Pride and Prejudice

Austen, Jane(1976). London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0 19 254702 x.

In the early 19th Century the five Bennet daughters and their parents, the detached Mr. Bennet and the shallow, gossiping Mrs. B., live near the village of Meryton in the English countryside. Unfortunately, their modest estate, Longbourne, is entailed on a male heir, so marriage is the only path to a comfortable life for these young ladies, a prospect of concern to eldest daughter, kindhearted and beautiful Jane, and also to her sister, the witty and independent Elizabeth . Mr. Bingley, a wealthy young man, arrives to rent neighboring Netherfield Hall, bringing his two snobbish sisters, his brother-in-law, and his close friend, the fabulously wealthy Mr. Darcy. The Bennets are soon involved in all the social events which accompany the arrival of a marriageable young man into the countryside—balls, card parties, and dinners. A mutual attraction soon develops between Bingham and Jane, but Elizabeth overhears herself disparaged by Mr. Darcy at a ball, and this plus his haughty disdain for the proceedings makes a strong negative impression on Elizabeth. Troops are billeted in Meryton, which is a source of joy to the younger Bennet girls. Elizabet begins a friendship with one of the soldiers, the charming and confiding WIckham, who tells Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy has cheated him out of his inheritance, which seals Elizabeth’s dislike of Darcy. Pompous Mr. Collins, the heir of Longbourne, arrives intent on marrying one of the Bennet girls, and when Elizabeth rejects him, to her mother’s dismay, he promptly marries Elizabeth’s best friend, Charlotte Lucas. Bingham and Jane seem on the brink of engagement, but Bingley and his party suddenly leave the area, with no plan of returning. On a visit to Charlotte and Mr, Collins, Elizabeth learns that Darcy had a hand in the departure, and when, to her astonishment Darcy proposes to her , Elizabeth indignantly rejects him. On a later trip when Elizabeth and Darcy meet again on the grounds of his palatial estate, Darcy is newly affable,and Elizabeth begins to revise her opinion of him. Unfortunately, news comes that Elizabeth’s sister Lydia has run off with Mr. Wickham. When thye are duly located and made to marry, Elizabeth discovers Mr. Darcy’s role in the resolution, and this removes the last of her prejudice against him. Mr. BIngley receives the requisite encouragement from Bingley; he and Jane are engaged, followed shortly after by Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, to the astonishment of all.

Reader’s Annotation
Elizabeth and Jane Bennet,19th Century gentlewomen with no dowries, are the eldest of 5 daughters. The pleasant Mr. Bingley and handsome, haughty, rich Mr. Darcy have recently arrived in the neighborhood, but social path to happy marriage, true love, and a decent annual income is difficult to navigate.

Pride and Prejudice is surely one of the most popular books in the world and a great personal favorite, so it was a pleasure to reread it as an ancestral ‘Chick Lit’ work, and as a book for young adults. In spite of 19th Century diction, Pride and Prejudice is an accessible masterpiece, its comic characters not only examples of masterful ironic observation and social criticism, but recognizable human types who can still inspire both amusement and loathing in the reader. The relationship between the playful Elizabeth and the stern Mr. Darcy continues to capture the imagination of new generations of readers (well, girls, mostly…), especially the many who have read B. Jones or seen either the BBC production with Colin Firth or the Kiera Knightley movie. Somehow, no matter how many times it has been read, the narrative drive of the romantic plot will catch me every time, and the pages will be turned faster and faster, for fear the story won’t work out this time. Stephanie Meyer has admitted that her obsession with Mr. Darcy led to her creation of Edward Cullen; Pride and Prejudice is a gateway book for Young Adults into the world of classic 19th Century fiction,

About the author
See Emma entry. Jane Austen wrote 6 major novels and an unfinished book, Sanditon. Lots of her juvenilia survives, in which her voice is clearly recognizable. He sister Cassandra destroyed many of her letters; the ones that survive have a lot in them about cooking and preserving food—she was a very busy Great Writer. She died at 41 of what doctors now think was Addison’s disease, a now curable problem with the adrenal glands.

Crossover; classic; romance

Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas
Mr Darcy/Mr.Bingley/Wickham: which one sounds better for you?
5 sisters: which one are you?
Regency England: the clothes

Reading Level/Interest Age

Challenge Issues

Why Included?
Reread with Bridget Jones for genre project

Selection Tools
101 Books for Great Books Recommended for the College-Bound Reader:

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