Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a timeless classic that captures the wit and independent spirit of its protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet.
When Elizabeth first meets Fitzwilliam Darcy, she is put off by his arrogant and conceited demeanor, and he seems unimpressed by her intelligence and beauty. Things become even more complicated when Elizabeth learns that Darcy has meddled in the relationship between his friend Bingley and her sister Jane.
Despite her initial dislike of Darcy, Elizabeth comes to realize the folly of judging people based on first impressions. Through her witty and sharp observations of provincial middle-class society, Austen deftly portrays the friendships, gossip, and snobbery of the era. Overall, Pride and Prejudice is a delightful and entertaining comedy of manners that has captivated readers for generations.
You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book review provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.
Let’s get started without further ado.
In this Pride and Prejudice book review, I’m going to cover the following topics:
Table of Contents
A young woman of sterling wit and intelligence—but no fortune—loses her prejudices against a dashingly handsome—and rich—gentleman and is astonished to find herself in love with him.
Volume 1, Chapters 1–23
The opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice is justifiably considered one of the most effective 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.”
It sets the tone for the novel, introduces the theme of marriage, and indicates the narrator’s darkly humorous, ironic point of view. In the context of the times, the sentence really means that a woman without a fortune needs to marry a man with one.
The single man is Charles Bingley. The fortune is an income of 4,000 or 5,000 pounds a year. Mrs. Bennet, who has five unmarried daughters, is thrilled that the bachelor has moved into Netherfield, a nearby country estate. In her daffy way, she sets about snaring the eligible bachelor for one of her girls.
The first of series of important balls occurs in the third chapter. Bingley is attracted to Jane Bennet, the reserved, good-natured, eldest Bennet daughter. In her quiet way, she also admires him. Bingley’s friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is much less congenial. He seems as arrogant and disagreeable as he is handsome.
Asked to dance with Jane’s sister, Elizabeth, he coldly states that she is not sufficiently attractive to tempt him. Elizabeth is the protagonist of the novel, and her jousts with Darcy will be of central interest.
Elizabeth soon proves to be bright, witty, bold, and loyal, as well as reasonably good-looking. When Bingley’s sisters invite Jane to Netherfield for an afternoon, Jane becomes quite ill with a cold. Elizabeth walks three miles through the mud to care for her sister and stays until she can return home.
Bingley and Darcy are impressed with Elizabeth’s independence and good sense. Elizabeth observes that Bingley’s sisters, however, are cold hypocrites.
At a subsequent ball, in Chapter 6, Elizabeth refuses to dance with Darcy. She assumes that Darcy dislikes her when he actually has become attracted to her personality and “fine eyes.” The novel’s title describes their problem. Darcy’s initial pride and prejudice evoke Elizabeth’s pride and prejudice against him. The rest of the novel concerns their discovery of each other’s true self.
We also learn more about the rest of the Bennet family. Mr. Bennet is sharp- witted but somewhat irresponsible toward his daughters. He tolerates his babbling, scatterbrained wife. Mary, the third daughter, hides her unattractive appearance behind a pseudo-intellectual manner.
The other Bennet daughters, Catherine (Kitty) and Lydia, are immature, giddy, and none too bright; their idea of a marriageable man is any guy in a soldier’s uniform.
Because there are no sons in the family, the Bennets’ Longbourn estate will go to a cousin, the Rev. Mr. Collins, upon the father’s death. He is a silly, pompous, officious dolt who is rector of the parish of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, also Darcy’s aunt. Collins writes the Bennets a boastful letter implying that he might be willing to marry one of the daughters and announcing his intent to visit them.
Elizabeth becomes acquainted with George Wickham, a handsome and ostensibly charming young military man who claims to have been poorly treated by Darcy and cheated out of financial support. He tells Elizabeth that Lady Catherine expects her daughter to marry Darcy. These reports, which she does not question, encourage her prejudice against Darcy.
The Rev. Collins is initially interested in Jane but is told that she is about to be engaged. Almost immediately, he proposes to Elizabeth. Her refusal upsets her mother but relieves Mr. Bennet, who sees Collins, at best, as a sometimes entertaining fool. Collins promptly proposes to Elizabeth’s close friend, Charlotte Lucas, who disappoints Elizabeth by accepting for financial reasons and to ensure her future security.
Bingley’s sister, Caroline, and Darcy convince Bingley that Jane is indifferent to him. Caroline hopes to promote a romance between her brother and Darcy’s sister, Georgiana, so that Caroline might have a better chance at Darcy. Swayed by their opinions, Bingley agrees to visit London for the winter.
Volume 2, Chapters 24–42
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Mrs. Bennet’s intelligent, friendly, respectable brother and sister-in-law, visit Longbourn for Christmas. Jane returns to London with them but does not see Bingley. His sister, Caroline, does know that Jane is in the city, but she will be of no help.
Collins and Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte are married and living at Hunsford. In the spring, Elizabeth visits the couple and finds Charlotte content enough.
Collins is ostentatious and clearly hopes that Elizabeth will regret her refusal of marriage and the life at Hunsford. Lady Catherine, his patroness, is a pompous bully. She is shocked that Elizabeth is not intimidated by her and, in fact, stands up to her.
Darcy and his cousin, Col. Fitzwilliam, come to visit. Elizabeth gets on well with the Colonel, who mentions that Darcy has just saved Bingley from an “imprudent marriage,” not knowing that the potential bride was Elizabeth’s sister Jane. Elizabeth is thus further prejudiced against Darcy and confused by his frequent visits.
Darcy shocks her by declaring his love and proposing marriage. Any chance of acceptance is destroyed by his arrogant, insensitive manner. He seems to think that his proposal is a great honor, and he allows that he is willing to marry Elizabeth despite her embarrassing family. She turns him down immediately, adding that he separated Jane and Bingley, treated Wickham atrociously, and is no gentleman.
The next morning, Darcy delivers a letter to Elizabeth while she is walking. He quickly departs. Darcy’s letter is convincingly candid. He dissuaded Bingley from marriage with Jane because he felt that Jane was not deeply involved.
Her quiet nature permitted no indication of commitment. He reluctantly observes in the letter that the three younger Bennet sisters, Mrs. Bennet, and occasionally Mr. Bennet lack propriety. He says that Wickham is without principles, and is greedy and vengeful.
Darcy gave him 3,000 pounds, supposedly to study law, but Wickham squandered the money. The scoundrel then tried to elope with Darcy’s sister, 15 at the time, in an effort to get her money. Elizabeth realizes that her prejudice against Darcy allowed her to be duped by Wickham. She adjusts her pride and begins to reconsider Darcy’s character.
Elizabeth picks up Jane in London and returns home. The militia regiment, including soldiers with whom Kitty and Lydia like to flirt, is leaving for Brighton.
Wickham belongs to the regiment, and Elizabeth is relieved to see him go. She looks forward to a summer trip to Derbyshire with the Gardiners. Since Darcy’s estate, Pemberley, is in the same area, Mrs. Gardiner hopes to visit it. Elizabeth agrees to go along after determining that the proprietor will be absent. Lydia is invited to Brighton for the summer. Since the regiment is there, Elizabeth strongly advises against it, but Mr. Bennet allows Lydia to go.
Volume 3, Chapters 43–61
Elizabeth accompanies the Gardiners on a visit to Darcy’s estate, Pemberley. The grounds are beautifully kept. The house is less elegant but also less artificial than Lady Catherine’s mansion at Rosings.
It is comfortable and tastefully finished. The housekeeper speaks well of her employer; he is good to the servants and very kind to his sister. Elizabeth almost regrets turning down Darcy’s marriage proposal.
Darcy unexpectedly appears. He is friendly and attentive, and Elizabeth is pleased to introduce him to the Gardiners to show that some of her relatives have good sense. Darcy is a perfect gentleman. Perhaps he wants to disprove Elizabeth’s accusations when she turned him down.
Perhaps he simply feels more at ease at his own home. At any rate, he is a warm and thoughtful host. Elizabeth is delighted when he asks if he may introduce her to his sister.
Darcy brings his sister, Georgiana, to meet Elizabeth and the Gardiners the next day. Bingley accompanies them. Georgiana is not at all the arrogant person Wickham described. She is sweet and shy. Bingley refers to Jane several times.
Elizabeth receives two letters from Jane. Lydia has run off with Wickham; apparently, they are not married. They may have gone to London. This could result in scandal. Elizabeth and the Gardiners hasten back to Longbourn.
Mr. Gardiner joins Mr. Bennet in his search for the couple in London. They learn that Wickham has serious debts, but they do not find him or Lydia. Mr. Bennet returns home, leaving the situation to his brother-in-law.
When the runaways are found, they are not yet married. Wickham consents to marry Lydia for such a modest sum that the Bennets suspect Mr. Gardiner’s financial intervention. The couple, now married, arrives at Longbourn. Lydia is as silly and verbose as ever, but she does let slip that it was Darcy who arranged the wedding and paid the debts. Mrs. Gardiner confirms that fact in response to a letter from Elizabeth.
Darcy has also arranged for annual support for Lydia. Darcy and Bingham visit Netherfield again and attend a dinner party at Longbourn. Elizabeth is frustrated by not having an opportunity to talk with Darcy, but Jane and Bingley are reunited. He soon proposes marriage.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh huffs into Longbourn to break up any romance between Elizabeth and Darcy. She wants the young man for her daughter. Elizabeth listens to her insults with cool resolve. Darcy hears of the conflict and is proud of Elizabeth. He asks if she might change her mind about his proposal, and they become engaged. Jane and Elizabeth are married on the same day.
Elizabeth Bennet: Bright, attractive, high-spirited; her candour and wit separate her from her sisters. More outspoken than her older sister, Jane, and less likely to see only good in people. Suffers from both pride and prejudice: her pride initially turns her against Darcy because she is reluctant to look at her family objectively; her subsequent prejudice against Darcy allows her to believe in Wickham when she should not. Ultimately, her independence, courage, and character win Darcy’s love.
Fitzwilliam Darcy: Strikingly handsome and obviously wealthy, but his haughty nature and disdain for others initially alienate Elizabeth. Both prejudiced and proud: his prejudice against country folk delays his notice of Elizabeth’s virtues; his pride keeps her away. However, he opens his mind to the possibilities of a union with her before she does. Eventually, Darcy proves to be generous, perceptive, and loyal; appears to be a fine match for Elizabeth.
Jane Bennet: Oldest Bennet daughter; beautiful, gentle, and serene; sees only the best in people, and thus sometimes is less judgmental than Elizabeth but also less perceptive. Her calm manner can be interpreted as indifference. This is part of the reason for Darcy’s opposition to her romance with Bingley; it appears that Jane cares less passionately than her suitor does.
Charles Bingley: Neither proud nor particularly prejudiced, but rather too easily swayed by his friends. Leaves Netherfield for London, staying the winter and abandoning his pursuit of Jane because his friends convince him that the Bennets are not suitable and that Jane is not interested. Still, Bingley is kind and understanding. His temperament seems just right for a marriage to Jane.
Mr. Bennet: Father of the Bennet girls; intelligent and sardonic, but somewhat indifferent to his paternal responsibilities. His detachment nearly leads to disaster when Lydia is allowed to visit Brighton, where the regiment is stationed. His detachment from Mrs. Bennet, while both are responsible for the future of their daughters, is especially disconcerting.
Mrs. Bennet: A loving soul, but foolish to the point of being daffy and dangerously irresponsible. Sees marriage as the ultimate goal for each of her girls and does not particularly care how they get to the altar. Her imprudence is an embarrassment that even Elizabeth is forced to recognize.
Mary Bennet: The third daughter; hides her plain appearance and lack of social grace behind a bookish pseudo-intellectualism.
Lydia and Catherine (Kitty) Bennet : The two youngest daughters; silly, stupid, and flirtatious. Their ideal candidates for marriage are soldiers in red coats. Lydia, unfortunately, catches one.
George Wickham: Handsome and ostensibly charming; proves to be a liar, a fraud, and a seducer. His marriage to Lydia is a sad solution to a scandalous problem that never seems to cause either of them much concern.
Collins: The cousin who will inherit Longbourn, and who marries Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte; a fatuous, if relatively harmless, fool.
Lady Catherine de Bourgh: A bully and a tyrant. Her attempt to intimidate Elizabeth only leads to Darcy’s admiring Elizabeth even more.
Themes and Ideas
1. Dangers of Pride
Darcy and Elizabeth nearly miss what promises to be a worthwhile match because of pride. Darcy’s is pride of rank and fortune; he also is dashingly handsome. While some feel that he is justified in his pride, most of the characters are alienated by his haughty manner. Elizabeth is one of the latter. Her own pride keeps her from accepting Darcy’s first proposal and leads to her prejudice against him.
2. Limitations of Prejudice
Darcy’s initial prejudice against country life in general and the Bennets, in particular, is slow to mellow. Even when he initially proposes to Elizabeth, he dwells on the difficulty he had in reaching the decision.
He insults her family and seems to think that he is bestowing a great honour on the young woman. Elizabeth’s prejudice against Darcy allows her to place confidence in the charming but unprincipled Wickham.
She reconsiders only after Darcy explains himself in the letter that he delivers to her the morning after the first proposal. Darcy breaks through on three counts.
First, even Elizabeth must admit that her family is often embarrassing. While it was tactless of Darcy to mention that matter in a marriage proposal, it demonstrates a degree of candour.
Second, he is honest about his role in dissuading Bingley from pursuing Jane. Darcy genuinely mistook Jane’s quiet demeanor for indifference.
Most convincing is his revelation of the facts concerning Wickham, a liar and a fraud, to whom Darcy has offered every reasonable opportunity.
3. Virtue of A Good Marriage
Mrs. Bennet may be silly and imprudent, but she has legitimate cause for concern for her daughters. The young Bennet women will not be allowed to inherit Longbourn because of the language of the original deed. Since there are no sons in the family, Longbourn will go to the absurd Rev.
Mr. Collins upon Mr. Bennet’s death. The girls could very well be homeless. The marriages in the novel vary in promise. Wickham and Lydia appear to be a disaster. He is vain and reprehensible; she is immature and stupid.
They do not even marry for lust. He marries for money, and she marries because she wants an officer for a husband. Charlotte’s prospects with Collins may be a little better. She weds for security, which Elizabeth feels is an understandable but insufficient motive; he marries because Lady Catherine told him to.
Jane and Bingley are more promising. In addition to practical considerations, they genuinely care for each other. Elizabeth and Darcy also seem to be a good match; their household is not likely to be boring.
4. Importance of Family and Friends
Throughout the novel, the most admirable characters have strong ties with family and friends. Wickham, for all his superficial charm, seems friendless. Collins has his patroness, domineering Lady Catherine. Elizabeth, Jane, Darcy, and Bingley all rely on friends and, to some degree, family.
Elizabeth’s best friend is her sister Jane, just as Jane Austen’s best friend was her older sister. Darcy and Bingley are very different as individuals, but they complement each other as friends. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are intelligent and wonderfully helpful uncle and aunt to the Bennet sisters.
5. Risk of First Impressions
Austen originally tided the novel First Impressions. While Pride and Prejudice is an improvement, we see the danger of first impressions throughout the book. Whether Darcy is truly haughty or merely uncomfortable in unusual surroundings, Elizabeth’s initial response to him proves invalid.
On the other hand, she is quite impressed by the smooth insincerity of Wickham. Elizabeth takes justifiable pride in her discernment on most occasions, but she is wrong with these two. Mr. Bennet’s first impression of his wife was that she was beautiful, and he married her for that reason.
Looks fade; intelligence, or lack of it, lingers. Lydia never alters her initial opinion of Wickham and ends up married to him. Jane trusts everybody and is fortunate to become Bingley’s wife rather than his sisters’ victim.
The residences in the novel are representative of the personalities of the major characters. The Bennet home, Longbourn, is reasonably modest but appropriate for this loving if sometimes outrageous family. Bingley’s house, Netherfield, is indicative of his slightly higher status. Hunsford, home of the Rev. Mr. Collins and Charlotte, is not as impressive as he would like Elizabeth to think, but it is more than adequate for a country preacher.
Charlotte will be comfortable with Collins, and we should remember that they will inherit Longbourn upon Mr. Bennet’s death. Lady Catherine’s Rosings is impressive in an ostentatious way, which is suitable for this insolent intimidator.
Darcy’s country estate, Pemberley, is the most impressive of all because it combines magnificence with comfort. It is the essence of good taste. The care of the grounds indicates that Darcy is concerned about nature and beauty. Elizabeth sees a different side of Darcy at Pemberley—first because of the grounds, then because of the house, then through the eyes of his housekeeper.
Darcy himself is more at ease there. He is the perfect host. If Pemberley is less elegant than Rosings, it is also less artificial. Despite Darcy’s arrogance early in the novel, he turns out to be a true gentleman and nothing like his haughty aunt, Lady Catherine.
The major means of long-distance communication in the early 1800s. Jane Austen had a special interest in them. Not only did she write letters frequently, but some of her earliest attempts at fiction were in the genre of the epistolary novel.
In Pride and Prejudice, letters are often used to progress the plot, but they are also emblematic of the people writing them. One of the earliest examples is the foolish effort by Mr. Collins. He proposes a visit to Longbourn and indicates that he might be interested in proposing marriage to one of the Bennet daughters.
Mr. Bennet encourages the visit because he thinks that Collins will provide entertaining fodder for Mr. Bennet’s wit. However, a little of Collins goes a long way. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth after her refusal of his proposal has a profound effect.
Elizabeth is forced to realize that she has been prejudiced against Darcy and misjudged him. The candor and sincerity of his letter represent Darcy’s true character. Elizabeth realizes that Wickham has completely fooled her, and she blames herself for behaving despicably. She realizes that she has been overly proud of her discernment.
The letter further symbolizes the beginning of Elizabeth’s affection for Darcy. Jane’s letters represent her concern for the family and her willingness to believe that people are decent even when the facts indicate otherwise.
Jane differs from Elizabeth in that Elizabeth is more skeptical and outspoken. When she wants the facts about the “secret” assistance given to Lydia and Wickham, she boldly writes Mrs. Gardiner and asks. The response represents the Gardiners’ affection, concern, and honesty. Mrs. Gardiner is surprised that Elizabeth has not been told of Darcy’s insistence that he would take responsibility for Wickham and Lydia.
3. Formal Balls
Especially early in the novel, these balls represent the culture’s interest in a structured opportunity for socializing and courtship. We are able to see some of the negative characteristics of the principals in concentrated form.
Darcy can seem arrogant. Elizabeth can be peevish and proud. Her younger sisters and mother can be imprudent and embarrassing. Mr. Collins can be foolish. Because of the formal structure, violating the rules of admirable behavior is more obvious and telling.
4. Personal Appearance
Austen is subtle in her consideration of the significance of looks. Darcy is strikingly handsome, but his arrogance seems to come from wealth and position. His appearance becomes less significant as his character is revealed. Its symbolism is as superficial as a first impression.
Elizabeth is attractive enough, and she has fine eyes, but she is no beauty. Jane is physically more attractive. Darcy’s interest in Elizabeth is based on her character and personality. Mary, the third daughter, comes off as pseudo-intellectual and silly because she takes her plain looks too seriously and tries to hide behind a facade. Lydia sees little beyond physical attraction and status, but she has little to offer herself.
1. Memorable Characters
One of the things that make Pride and Prejudice such a compelling read is its characters. Jane Austen’s characters are memorable, well-developed, and highly relatable. From the witty Elizabeth Bennet to the proud Mr. Darcy, each character has their own unique personality, motivations, and flaws.
Mr. Bennet’s sarcasm and Mrs. Bennet’s foolishness add humor to the story, while Lydia’s recklessness and Mr. Collins’ obsequiousness contribute to the plot’s twists and turns. Austen’s skill in creating characters that resonate with readers is one of the reasons why Pride and Prejudice is such a classic.
2. Subtle Dialogue
Another reason why I love this book is Austen’s ability to convey complex ideas through subtle dialogue. The conversations between the characters are cleverly written, filled with double meanings, and often reveal more about the characters’ personalities and motives than they realize.
The famous dialogue between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy at the end of the novel is a prime example of this. Their conversation is full of hidden meanings, misunderstandings, and revelations. It is a masterclass in the art of dialogue, and one of the reasons why Pride and Prejudice remains a literary treasure.
3. Engaging Plot
Finally, the plot of Pride and Prejudice is engaging and full of surprises. The story revolves around the courtships of the Bennet sisters and the men in their lives. Austen’s skill in creating tension, conflict, and drama is evident throughout the book.
The obstacles that stand in the way of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s relationship provide plenty of suspense and keep the reader engaged until the very end. The novel’s themes of social class, marriage, and gender roles are still relevant today, making it a timeless classic.
1. Lack of Diversity
One potential drawback of Pride and Prejudice is its lack of diversity. The novel is set in Regency-era England, which was a time of strict social hierarchies and limited opportunities for people outside of the wealthy, white upper classes.
As a result, the novel’s characters are almost exclusively white and upper-class, which may not reflect the experiences of all readers. Some readers may find it difficult to relate to the characters or feel excluded from the story due to this lack of diversity.
2. Slow Pacing
Another potential con of Pride and Prejudice is its slow pacing. While the novel’s plot is engaging and full of twists and turns, Austen’s writing style can be dense and verbose at times.
The novel’s focus on dialogue and character development means that there are stretches of the book where not much seems to be happening. This slow pacing may be frustrating for readers who prefer more action-oriented stories or who have a shorter attention span.
3. Outdated Gender Roles
Finally, some readers may take issue with the novel’s portrayal of gender roles. While Elizabeth Bennet is a strong and independent female character, other female characters in the novel are often portrayed as silly, frivolous, or obsessed with finding a wealthy husband. This may reinforce outdated gender stereotypes and be off-putting for some readers. Additionally, the novel’s depiction of marriage as a way for women to secure financial stability and social status may be problematic for modern readers who value marriage as an institution of love and partnership.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is a masterpiece that goes beyond being a mere love story. It is a novel that skillfully weaves together the political and social history of England in the early 19th century with a discussion of morality and attitudes towards class and status. Austen’s use of metaphors, both in the physical landscape and the structure of the novel, is brilliant and adds depth to the story.
The crux of the novel, where Elizabeth reads and comprehends Darcy’s letter, marks a significant shift in the story’s alignment and further develops the narrative.
Overall, Pride and Prejudice is a remarkable novel that demonstrates Austen’s mastery of storytelling and her ability to address complex themes in a captivating way.
Jane Austen was born in 1775 in a small town called Steventon in southern England. Her father was a country minister, and she had a close family life that was often represented in her novels. When Austen was 12 years old, she wrote parodies of sentimental fiction that were designed to entertain her family.
Austen was particularly close to her older sister, Cassandra. Although they only had about five years of formal education, they continued their studies at home. During the Steventon years, Austen wrote early versions of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. However, these novels were not published until later.
In 1801, Austen’s father retired to Bath, and for the next eight years, the family moved frequently. In 1805, her father passed away, and in 1809, Austen, her mother, and Cassandra moved into a large cottage in the village of Chawton. Neither Austen nor her sister ever married.
While living in Chawton, Austen prepared her novels for publication, including Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815), all of which were published anonymously. Although her novels were widely read, Austen was not publicly named as the author until after her death. Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were published posthumously in December 1817. Austen’s last work, Sandition, had to be set aside in March of 1817 due to her declining health. She died on July 18, 1817, probably from Addison’s disease.
Austen is considered one of the first novelists to write about ordinary people in everyday life. Her novels are categorized as “domestic” literature, but they explore that genre with realism and wit, anticipating modern fiction more than other novels of the early 1800s. Austen is especially known for her skill in revealing the personalities of her characters.
Buy The Book: Pride and Prejudice
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