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Plot Analysis

By varuntandon33 May 21, 2013 1700 Words
Pride and Prejudice Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice. Initial Situation

We meet the Bennet family: five single daughters with no money. Then a young, rich, single man moves into the neighborhood. This is clearly an initial situation because there's way too much instability in this system. Pushy mother? Poor, single daughters? One rich, single man? Anyone else predict that the pushy mother is going to be pushing her daughters on the single man?

Conflict

Bingley starts falling for Jane, but his sisters and friend don't approve. An obstacle in the path of true love and familial happiness! Yes, this is conflict. To make matters worse, Darcy has developed a crush on Jane's sister Elizabeth, and all the objections he has to Bingley marrying Jane (her lower class, crazy family) also apply to the prospect of him marrying Elizabeth.

Complication

Bingley's sisters and Darcy succeed in dissuading Bingley from marrying Jane; Darcy sinks lower and lower in Elizabeth's estimation. Tough. Our lovers seem as far away from each other as possible: Bingley's sisters effectively quarantine him from seeing Jane, and Wickham drips (figuratively) poison into Elizabeth's ear about Darcy's character. While before Elizabeth simply disliked him, she now feels full-on disgust.

Climax

Mr. Darcy shows his heart; Elizabeth learns her errors in judgment. All the festering feelings come to a head here. Darcy finally tells Elizabeth how he feels, saying he can repress his emotions no longer, and Elizabeth counters with a, "if you were the last man alive, I still wouldn't marry you." OK, those weren't her exact words, but they were pretty close. She finally vents all her anger over what Mr. Darcy has done to Jane and to Mr. Wickham.

But! That's not the end of the climax! Darcy gives Elizabeth a letter that exonerates him from all the charges she leveled against him. Both characters question their identities. As for Elizabeth, who prides herself on being a great judge of character, she learns that people's exterior masks can fool her. This is the climax of the novel because the greatest attitude shifts come here. It's all smoother sailing from here on out for our two main characters.

Suspense

Lydia runs off with Wickham, potentially ruining the Bennet family name forever. If Lydia goes off with Wickham to "live in sin," it will destroy any chance at happiness for Elizabeth and Jane. No respectable man will marry a woman who has a fallen sister. Don't know about you, but we're biting our nails.

Denouement

Mr. Bingley proposes to Jane; Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth Mr. Darcy uses money to force Wickham to marry Lydia. The Bennet family is saved. Whew. Here's the ending we've been waiting for – couples reunited, misunderstandings cleared up, in-laws chucked out the window…

Conclusion

The happily ever after – the last chapter serves as a bit of an epilogue. Our two favorite married couples are doing well, but Lydia and Wickham's marriage unravels and they become broke. Charles and Jane Bingley move out of Netherfield after a year because they can't stand Mrs. Bennet, Mary becomes less sanctimonious, and Kitty blossoms under the guidance of her two oldest sisters. Oh, right. Jane moves to an estate practically next door to Pemberley. That all sounds quite peachy

Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

The following entry presents criticism of Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. See also, Jane Austen Criticism, Northanger Abbey Criticism, and Mansfield Park Criticism.

INTRODUCTION

One of the world's most popular novels, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has delighted readers since its publication with the story of the witty Elizabeth Bennet and her relationship with the aristocrat Fitzwilliam Darcy. Similiar to Austen's other works, Pride and Prejudice is a humorous portrayal of the social atmosphere of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England, and it is principally concerned with courtship rituals of the English gentry. The novel is much more than a comedic love story, however; through Austen's subtle and ironic style, it addresses economic, political, feminist, sociological, and philosophical themes, inspiring a great deal of diverse critical commentary on the meaning of the work.

Plot and Major Characters

Pride and Prejudice focuses on Elizabeth Bennet, an intelligent young woman with romantic and individualistic ideals, and her relationship with Mr. Darcy, a wealthy gentleman of very high social status. At the outset of the novel, Elizabeth's loud and dim-witted mother, her foolish younger sisters, and her beautiful older sister Jane are very excited because a wealthy gentleman, Mr. Bingley, is moving to their neighborhood. The young women are concerned about finding husbands because if Elizabeth's father, a humorous and ironical man, were to die, the estate would be left to their pompous cousin Mr. Collins. Mr. Bingley soon becomes attached to Jane while Elizabeth grows to dislike his close friend Mr. Darcy, whom the village finds elitist and ill-tempered. Under the influence of his sisters and Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley eventually moves away to London. Mr. Collins, an irritating clergyman, then proposes to his cousin Elizabeth, who refuses him. He marries her friend Charlotte instead, and Elizabeth visits the couple at their estate, where she and Mr. Darcy meet again at the house of his aunt, also Mr. Collin's patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth but she refuses him, partly based on her belief that he dissuaded Mr. Bingley from pursuing a relationship with Jane. In a letter to Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy explains his actions regarding Jane and Mr. Bingley, as well as the way in which he has treated his estranged childhood companion, Mr. Wickham. The next time Elizabeth sees Mr. Darcy, at his estate, she is better disposed toward him, but they are interrupted by a scandal involving Elizabeth's sister Lydia, who has eloped with Mr. Wickham. Mr. Bennet and his brother-in-law Mr. Gardiner attempt to resolve the situation, but it is actually Mr. Darcy who resolves the situation by paying Mr. Wickham and convincing him to marry Lydia. Mr. Bingley then returns to his estate in the Bennets' neighborhood and soon becomes engaged to Jane. Afterward, despite Lady Catherine's attempt to prevent the engagement, Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy.

Major Themes

Austen's novel is principally concerned with the social fabric of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England, a patriarchal society in which men held the economic and social power. In an often satirical portrait of the men and women attempting to gain a livelihood, Austen subtly and ironically points out faults in the system, raising questions about the values of English society and the power structure of the country. Pride and Prejudice contains many elements of social realism, and it focuses on the merging of the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy during the era of the Napoleonic wars and at the beginning of the industrial revolution. The novel is also engaged in an ideological debate that drives its plot and defines the essence of its main character. Interested in the balance between pragmatism, or the necessity of securing a marriage, and idealism, particularly Elizabeth's romanticism and individualism, Austen dramatizes her heroine's struggle to find a place within the conservative social institution of marriage. The precise nature of this balance is not necessarily clear, and despite what seems to be a happy marriage, it may not be entirely possible to reconcile Elizabeth's independence and naturalness with Mr. Darcy's conservatism and conventionality. Nevertheless, the novel seems to work toward an ideological balance and an alteration in the fundamental aspects of these characters that will lead to a reconciliation of the themes that they represent.

Critical Reception

Probably Austen's most widely read novel, Pride and Prejudice, which has been continuously in print since its publication in 1813, has been the subject of volumes of diverse critical reactions. Evaluations of this work have included condemnatory dismissals such as that of Mark Twain, measured praises of Austen's sophistication and wit, and plaudits for the novel as the author's masterpiece. Many early critics focused on the social realism of the novel, commenting on the depth, or lack of depth, of Austen's characters. Criticism of the novel from the nineteenth century through the early twentieth century also tended to regard Austen as a moralist, discussing the value system that Pride and Prejudiceestablishes. Critics from the 1920s through the 1950s focused on Austen's characteristic themes and stylistic devices, as well as discussing her choice of subject matter and the moral and ideological journey that Elizabeth undertakes throughout the course of the novel. During the 1960s and 1970s, commentators offered contextual criticism that evaluated Pride and Prejudice within the literary and social world in which Austen wrote. It was also during this period that new directions in criticism of the novel began to be explored. Since the late 1960s, for example, critics have approached Austen's novel from a variety of linguistic standpoints, such as Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of dialogism, as well as analyzing the work in terms of postmodern theory and applying new developments in psychology to the text. There has also been increased attention given to the political subtext of the novel, suggesting new ways of interpreting its relationship to the historical context of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In the later decades of the twentieth century and into the early years of the twenty-first century, the most prominent trends in criticism of Pride and Prejudice have derived from the perspectives of literary feminism, including analysis of the novel's view of female oppression, its portrayal of the patriarchal society of the time, and its treatment of the possibility, fantasy, and reality of female power. Feminist critics such as Judith Lowder Newton have envisioned the novel as a triumphant fantasy of female autonomy, while Jean Ferguson Carr warns that Austen's exclusion of Mrs. Bennet from the social world reveals a persistent subjugation of women throughout the novel. In addition to strictly feminist readings of Pride and Prejudice,many essays not associated with this school of social and literary thought either incorporate or challenge various feminist claims in relation to Austen's work.

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