Pride and Prejudice

From Academic Kids

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Pride and Prejudice book cover

Pride and Prejudice is the most famous of Jane Austen's novels. It was written between 1796 and 1797, and was called First Impressions. Revised in 1811, it was published two years later in 1813 by the same Mr. Egerton, of the Military Library, Whitehall, who had brought out Sense and Sensibility. Like both its predecessor and Northanger Abbey, it was written at Steventon Rectory.

This story deals with issues surrounding marriage in the late 18th century and early 19th century, though many issues are universal. The main character is Elizabeth Bennet, 20 years old, possessed of a quick mind, sharp wit, and keen sense of justice. Elizabeth's father, Mr. Bennet, spends much of his time hiding in his study, a refuge from Elizabeth's mother. Mrs. Bennet is determined to see each of her five daughters successfully married to a gentleman of sufficient fortune to support a wife. The Bennet family estate is entailed to a male relative, a cousin, due to the lack of male heirs in the Bennet family. The cousin, Mr. Collins, is a clergyman who tends to be wordy and snobbish. Having been rejected by Elizabeth, Mr. Collins turns to Elizabeth's best friend Charlotte Lucas, and they are soon married - to Mrs. Bennet's extreme disappointment. Mrs. Bennet's hopes are raised, however, by the arrival in the district of a wealthy young man, Mr. Bingley, and his handsome but proud friend, Mr. Darcy, to whom Elizabeth immediately takes a dislike.

Elizabeth is wooed by Mr. Wickham, an officer in the militia whom she considers "gentlemanlike", and whose side she takes in his quarrel with Mr. Darcy, who has gradually come to admire Elizabeth. Mr. Wickham later proves himself to be a cad and of poor character, seducing Elizabeth's youngest sister, Lydia. This follows his earlier attempt to seduce Mr. Darcy's beloved younger sister, Georgiana. When Mr. Darcy hears of this new affair and sees Elizabeth's distress, he decides to help her, and takes it upon himself to bribe Mr. Wickham and persuade him to marry Lydia. Elizabeth has gradually learned to see through Mr. Darcy's apparent flaws and realizes that the pride she saw in him at first is only shyness and she grows to love him. Mr. Darcy realizes Elizabeth's change and proposes a second time. Elizabeth accepts.

The story is a deep analysis of character. Every character is finely crafted, generally to contrast with others, and demonstrates a point about the social niceties of love and marriage. Charlotte, Elizabeth's best friend, is a very practical woman. She marries Mr. Collins to ensure herself a happy and comfortable life. As a result, Elizabeth comes to a much dimmer view of her. It's debatable whether this is an example of Elizabeth's prejudice or Charlotte's lack of passion. Frequently Elizabeth is blinded by her own prejudice, particularly her prejudice against Mr. Darcy's pride, from where the title of the novel comes.

Pride and Prejudice has been the subject of many radio and television dramatisations, the best-known being the 1995 version starring Colin Firth as Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth. A Hollywood film version of the 1940s starred Laurence Olivier in the role, and Greer Garson as Elizabeth. Darcy has become the model for the most successful romantic heroes over the past two centuries.


See also

External links

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