How Effectively Does the Opening Chapter of Pride and Prejudice Introduce the Reader to the Central Characters and Concerns of the Novel?

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The novel ‘Pride and Prejudice' focuses mainly on the protagonists, Elizabeth and Jane. Most of the novel is centred around Elizabeth's point of view. The arrival of Bingley in the neighbourhood is the starting point. In the opening chapter, the reader is introduced to Mr Bennet and Mrs Bennet. Through these characters, the reader learns about Mrs Bennet's biggest concern; to marry off all her daughters. The themes of the novel are mostly related to the title, ‘Pride and Prejudice', there is an element of personal pride amongst the characters and also prejudice, particularly with Darcy and Elizabeth. The first chapter brings in the reader into the world of social class importance, marriage and women's role in the 19th century, which is satirized by Austen.

The Bennets have five unmarried daughters, and Mrs Bennet, is one who agrees with the opening 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 statement is one of great significance to the novel, because of its masterful irony, its humorous tone, and its foreshadowing of the entire novel. To Mrs Bennet, the arrival of Mr Bingley in the neighbourhood is seen as a great opportunity for one of her daughters to obtain a wealthy spouse. The first sentence is ironic because a man with a fortune does not necessarily need a wife, as much as a woman, who has no means of outside support in the 19th century, is greatly in need of a wealthy spouse. When the reader meets Mr Darcy, a wealthy and ‘fine, tall person', with ‘handsome features' the ‘ladies declared that he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley'. The reason for this is because he has a bigger income than Bingley, and he is simply a great man due to his large fortune. Austen uses satire to ridicule the stereotype view. The ‘universal truth' is nothing more than a social truth, which ironically is not a truth at all, but a parody of social facts. The first sentence introduces...
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