Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, is Jane's Austen's earliest work, and in some senses also one of her most mature works. Austen began writing the novel in 1796 at the age of twenty-one, under the title First Impressions. The original version of the novel was probably in the form of an exchange of letters. Austen's father had offered he manuscript for publication in 1797, but the publishing company refused to even consider it. Shortly after completing First Impressions, Austen began writing Sense and Sensibility, which was not published until 1811. She also wrote some minor works during that time, which were later expanded into full novels. Between 1810 and 1812 Pride and Prejudice was rewritten for publication. While the original ideas of the novel come from a girl of 21, the final version has the literary and thematic maturity of a thirty-five year old woman who has spent years painstakingly drafting and revising, as is the pattern with all of Austen's works. Pride and Prejudice is usually considered to be the most popular of Austen's novels.
Summary of Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice is set primarily in the county of Hertfordshire, about 50 miles outside of London. The novel opens at with a conversation at Longbourn, the Bennet's estate, about the arrival of Mr. Bingley, "a single man of large fortune," to Netherfield Park, a nearby estate. Mrs. Bennet, whose obsession is to find husbands for her daughters, sees Mr. Bingley as a potential suitor. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five children: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia.
The Bennets' first acquaintance with Mr. Bingley and his companions is at the Meryton Ball. Mr. Bingley takes a liking to Jane and is judged by the townspeople to be perfectly amiable and agreeable. Mr. Bingley's friend Mr. Darcy, however, snubs Elizabeth and is considered to be proud and disagreeable because of his reserve and his refusal to dance. Bingley's sisters are judged to be amiable by Jane but Elizabeth finds them to be arrogant.
After further interactions, it becomes evident that Jane and Bingley have a preference for one another, although Bingley's partiality is more obvious than Jane's because she is universally cheerful and amiable. Charlotte Lucas, a close friend of Elizabeth with more pragmatic views on marriage, recommends that Jane make her regard for Bingley more obvious. At the same time, Mr. Darcy begins to admire Elizabeth, captivated by her fine eyes and lively wit.
When Jane is invited for dinner at Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet refuses to provide her with a carriage, hoping that because it is supposed to rain Jane will be forced to spend the night. However, because Jane gets caught in the rain, she falls ill and is forced to stay at Netherfield until she recovers. Upon hearing that Jane is ill, Elizabeth walks to Netherfield in order to go nurse her sister. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst (Bingley's sisters) are scandalized that Elizabeth walked so far alone in the mud. Seeing that Jane would like Elizabeth to stay with her, Bingley's sisters invite Elizabeth to remain at Netherfield until Jane recovers.
During her stay at Netherfield, Elizabeth increasingly gains the admiration of Mr. Darcy. She is blind to his partiality, however, and continues to think him a most proud and haughty man because of the judgment she made of him when he snubbed her at the ball. Miss Bingley, who is obviously trying to gain the admiration of Mr. Darcy, is extremely jealous of Elizabeth and tries to prevent Mr. Darcy from admiring her by making rude references to the poor manners of Elizabeth's mother and younger sisters and to her lower class relatives. When Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters come to visit Jane, Elizabeth is mortified by their foolishness and complete lack of manners. Bingley's admiration for Jane continues unabated and is evident in his genuine solicitude for her recovery. After Jane...