches the topic of his marriage with the announcement, asking Katherine to refuse. Elizabeth finally agrees to go out on a date with Mr. Darcy. Three daughters are happily married by the end of the novel.
Major Themes in Pride and Prejudice
- Pride: The novel shows the thematic strand of pride through the characters of Darcy and Elizabeth. They both demonstrate pride toward each other and both think that the other one is snobbish and haughty. However, Mr. Darcy soon learns that Elizabeth is just cautious and responsible. While Elizabeth learns that Mr. Darcy is just an isolated man, but full of kindness and love for others. However, Lady Catherine, by the end, plays a strange game by asking Elizabeth not to accept the marriage proposal of Mr. Darcy to which she refuses to promise. She finally accepts his proposal on her claim that she has the right to be happy.
- Prejudice: This is the second thematic strand is also in the title of the novel. The prejudice lies in the character of Elizabeth that she does not consider Mr. Darcy good enough to dance with him. Both are prejudiced toward each other, as Mr. Darcy, too, shows scorn for those who is not in his personal social circle. However, when Elizabeth enters his social circle, he immediately proposes to her again and marries her.
- Family: Having a complete family is the third major theme as the Bennets are waiting for young men to marry their five young daughters. That is why when Mr. Bingley arrives in Longbourn, Mrs. Bennet immediately asks her husband to visit him. Similarly, Jane and Elizabeth find their matches in Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy in their desires to complete their families through marriages.
- Women: Although there are several towering male characters like Mr. Darcy and Charles Bingley, yet Pride and Prejudice is the novel of women. Women play a central role throughout the story. It also comprises so many marriages. Hence, it has been rightly termed as the novel of manners. Mrs. Bennet is a towering character with her daughter Elizabeth along with Lady Katherine, Darcy’s aunt. Although all men seem to play their role, except Mr. Darcy, all others seem to be going on the way the women choose for them. Mr. Bennet does what Mrs. Bennet asks him to do. Wickham becomes what Lydia wants him; her husband after Mr. Darcy purchases her marriage from him.
- Class: Although the novel supports a no-class system, it emphasizes that the marriages should be based on convenience and status that points to class consciousness. Darcy is clearly conscious of his class. So, when Elizabeth rejects his proposal after he does not dance with her, it becomes a point of the class system. However, when the same Elizabeth visits his estate and comes to know him, she immediately changes her opinion and softens her feelings towards Mr. Darcy. At the end of the story, it does raise her status. Also, Bennet’s sisters flirt with Collins, as he does not belong to their class.
- Marriage: The theme of marriage comes to the readers through the Bennet family, especially plotted by their mother, Mrs. Bennet. She is fully obsessed with the idea of marrying her daughters to any young man who comes their way to secure their inheritance. When Mr. Bingley arrives, she immediately springs up from her stupor to torture her husband, Mr. Bennet to visit her. She even tries to keep Collins for any one of them, but they do not pay heed to her suggestions. Therefore, the first line of the novel presents this major theme.
- Individual and Society: The novel also presents the theme of an individual and his place in society such as Mr. Darcy, who encourages Wickham to marry Lydia, instead of keeping her unmarried with him. Had it not happened, Wickham would have caused embarrassment to the Bennet family. Also, it shows that no individual could find respect and honor in society, for Wickham would have caused damage to himself, too.
- Virtue: The theme of virtue in, Pride and Prejudice, is clear from the character of Elizabeth, who keeps her vanity in front of her, instead of giving priority to her happiness. This becomes her virtue that wins the heart of Mr. Darcy, while Lydia’s act causes damage to her reputation, which becomes Lydia’s vice.
Major Characters in Pride and Prejudice
- Elizabeth: Elizabeth is the protagonist, the most loving character of the novel. She is her father’s pet as well as a center of admiration for Mr. Darcy. She is misunderstood at first. Elizabeth is also called Eliza or Lizzy in her familial circle. As the second daughter of the Bennet family, she wins Mr. Darcy by the end with her quick thinking, despite the initial hiccups in forming relations with the same person. She demonstrates a balanced personality and removes her prejudicial behavior.
- Darcy: Though, Fitzwilliam Darcy called, Mr. Darcy appears haughty and socially shunning he proves equal to Elizabeth in thoughts as well as likes. A person of demanding taste, he shows kindness, manners, and wins the respect of others on account of his rational approach to life despite his initial arrogance toward Elizabeth. However, later he proves that he is a man to be trusted when he helps The Bennets to settle Lydia’s elopement affair. He falls in love with Elizabeth and proposes at the end of the story.
- Jane Bennet: The eldest of Bennet girls, Jane, later, marries Mr. Bingley. However, despite her beauty and fairness, Mr. Darcy prefers Elizabeth to her in the beginning. While Bingley instantly falls for Jane. She is a conventional lady who has faith in her sister Elizabeth, whom she tells about Mr. Bingley. Jane has set an example of marrying in the traditional atmosphere.
- Bingley: The significance of Charles Bingley’s character in the course of the novel lies in that the very first sentence of the novel pays tribute to his wealth and requirement for a wife, which prompts Mrs. Bennet to send her husband for socialization with him. He, seeing beauty in Jane, instantly goes for her, instead of the other clever ones. He also loves Caroline and Louisa, his two sisters, and has a kind heart. Following his marriage, he moves near the Pemberley to stay close to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.
- Wickham: George Wickham is a charming soldier and close to Mr. Darcy. He is the most undesirable character in the story due to actions such as beguiling Lydia and lying about Darcy. Elizabeth might have been his intended victim, but her wit saves her from his cheating nature. He then lures Lydia, mired in gambling and bad habits. Wickham has been Darcy’s close relative, the reason that his father has bequeathed some property for him. When he elopes with Lydia, Mr. Darcy intervenes to save his skin and gets them married.
- Bennet: She is a very tiring but inquisitive character. Mrs. Bennet proves a bee in the bonnet for Mr. Bennet whenever she sees any prospect of a coming young man marrying any of her young daughters. It happens in the case of Mr. Bingley when she comes to know that he has not married despite having a good fortune. However, she is deficient in both; the mundane sagacity as well as human relations. She becomes fully satisfied at the end of the novel when she sees all her girls marrying and settling happily.
- Bennet: Mr. Bennet is the head of the Bennet family, and also a legal hand working in the court with a mind full of worldly wisdom. At home, his favorite daughter is Elizabeth to whom he calls Lizzy. Sadly, his relations with his wife are always sour. He is often found cutting jokes at Mrs. Bennet’s bad temper. He suffers and feels insulted at Lydia’s affair from which Mr. Darcy saves him.
- Lydia Bennet: Despite her beauty and closeness to Elizabeth, Lydia proves her stupidity by falling into the trap of Mr. Wickham. She elopes with Wickham without realizing the consequences. However, Mr. Darcy, sensing danger, reaches to assist her in marrying Wickham.
- Catherine Bennett: Kitty or Katherine is the second last Bennet sisters, who despite being young, do not marry and continues with her life like before, which shows her shrewdness for brightening her prospects after getting her sisters married.
- Mary Bennet: She is the most educated or seemingly educated but serious character of the novel. She mostly stays away from others immersed in her books. She also has a very keen interest in human relations and understands more than others.
Writing Style Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen has shown her amazing linguistic skills through this novel by using simple and straightforward language. This style is meant to hook her readers from any language background and take them on a tour of a family, 18th-century lifestyle, and human relations. However, the specialty of this simple language lies in its iron andy wit. The narrator, the third person omniscient, often says something that means entirely something else. For instance, Mr. Bennet’s comments against his wife, creating an amusing situation. Otherwise, the story goes straightforward without much of twists and turns. The style also stays uncomplicated throughout the novel except in some cases where educated characters talk seriously about issues such as Lydia’s behavior and Wickham’s actions.
Analysis of Literary Devices in Pride and Prejudice
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the marriage and choices of the Bennet girls. The rising action occurs when Mr. Darcy refuses to dance with Elizabeth, and she rejects his proposal. However, the falling action occurs when Mr. Darcy comes to help the Bennets in the case of Lydia’s elopement, and finally, Elizabeth agrees to Mr. Darcy’s proposal by the end.
- Adage: It means the use of a statement that becomes a universal truth. The novel, Pride and Prejudice, shows this use of the statement in the very first sentence; “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Chapter-1)
- Allegory: Pride and Prejudice shows the use of allegory in the initial line which discloses that the characters are going to represent abstract ideas such as Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth both represent abstract feelings of pride and prejudice.
- Antagonist: Although it seems that Mr. Darcy is the main antagonist of Pride and Prejudice in the opening chapters, it is Mr. Wickham who becomes the antagonist later when he causes embarrassment to the Bennet family and Mr. Darcy redeems himself from this initial impression by helping the Bennet settle the elopement affair of Lydia and Wickham.
- Allusion: There are various examples of allusions given in the novel, Pride and Prejudice. The first allusion is a statement of Mr. Darcy that occurs in the 9th chapter that “I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love”. Here the final part “food of love” alludes to Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. There are several other Biblical allusions such as of “St. James” (Chapter-5), referring to Sir William Lucas. The second biblical allusion is of “an angel of light” (Chapter-6), which refers to Meryton.
- Conflict: The are two major conflicts in the novel, Pride and Prejudice. The first one is the external conflict that starts between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham and another between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy, however, possesses the capability to resolve both with the help of Elizabeth, who is also thankful to him. Another conflict is in the mind of both Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, which is resolved at the end of the novel.
- Characters: Pride and Prejudice presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The young man, Mr. Darcy, and his would-be wife are two dynamic characters. However, the rest of the characters do not show any significant change in their roles, the reason that Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet, including the Bingleys and Lady Katherine, are all static characters.
- Climax: The climatic takes place when Mr. Darcy suggests Elizabeth to marry him, but she refuses. This climax slowly starts resolving and comes to an end when she finally accepts his proposal.
- Foreshadowing: The first example of foreshadowing in the novel occurs when Elizabeth knowingly reaches the Pemberley. It shows that she is going to pacify or impress Mr. Darcy, in the first chapter of the third volume of the novel. Even before this, the novel’s title of two abstract feelings shows that there will be something about their relationship and feelings, as shown by Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. However, the question of Mrs. Bennet about Mr. Bingley’s married or single life is also a type for foreshadowing.
- Hyperbole: Hyperbole or exaggeration occurs when Jane Austen opens the book; “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” (Chapter-1). Although it has become an adage, still it is an exaggeration, for several young men may not be in want of a wife. The second hyperbole occurs when Mr. Darcy states that “I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library” (Chapter-11). However, it is an exaggeration of the reading taste of Elizabeth.
- Imagery: Imagery means to use of the five senses such as in the below examples:
i. At length the Parsonage was discernible. The garden sloping to the road, the house standing in it, the green pales, and the laurel hedge, everything declared they were arriving. (Chapter-28)
ii. The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of its lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent. (Chapter-43)
iii. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. (Chapter-43)
The first example shows images of color, the second one of nature, and the third one shows the images of the building as the description shows the use of the senses of sight, smell, and touch in these three examples.
- Metaphor: Pride and Prejudice shows good use of various metaphors such as the extended metaphors of proud love compared to Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s match, dance as compared to the cognitive understanding of the body, and idiocy with acts such as of Lydia and Wickham. Some other metaphors are:
i. You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. (Chapter-1)
ii. “Oh, she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld.” (Chapter-3)
iii. Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart. (Chapter-19)
- Mood: The novel, Pride and Prejudice, shows a satirical mood. However, it also allows characters to be sarcastic and ironic at times to seem biting to some. It, however, becomes tense during the Lydia-Wickham affair but becomes again light-hearted and happy in tone when Mr. Darcy helps the Bennet to settle that affair. It, then, ends on a happy note.
- Motif: The most important motifs of the novel, Pride and Prejudice, are courtships, journeys, dances, and marriages.
- Narrator: The novel, Pride and Prejudice, has been narrated by a third-person narrator. It is also called an omniscient narrator who happens to be the author himself as he can see things from all perspectives. Here Jane Austen is the narrator.
- Personification: Personification means to attribute human acts and emotions to non-living objects such as:
i. ‘His pride,’ said Miss Lucas, ‘does not oﬀend ME so much as pride often does, because there is an excuse for it. (Chapter-5)
ii. Her heart was divided between concern for her sister, and resentment against all others. (Chapter-24)
Both of these examples show pride and heart personified.
- Protagonist: Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist of the novel. She comes in the novel from the very start and captures the interest of the readers until the last page.
- Paradox: Pride and Prejudice shows the use of paradox in its title in that it is a regency paradox of feeling pride and then showing prejudice.
- Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places such as:
i. ‘I cannot believe it. Why should they try to inﬂuence him? Elizabeth to Jane (Chapter-24)
ii. When is your turn to come? You will hardly bear to be long outdone by Jane. Mr. Bennet to Mrs. Bennet (Chapter-24)
iii. ‘Good Heaven! what is to become of us? What are we to do?’ would they often exclaiming the bitterness of woe. ‘How can you be smiling so, Lizzy? (Mrs. Bennet to Elizabeth) (Chapter-41)
This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed by different characters such as first by Elizabeth to Jane, then Mr. Bennet to Mrs. Bennet, and third by Mrs. Bennet to Elizabeth.
- Theme: A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel, Pride and Prejudice, not only shows the titular thematic strands of pride and prejudice, but also life in general and marriage in particular with communication, conventions, relationships, and status or class as other thematic strands.
- Setting: The setting of the novel, Pride and Prejudice, is the urban and rural areas of the United Kingdom of the 18th century and places such as Longbourn, Rosings, Pemberley, and Netherfield Park.
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes such as:
i. …’they are all silly and ignorant like other girls. (Chapter-1)
ii. There is nothing like dancing after all, (Chapter-6)
iii. Yes, ma’am, that he was indeed; and his son will be just like him—just as aﬀable to the poor. (Chapter-43)
The first simile compares the girls to other girls, the second, no-skill to dance, and the third the son to his father.
- Irony: The novel shows irony not only of the situation but also in the language such as:
i. It is truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. (Chapter-1)
ii. ‘My dear, you ﬂatter me. I certainly HAVE had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she
ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.’ ‘In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of. (Chapter-1)
iii. ‘And we mean to treat you all,’ added Lydia, ‘but you must lend us the money, for we have just spent ours at the shop out there.’ Ten, showing her purchases—’Look here. (Chapter-19)
The first example shows the irony of language as well as the situation, while the second shows Mr. Bennet using irony against his wife and third Lydia against others.