Pride and Prejudice: Summary
Mark Hines
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a complex novel that relates the
events surrounding the relations, lives, and loves of a middle-upper class
English family in the late nineteenth century. Because of the detailed
descriptions of the events surrounding the life of the main character of the
story, Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice is a very involving novel whose
title is very indicative of the themes contained therein.

The first volume opens in the Bennet household at Longbourn in England.

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As there are five unmarried daughters living in the home at the time, the matron
of the family, Mrs. Bennet, is quite interested when news of a wealthy man
moving to Netherfield, a place in the near vicinity. Mrs. Bennet, in the best
interest of her daughters, soon after begins urging her husband to meet with the
newly arrived neighbor, a Mr. Bingley, but he is quite reluctant to do so. Soon
after, Mr.Bennet surprises his daughters and his wife by announcing that he had
visited Netherfield and found Bingley to be “quite agreeable.” The interest of
the Bennet daughters arises when they learn that certain members of the Bingley
party will be in attendance at an upcoming ball in Meryton. At the ball,
acquaintances between the families are made, and all find both Mr.Bingley and
his cousin Fitzwilliam Darcy to be exceedingly handsome, however Darcy’s pride
is so irritating and repulsive, it makes his character almost totally
disagreeable. It is at this ball, however, that the oldest Bennet daughter,
Jane, becomes involved with Mr.Bennet; her younger sister Elizabeth, however,
falls victim to Mr. Darcy’s pride and is shunned by him during the entire ball.

Beginning with this event, Elizabeth forms a prejudice towards Mr. Darcy that
will prevent her future involvement with him. It is here then that the two main
themes of he work, pride and prejudice, are first presented. Soon after the
ball, it becomes obvious that Mr. Bingley’s feelings towards Jane deepen, and
Jane’s feelings also appear when the family visits their neighbors the Lucases
after the Meryton Ball. This, however, produces concern from both his older
sister and Mr. Darcy, who dislike the behavior of her family and, being part of
the upper class, are prevented by their pride from liking anyone of lower status.

Mr. Darcy’s attitude towards Elizabeth Bennet, however, soon begin to change,
as he appreciates her subtle beauty. It is because of her prejudice against him,
however, that Elizabeth does not recognize his affections; he begins to join her
conversations, and even expresses to his cousins his feelings. Mr. Darcy’s
sister, however, seems to have feelings for him and criticizes her unrefined
character, however, Mr. Darcy, for the first of several times, is unaffected.

He, however, has already established his own prejudice against the Bennet family,
which would later be shaken upon meeting the Gardiners, Elizabeth’s aunt and
uncle. Jane soon receives an invitation to Netherfield, however, to her
disappointment, it is not from Mr. Bingley but his sister Caroline. Still, she
is pleased to go, and her mother advises her to go on horseback, as in the event
that it might rain, she would be obliged to stay. Mrs. Bennet’s plan works,
however Jane is caught in the rain and becomes ill. She writes to Elizabeth and
the latter decides to walk to Netherfield to attend to her sister. Upon her
arrival at Netherfield, Mr. Bingley’s sisters remark on the wildness of her
appearance, but Darcy is markedly impressed. After Jane’s condition remains
poor, Mrs. Bennet is called upon, but she sees her daughter’s illness is not
severe. Still, she remains there long enough so that Elizabeth, through a
series of interactions with those living at Netherfield, convinces the sisters
that she is unfit company, but attracts Mr. Darcy further. At Longbourn, Mr.

Bennet receives a letter from a Mr. Collins who will supposedly be inheriting
Longbourn after Mr. Bennet’s death, since he has no male successors. Mr. Bennet
looks forward to a visit from the ridiculous Mr. Collins, and is particularly
curious because of a reference in the letter to courting one of the Bennet
daughters. After his arrival, Mr.Bennet is pleased to find that Mr. Collins is
as rediculous as he had hoped. Elizabeth, on the contrary, dislikes Mr.Collins
immensely, but he, after discovering that Jane is already involved with someone,
moves to the next eligible Bennet daughter, Elizabeth. Ironically, it is she
who dislikes him most in the Bennet family, and her dislike is obvious when she
later refuses his marriage proposal wholeheartedly. Mr. Collins mentions his
patron, a Lady Catherine deBourgh, several times, and even Mr. Bennet becomes
frustrated with his continual adulation of her. During a visit to town, the
Bennet daughters and Mr. Collins meet a member of the militia, George Wickham.

All find him handsome and Elizabeth expresses quite a bit of interest in his
direction. She soon learns, however, that some bad blood exists between
Mr.Wickham and Mr.Darcy, whom she now abhors. She learns the details at a party
the following night at the Phillips house. Wickham tells her that although
Darcy’s father had supported Wickham, Darcy refused to help him in becoming a
clergyman. Because of Elizabeth’s pre-established prejudice towards Darcy, she
believes Wickham’s story without a second thought. Furthermore, Wickham passes
a series of judgement upon Darcy’s family, included Lady Catherine deBourgh,
saying that they are as arrogant as he. This, too, Elizabeth accepts as the
truth. As Bingley had promised a ball at Netherfield as soon as Jane
recuperated from her illness, the ball is planned and the Bennet family attends.

Elizabeth, however, is upset to learn of Wickham’s absence, even though Wickham
claimed to be unafraid of attending any event where Darcy would be present.

Darcy, however, furthers his interest in Elizabeth by paying more attention to
her, however Elizabeth, who cannot conceive the purpose of this behavior, is
baffled. To make the evening increasingly difficult for Elizabeth, her mother’s
behavior embarasses her subtantially. The following morning, Mr. Collins
unexpectedly proposes to Elizabeth who refuses immediately. Collins interprets
this as her being coy, and cannot grasp the earnesty of her refusal. Mr. Bennet
finally convinces Collins to abandon any hopes of marrying Elizabeth, and he
shifts his affections towards Elizabeth’s dear friend, Charlotte Lucas.

Charlotte, to the disappointment of Elizabeth, accepts his marriage proposal for
material reasons. Volume one ends with a notice from the Bingley sister that
the party would be departing Netherfield for London and would probably not
return for the entirety of the winter. This severely distresses the Bennet
family who in general had anticipated a marriage between Jane and Mr. Bingley.

No one is more disappointed than Jane herself, who anticipated the same; it is
determined that the choice to leave Netherfield was orchestrated by Miss Bingley,
hoping to introduce Mr. Bingley to Georgiana Darcy.

Volume two begins with a visit to Longbourn from Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner,
the Bennet daughter’s aunt and uncle. Trusting her aunt’s judgement, Elizabeth
introduces her to Wickham, who agrees that he is handsome but warns Elizabeth
against marrying someone lacking money. After examining Jane’s situation,
Elizabeth and the Gardiner’s agree that it would be wise for her to leave with
them to London. After she arrives there, she tries in vain to contact the
Bingley’s, and the eventual reply is brief and unwelcoming. Although Jane is a
very warmhearted and trusting character, she begins to doubt that she curries
much favor with the Bingley sisters, however she continues her stay in London.

Meanwhile, at Longbourn, Elizabeth almost reluctantly accepts an invitation from
Charlotte Lucas to visit her in her new home. En route she visits her sister at
the Gardiners, and is content with Jane’s situation. Continuing on the trip,
Elizabeth finally arrives at Rosings, Mrs. Collins’s new home. Although Mr.

Collins continues to try and impress Elizabeth with the quality of his home and
the the genorosity of Lady deBourgh. Elizabeth, however, finds Lady Catherine
to be excessively rude and difficult to get along with, and does not once regret
her refusal to Mr. Collins’s proposal. Additionally, Elizabeth learns of Lady
Catherine’s plans to marry Mr. Darcy to her daughter, and Elizabeth is not upset
by this news in the least. Mr. Darcy arrives for Easter, accompanied by his
cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, who is openly attracted to Elizabeth. Elizabeth
continues to be baffle by Darcy’s behavior: he seeks her conversation at social
gatherings, and he follows her on walks until finally he surprises her with a
wedding proposal. Darcy proposes, however, in a manner condescending to
Elizabeth and her family as if he were doing a favor to her by proposing. She
refuses him instantly, and blames him for Wickham’s problems, which had earlier
benn described to her by Colonel Fitzwilliam and for separating Jane and Charles
Bingley. Darcy does not deny these accusations and leaves bitterly. The
following morning, Darcy seeks Elizabeth out on one of her walks and gives her a
letter in all manner of politeness. Upon her reading it, she changes most of
her preconceptions about Darcy as he answers all of her charges with the utmost
eloquence and politeness. As a response to Elizabeth’s charges, Darcy claimed
he wanted Mr. Bingly to marry a wealthy woman and it did not seem to him that
Jane had any particular affection for him. Indeed, Elizabeth had already
acknowledged that Jane did mask her feeelings to a great extent. Furthermore,
Darcy claimed that he had done all in his power to help Wickham, a man he
despised, and was not excessively cruel to him. Elizabeth reflects upon the
letter and decides it to be the truth, and is emotionally changed in reference
to Darcy. She returns to Longbourn to find her younger sisters unhappy that the
militia in town would soon be leaving to Brighton. Lydia, the younger of
Elizabeth’s sisters is overjoyed when she recieves an invitation to travel to
Brighton with her friend, a Ms. Forster. Elizabeth advises her father to
prevent Lydia from going, however he will not, and Elizabeth shift her attention
to happy anticipation of the trip she will soon be taking with her aunt and
uncle Gardiner. Elizabeth soon learns that her aunt wishes to visit the mansio
owned by Mr Darcy at Pemberley, and when she learns he will not be there, she
consents. So ends volume two.

The third and final volume begins with Elizabeth on vacation traveling
with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. Upon their arrival at Pemberley, she is surprised
by the excessive praise the maid gives her master, and impressed by the elegance
of the house itself. Although the maid claimed that Mr. Darcy would not soon be
returning, Elizabeth is surprised to see him there soon after her own arrival.

After some initail awkwardness, he treats with great civility and pleasantness,
and Elizabeth is shocked at the tremendous change in his behavior. The following
day, Darcy, Bingley, and Georgiana all visit the inn where the Gardiners and
Elizabeth are staying. Elizabeth impresses Darcy’s sister who he claims was
anxious to meet her, and Elizabeth begins to feel more than just respect for
Darcy himself. The Gardiners remark on the interactions between the two, but
Elizabeth says nothing that appears to be a commitment of any sort. When
Elizabeth returns on a visit to Pemberley, Miss Bingley is there, and she
continues in her criticisms of Elizabeth, although Darcy is once again in love
with her. Catastrophe occurs while Elizabeth is at Pemberley as Jane writes her
to notify her that Lydia has eloped with Wickham and it is highly unlikely the
two have been married. Elizabeth bursts into tears but then relays the message
to Darcy who understands her urgency and makes arrangements for their immediate
departure. After retuning home, Elizabeth learns her father is searching for
Lydia and Wickham, however Mr.Bennet soon returns and leaves Mr. Gardiner to the
searching. After several days, they are located and Wickham consents to
marrying Lydia for a surprisingly low monetary settlement. Mr. Bennet thinks
that Mr. Gardiner offered Wickham substantially more, but it is not till later
that the reader learns Darcy orchestrated the entire event. After the situation
had cooled, Lydia and her new husband visit Longbourn, and Mrs.Bennet is
overjoyed to have her daughter married. Lydia appears unembarrassed of the
circumstances under which she was married, and Elizabeth assumes correctly that
Lydia loves her husband more than he loves her. Through a careless remark by
Lydia that Darcy attended her wedding, Elizabeth learns partly of hi involvement
and write to her aunt asking for the details. After she learns this, she
examines her feelings and realizes she truly loves Darcy. To the disappointment
of his sister, Binglet returns to Netherfield and he and Jane continue their
courting until he finally proposes to her and she happily accepts. Now that a
second daughter has been married, Mrs. Bennet is almost overcome with joy.

Elizabeth is distracted by Darcy’s unwillingness to speak with her and is
somewhat troubled, when Lady Catherine visits Longbourn to confirm a rumor that
Elizabeth and Darcy were to be amrried. Elizabeth responds that the two will do
as they please, and ingnores Lady Catherine’s arguments that her daughter is set
to wed Darcy. Lady Catherine leaves to speak with Darcy in great frustration,
and it is through this that Darcy finally achieves the courage to propose once
again to Elizabeth, however this time she accepts. The announcement of their
marriage is a surprise to Elizabeth’s family, and her father goes so far as to
warn her against marrying without love; it is implied that he made asimilar
mistake. Elizabeth, however, is deeply satisfied with Darcy and their marriage
is a happy one, as Dacy overcame his pride and Elizabeth her prejudice. So ends
Pride and Prejudice.