Pride and Prejudice Summary
How It All Goes Down
In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen tackles a common reality in England in the early 19th century – women who lack a fortune need to marry well. By "well," we mean wealthy. So, any guy from a good family with large, steady income is fair game on the Marriage Hunt. Rich but unintelligent, unattractive, boring men? Mrs. Bennet says, "Bring it on!" To be fair, she does have five daughters who lack a fortune. When a certain (wealthy) Mr. Bingley moves into the neighborhood and is interested in her eldest daughter, Jane, Mrs. Bennet becomes deliriously happy and (to the extreme discomfort of her family and innocent spectators) tries to push them together in every way possible. It's not all roses and champagne just yet, however. While Mr. Bingley is easygoing and pleasant, his sisters are catty snobs whose attitude is encouraged by a certain Mr. Darcy. Good-looking, rich, and close friends with Mr. Bingley, Darcy is also insufferably proud and haughty. The Bennets are beneath him in social stature, so Mr. Darcy is proportionately disagreeable, particularly to Jane's younger sister Elizabeth. When Mr. Bingley suggests that Mr. Darcy ask Elizabeth to dance, Mr. Darcy replies that she isn't pretty enough. The two men accidentally carry on their conversation within earshot of Elizabeth. Ouch. It's clear to everyone that Mr. Bingley is falling in love with Jane, but Jane's calm temperament hides her true feelings (she loves him too). Elizabeth gossips about the situation with her close friend Charlotte Lucas, who argues that Jane needs to show affection or risk losing Mr. Bingley. Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy has finished maligning Elizabeth, and starts becoming attracted to her (something about her "fine eyes"). In any case, Mr. Bingley's sisters extend a dinner invitation to Jane, who (based on the recommendations of her mother) rides over to the Bingley mansion in the rain, gets soaking wet, falls ill, and has to remain in the Bingley household. Elizabeth arrives to nurse her sister and engage in some witty banter with Mr. Darcy. Astonished at his attraction, he keeps staring at Elizabeth, but she assumes he's being a jerk and trying to judge her. Back at Longbourn (the Bennet home), Mr. Collins arrives for a visit. As Mr. Bennet's closest male relative, Mr. Collins will inherit the estate after Mr. Bennet's death. Mr. Collins has decided that the nice thing to do is to marry one of the Bennet girls in order to preserve their home. It looks like he has his sights set on Elizabeth, but did we mention that he's a complete fool and worships his boss (a certain Lady Catherine)? It's clear that Elizabeth finds him repulsive. As for the two youngest Bennet sisters, the militia has arrived in town and they're ready to throw themselves at any officers who wander their way. They meet a charming young man named Mr. Wickham, who rapidly befriends Elizabeth. Wickham tells Elizabeth a sob story about how all of his life opportunities were destroyed by Mr. Darcy, convincing her that Darcy is Evil Personified. Elizabeth readily believes Wickham's story, and also learns that Lady Catherine (Mr. Collins's boss) is Mr. Darcy's aunt. The next day, all the Bennet girls are invited to a ball at Netherfield (a.k.a. Mr. Bingley's mansion). Elizabeth is excited about possibly dancing with Wickham, and also excited to see Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham confront each other. At the ball, Wickham is absent, but Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance. So does Mr. Collins, whose dancing style is grotesquely embarrassing to Elizabeth. The rest of Elizabeth's family is no better: Mrs. Bennet brags to everyone that Bingley will likely propose to Jane, Mary and shows off her non-existent musical talent, and Lydia and Kitty are embarrassingly flirty with the military officers. The following morning, Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth, who practically has to beat him over the head before he believes her adamant refusal. We don't feel too...
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