Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen tells the story of marriage, wealth, and family at the turn of the 19th Century. The main character is headstrong Elizabeth Bennett, who is one of five daughters. At the Meryton ball, Elizabeth first encounters the wealthy, handsome Mr. Darcy, who is known to be very prideful, unlike his friend Mr. Bingley, who becomes the suitor of Elizabeth’s sister Jane. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are at odds for most of the novel. Elizabeth eventually meets a soldier named Mr. Wickham, who claims Darcy cut him off from the inheritance that was rightfully his. Elizabeth’s prejudice grows against Mr. Darcy, especially after he tries to prevent the attachment of Bingley and Jane by persuading Bingley to leave his Netherfield home. Darcy proposes to her, but she strongly denies him because of his actions against Wickham and her family.
He explains his actions through a very pretentious letter, saying that Wickham squandered the money he was given, and he felt that Bingley’s attachment to Jane was unwise. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is given an offer of marriage by her father’s cousin Mr. Collins, who will someday inherit the Bennett’s Longbourn house. His proposal is supported by Mrs. Bennett, who does not want their fortune to be lost from their family, but is strongly opposed by Mr. Bennett. Elizabeth declines the offer, and Mr. Collins instead marries her friend, Charlotte Lucas. On an unexpected trip to Darcy’s home, Elizabeth begins to see Darcy for who he truly is. He is spoken of highly by his servants and is adhered by his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam. She is surprised to find that Darcy is at home and treats her and her aunt and uncle with civility. While with her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth discovers that her younger sister Lydia has eloped with Mr. Wickham and has brought disgrace to their family. Darcy responds by bribing Wickham into marrying Lydia and ending the whole affair. Bingley returns to the country and proposes to Jane. Despite the objections of his wealthy aunt, Darcy and Elizabeth’s attachment grows, and they marry.
I thought Pride and Prejudice was an excellent novel. Both Darcy’s and Elizabeth’s characters had elements of the title: Darcy’s pride at the beginning of the novel and his prejudice toward those lower in society prevented him from acknowledging Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s pride of her own family and prejudice against Darcy based on other peoples’ opinions shaped her dislike for him. The novel is a subtle commentary on society at the time: the fact that Mr. Collins would inherit Longbourn at Mr. Bennett’s death, basically leaving the daughters destitute, was not an uncommon situation at the time, and arranged marriages were usually the answer. The novel was a good insight for me into the way things used to be when it came to marriage, family, and wealth. Each of those factors were important when forming an attachment, and Pride and Prejudice demonstrates the unconventionality of a marriage formed through love and understanding.
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