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Major Works – AP Lit Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Title: Pride and Prejudice

Author:  Jane Austen

Date of Publication: 1813

Genre: Comedy, Coming-of-Age, Literary Fiction


Biographical information about the author (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Jane Austen was born in Steventon, England, in 1775. Her father was the rector of the local parish and taught her largely at home. She began to write while in her. Pride and Prejudice was published in January 1813, two years after Sense and Sensibility, her first novel, and it achieved a popularity that has endured to this day. Austen published four more novels: Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. The last two were published in 1818, a year after her death. During Austen’s life, however, only her immediate family knew of her authorship of these novels. 19th century England was not a time in which notability as a female author was a good thing.


Information about the literary period (for my knowledge only, but very helpful):

Pride and Prejudice is from the Romantic Period of Literature. Romanticism is marked by imagination, intuition, individuality, idealism, and inspiration. Between 1797, when a young Jane Austen began work on what would become Pride and Prejudice, and 1813, when the novel was published, the French Revolution was fought, Marie Antoinette was guillotined and Napoleon rose to power and conquered most of Western Europe. Closer to Austen’s home, Great Britain combined with Ireland to become the United Kingdom. From the 16th well into the 19th century, respectable wealth in England was accumulated primarily through the ownership of land.


Plot summary:

The Bennet’s have five unmarried daughters—from oldest to youngest, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia—and Mrs. Bennet is desperate to see them all married. A wealthy young man named Charles Bingley moves to the nearby manor Mansfield Park. Bingley is charmed by Jane Bennet, but his friend Darcy refuses to dance with Elizabeth and comes off as arrogant and obnoxious. Darcy begins to warm up to Elizabeth over several social gathering, while Bingley’s sister is upset at the attention he pays to Lizzie rather than her. Mr. Collins comes to visit, a distant cousin of the Bennet’s. The Bennet home is entailed to him upon Mr. Bennet’s death due to a lack of male heirs. Collins proposes to Lizzie, but she turns him down, much to her mother’s annoyance and father’s contentment. Mr. Collins marries Lizzie’s best friend Charlotte instead. The Bennet sisters meet militia officers who are staying in town, including George Wickham, who tells Lizzie that Darcy once cheated him out of his inheritance. Lizzie visits Charlotte and Mr. Collins at the home of his patron Catherine de Bourgh, who is Darcy’s aunt. Darcy proposes to Lizzie and she refuses, calling him arrogant and telling him off for warning Bingley off Jane and for what he did to Wickham. Darcy rights Elizabeth a letter, stating that his disagreement with Wickham is from the fact that the man tried to elope with his sister. Wickham elopes with Lydia, the youngest Bennet instead, bringing shame on the family as they live out of wedlock. He agrees to marry her if he is given an annual salary. Elizabeth learns that the source of the money, and of her family’s salvation, was none other than Darcy. Bingley proposes to Jane, and Darcy tells Elizabeth that his feelings for her have not changed. Elizabeth accepts Darcy’s proposal, and both girls are married.


Memorable quotations significant to meaning:

  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
  2. “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”
  3. “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
  4. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place where nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in her admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
  5. Elizabeth was much too embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.” 

Significance of opening scene:

The opening scene is a conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, about the arrival of “a young man with large fortune” moving into Netherfield. Mrs. Bennet shares her intention to introduce their daughters, and have him marry one of them, which sets in motion the events of the entire novel.


Significance of closing scene:

            Elizabeth marries Darcy, making her mother extremely happy and Lady Catherine extremely vexed. Georgiana moves to Pemberly with Elizabeth and Darcy, and they retain on good terms with Lydia and Miss Bingley, though Wickham is not welcome. Lizzie and Darcy are on great terms with the Gardiners, and credit them with uniting them. The closing scene shows how everyone ends up, and shows the happiness of the main couple.


Characters

 Name / Role in the story and significance / Adjectives

  1. Elizabeth Bennet–  The protagonist. The second eldest daughter the Bennet’s, Elizabeth is the most intelligent and sensible of the five Bennet sisters. Her father’s favorite. She eventually falls in love with Darcy, despite being put off by his pride for much of the novel.
  2. Fitzwilliam Darcy–  A wealthy gentleman, the master of Pemberley, and the nephew of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Darcy is intelligent and honest, and his excess of pride causes him to look down on others, which makes Lizzie hate him for much of the novel. After a while, his class-consciousness wanes and he learns to admire and love Elizabeth for her strong character.
  3. George Wickham–  A handsome, fortune-hunting militia officer. Wickham’s good looks and charm attract Elizabeth initially, but Darcy’s revelation about Wickham’s disreputable past clues her in to his true nature and simultaneously draws her closer to Darcy. He eventually is paid off by Darcy, after Wickham elopes with Lydia.
  4. Mr. Collins–  A pompous, idiotic clergyman who is entailed to inherit Mr. Bennet’s property, due to a lack of other male heirs. He takes great pains to let everyone and anyone know that Lady Catherine de Bourgh serves as his patroness. He is the worst combination of snobbish and obsequious. He proposes to Elzabeth, when she refuses him, he marries Charlotte.

5. Charles Bingley –  Darcy’s considerably wealthy best friend. Bingley’s purchase of Netherfield, an estate near the Bennet’s, begins the novel. He is easygoing in contrast with Darcy. He is blissfully uncaring about class differences. He marries Jane, the eldest Bennet.


Setting:

Netherfield Park, Rosings Park, and Pemberley. All in 19th century England.


Symbols:

PEMBERLEY – Pemberley, Darcy’s estate is a geographic symbol of the man who owns it. Elizabeth visits is enchanted by its beauty and charm, where later she will feel the same about the Darcy himself. In contrast, she hates the home of Mr. Collins, it feels too impersonal and lavish for sake of lavishness to her, just as she does not like Collins himself.


Themes for discussion:

Reputation –

Reputation, specifically a woman’s reputation plays a large role in the novel. Mrs. Bennet wants her daughters in good marriages for the families’ reputation and to ensure they are well off. When Lydia runs off Wickham, the emphasis is on the damage to her reputation for living with a man out of wedlock, and the damages it does to her sister’s reputation.

Class –

Class-consciousness is strong in 19th century England. Darcy warns Bingley away from Jane because he feels the affections are not serious, they are beneath them in class, and views Mrs. Bennet as a gold digger. Mrs. Bennet is in fact infatuated with the fact that Bingley and Darcy are of a higher class, and would be good matches for her daughters. Class drives most of Darcy’s pride.

Marriage –

Mrs. Bennet’s main goal is to see her daughter’s married, as at the time, a good marriage was the only thing a girl could do to secure her future. A girl being unmarried was also a source of shame, ie. Lydia and Wickham. Charlotte marries Collins despite barely tolerating him, because it is the best match she can hope for, and it removes her from being a burden to her parents.

 

7 thoughts on “Major Works – AP Lit Review: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen”

  1. The notable irony in the class discussion, of course, is that the Bingleys are new money that may have been gotten by *gasp* trade!, and the Bennetts are old, traditional money. So from the Darcy family perspective, the Bennetts are actually “higher class” than the Bingleys, but since they have married low in some cases, their reputation is lower. Mrs. Bennett’s vulgarity does not help, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

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