Pride and Prejudice | Summary | Synopsis | Characters

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Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen


“Pride and Prejudice” (original title: “Pride and Prejudice”) is a social novel by Jane Austen (1775-1817). The love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, published in 1813, is one of the most famous works in English literature.


The social novel “Pride and Prejudice” (original title: “Pride and Prejudice”) by Jane Austen (1775-1817), published in 1813, is one of the most famous works in English literature. It is set in rural London at the beginning of the 19th century. The narrated time spans a year and lasts from autumn to autumn of the following year.

The love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy is told. Both overcome external and above all internal resistance, namely pride and prejudice, in order to find each other. In the classic of world literature, Austen does not only describe the personal development of lovers. The novel is also a portrayal of the English landed gentry around 1800. Its social rituals and rules are presented with partly loving, partly biting irony.

The Bennet family

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet live with their five marriageable daughters on the Longbourn country estate near London. Their financial circumstances are modest. Under current inheritance law, her property will pass to the Reverend Collins , Bennet’s nephew, after Mr. Bennett’s death . That is why Mrs. Bennet wants her daughters Jane , Elizabeth , Mary , Catherine and Lydia to marry off well.

A famous beginning of the novel. Jane Austen’s subtle humor shows up at the outset in the brilliant 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.” The reader may rightly assume that up here Man goes in search of a wife. The content of the book belies the initial thesis: In the Bennett house, everything revolves around bringing five single daughters under the hood. This is the avowed “occupation” of Mrs. Bennet. Due to her economic circumstances, she also has an urgent desire to have wealthy sons-in-law. However, the lower nobility and the rich upper nobility treat each other with pride and prejudice; and only love can overcome this.

When the wealthy and single Mr. Bingley moves to the neighboring property, Netherfield Park, with some relatives and his friend Mr. Darcy , she hopes he will be interested in one of her daughters.

Relations between Longbourn and Netherfield

The families get to know each other through mutual visits. In fact, Bingley and Bennet’s eldest daughter, Jane, fall in love.
Unlike the polite, winning Bingley, his rich friend Darcy appears gruff and aloof. At a ball, Elizabeth overhears him speaking condescendingly of her. Deeply offended, from now on she only treats him with cool irony.

Jane falls ill while visiting Netherfield. Elizabeth looks after them and spends the evenings with Bingley and his followers. She gets to know him as a warm-hearted person who is genuinely interested in her sister. The others treat her coolly. Above all, Bingley’s pampered sister Caroline lets her feel her social inferiority. Elizabeth does not notice that Darcy is increasingly fascinated by her incorruptible demeanor.

Reverend Collins and his marriage plans

After Jane’s return home, the splayed Reverend Collins, Longbourn’s sole heir, visits the Bennets. He raves about his employer Lady Catherine de Bourgh , who got him his pastor and advised him to marry. Shortly afterwards, he proposes to Elizabeth, which she refuses, much to her mother’s annoyance. Just three days later, he asks Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte Lucas for her hand. Charlotte accepts the proposal out of reason.

Inheritance law in England around 1800

“Mr. Bennet’s property is an ‘entail’: it may not be sold or inherited by the respective owner at will, but must be passed on according to the individually determined conditions. Longbourn can only be inherited in the male line. Since Mr. Bennet has no sons, the rights are passed to the closest male relative, his nephew, who is called a ‘cousin’ in the fashion of the day. ”
Quoted from: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Reclam 2016 [first 1981], p. 444.

Soldiers in Meryton

A militia regiment is stationed in the small town of Meryton. To get to know officers, the youngest Bennet daughters Catherine and Lydia often visit their aunt Mrs. Philips in Meryton. Elizabeth and Jane worry about the development of their vain and superficial younger sisters.

Lieutenant Wickham

In Meryton, Elizabeth meets the engaging Lieutenant Wickham . He tells her that he grew up with Darcy. Darcy’s father, his godfather, promised him a pastor’s position in his will. After his death, however, Darcy refused him the inheritance. That was the only reason he became a soldier. Elizabeth is horrified and sees her negative judgment about Darcy confirmed. She also learns that Collins’ employer, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is Darcy’s aunt.

Wickham does not appear for the next ball in Netherfield. Elizabeth is disappointed. As always, she is mocking and reserved towards Darcy. A little later, Wickham proposes to a wealthy woman. Elizabeth reacts calmly to this news and realizes that she is not really in love. However, she remains on friendly terms with Wickham and has a really high opinion of him.

Bingley’s departure and Darcy’s proposal

Bingley leaves for London without saying goodbye to the Bennets. Jane is grief-stricken and thinks she just imagined his love. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is convinced that Darcy forced his friend to leave out of class.

During a several-week visit to her newlywed friend Charlotte, Elizabeth is also a frequent guest at Collins’ patroness. At the country estate of the noble Lady Catherine she meets her nephew Darcy again. Elizabeth still misunderstands his feelings for her. But his love is stronger than the reservations about Elizabeth’s family, and he proposes to her. Elizabeth is surprised and rejects him: he has ruined the happiness of her sister Jane and also behaved in a shameful manner towards Mr. Wickham. The next day Darcy delivers Elizabeth a long letter in which he meets her allegations and explains his behavior.

Film adaptations of “Pride and Prejudice”

Probably the most popular novel by Jane Austen was processed several times for cinema and television for good reason: In addition to a convincing story with impressive characters, it offers visually attractive locations such as mansions and landscaped gardens. The template also provides a wealth of artistic dialogues.

The best-known film adaptations of the classic include the BBC six-part series from 1995 (leading roles: Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, directed by Simon Langton) and the movie from 2005 (leading roles: Keira Kneightly and Matthew Macfadyen, directed by Joe Wright). This film was shot, among other places, in Stourhead Garden, a famous landscaped park in south-west England that served as the garden of Darcy’s Pemberley estate.

Darcy’s letter

Darcy writes that he saw no signs of love in Jane. Out of concern for Bingley, he advised his friend to leave. As for Wickham, he explains that he rejected the pastor on his own initiative and asked for a large sum of money to compensate. When he was squandered, he subsequently made a claim to the parish. Darcy’s 15-year-old sister Georgiana was abducted by Wickham. He wanted to persuade her to marry because of her great heritage.

Darcy had kept silent about it so far, just to protect his sister.
Information from the trustworthy Colonel Fitzwilliam convinced Elizabeth of the truth of his words. Ashamed of her misjudgments, she spends the following weeks torn and unhappy. At the same time, she worries about Jane, who is still struggling with her lovesickness. Elizabeth is happy to be able to travel with Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner , her aunt and uncle.

Darcy as a benefactor

On the trip to Derbyshire, the three also visit Darcy’s Pemberley estate. They think the master of the house is absent. A housekeeper shows them around the vastly famous, huge property. In doing so, she speaks with loving respect of Darcy, his generosity and kindness. Elizabeth is deeply impressed. In the park, visitors unexpectedly meet the host. Darcy and Elizabeth are confused and embarrassed. Darcy saves the embarrassing situation and invites her to be his guests. Elizabeth has never seen him so gracious before.

When she receives news that her sister Lydia ran away with Wickham, she leaves. The reputation of the family, and thus the chances of all sisters getting married, are at stake. Without Elizabeth’s knowledge, Darcy offers Wickham money if he marries Lydia. His plan works. The naive Mrs. Bennet is proud of the supposedly good match between her youngest daughter and the future officer. Contrary to Darcy’s intention, Elizabeth learns by chance that the marriage is thanks to him.

Knowing about Jane’s love for Bingley, Darcy encourages his friend to propose marriage to Jane – again without letting Elizabeth know. Jane happily accepts Bingley’s proposal.

“Pride and Prejudice” and “Bridget Jones”

The successful “Bridget Jones” novels are, according to their author Helen Fielding, inspired by “pride and prejudice”. One of the two male protagonists, attorney Mark Darcy, does not bear his name by chance and is reminiscent of Mr. Darcy in many ways. In the movie “Bridget Jones – Chocolate for Breakfast” (2001), the character of Mark Darcy was therefore cast with Colin Firth. Six years earlier he had embodied the person of Mr. Darcy in the TV series »Pride and Prejudice«.

Happy ending with two weddings

Elizabeth has now realized that she loves Darcy. However, she sees no way of ever approaching him again. One evening, Lady Catherine appears on Longbourn and imperiously tells her to renounce Darcy forever. Elizabeth concludes that Darcy still loves her. Before Lady Catherine, she confidently defends every person’s claim to individual happiness, without however expressing her feelings for Darcy.

Lady Catherine indignantly tells her nephew of Elizabeth’s rebellious response. This time it is Darcy who concludes that Elizabeth is in love. He finds the courage to go to Longbourn again. Here he and Elizabeth confess their feelings. Their wedding takes place a little later. Jane and Bingley also get married.

The last section of the novel describes how the relationships between families later develop. It becomes clear that no one fundamentally changes in his characteristic traits.

Jane Austen’s work is a classic example of the novel . More than 200 years after its appearance, it has also lost none of its charm. Elizabeth is clever and wise to live, and the witty dialogues are surprisingly modern at times and add to the reading pleasure.


Main characters

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bennett

  • 20 years old, second oldest daughter of the Bennets
  • confident, funny, intelligent and quick-witted
  • Her father’s darling
  • likes to be alone in nature, reads a lot and thinks
  • observes closely, has a good knowledge of people
  • overly critical of the weaknesses of others

Fitzwilliam Darcy

  • one of the richest bachelors in the country
  • very class-conscious, proud and haughty
  • harsh and monosyllabic to strangers
  • warm-hearted and protective in a familiar circle
  • manages his assets generously and charitable
  • highly educated and knowledgeable
  • stands above the image that others make of him

Jane Bennet

  • 22 years old, the oldest and most beautiful of the Bennet daughters
  • cheerful, calm, gentle and balanced
  • always has himself under control, does not show feelings outwards
  • always sees the best in other people
  • is therefore vulnerable

Charles Bingley

  • amiable, open-minded and friendly to everyone
  • dances well, likes to chat, has perfect manners
  • educated, but enviously acknowledges Darcy’s intellectual superiority
  • is sometimes “naive” and easy to impress
  • tends to rave about

Mrs. Bennet

  • sees the marriage of her daughters as a life’s work
  • superficial, vain and gossipy
  • often misbehaves and is ridiculed
  • jealous, competes with other mothers in the neighborhood

Mr. Bennet

  • calm, thoughtful and humorous
  • often withdraws from the noisy household to his library
  • regards life as a philosopher
  • has come to terms with the fact that his wife does not suit him
  • shows weakness by exposing her to ridicule in front of his daughters
  • is very attached to Elizabeth and considers her the most intelligent of his daughters

Lieutenant Wickham

  • outwardly the epitome of the “dashing” soldier
  • has polished manners, but no heart formation
  • sly and only looking for one’s own benefit
  • lost a lot of money to gambling and waste
  • lies, cheats, and blackmailed to get money

Reverend Collins

  • Bennet’s nephew and sole heir of Longbourn
  • precocious, splayed, cumbersome and cumbersome
  • involuntarily weird
  • wants to get married to secure his position
  • incapable of real feelings

Lady Catherine de Bourgh

  • Darcy’s aunt
  • dominant, power-conscious, narrow-minded and high-handed
  • gives other people advice without being asked
  • expects her nephew to marry appropriately

Quotes and important text from passages

“It is a generally accepted fact that a single man in possession of a handsome fortune needs nothing more urgently than a woman.”
Page 5

“I could easily forgive his pride if he hadn’t hurt mine.”
Elizabeth on Darcy, page 24

“There are few people I really love and even fewer people I trust. The more I see of the world, the more it disappoints me. Each new day strengthens my belief in the inconsistency of all human characters and how little one can rely on the appearance of merit and reason. ”
Elizabeth to Jane, page 155

“Isn’t rudeness to others the essence of love?”
Elizabeth to her aunt Mrs. Gardiner, page 162

“I am […] determined to act in the interests of my happiness, regardless of you or anyone else unrelated to me.”
Elizabeth to Darcy’s Aunt Lady Catherine, pp. 405–40

 

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