Pride and Prejudice


Chapter 1 to Chapter 6

Chapter 1

The very first line of the novel establishes its comical tone and ironic structure: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The line also indicates the central theme of plot, which concerns the problems of marriage, manners and communication. Austen reveals in the opening chapter a marital relationship that could be described as an “odd couple” pairing. Yet, it is taken for granted by all within the framework of the story, and its dynamic is effectively illustrated for laughs. Toward the end of the novel, the sadder aspect of this marriage will be illustrated. For now, Austen focuses on its comic side.

Mrs. Bennet attempts to persuade Mr. Bennet to visit the newly arrived Mr. Bingley, who is rumored to be a man of some fortune. Mrs. Bennet hopes that Bingley will take an interest in one of her daughters. It is Mrs. Bennet’s sole purpose in life to see that her daughters are properly wed. Mr. Bennet pretends to have no interest in visiting Bingley and skillfully distresses his wife for his own amusement. It appears that one of the few pleasures he derives from his wife is the sight of her becoming discombobulated. It is also revealed that he has a favorite daughter among the five—Elizabeth, or Lizzy—even though he does not go so far as to say that she is extraordinarily bright. For example, he says rather sardonically, “They have none of them much to recommend them. They are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

Mrs. Bennet’s opinion of the girls is also revealed in this chapter. While it is clear that Mr. Bennet prefers Lizzy above the others, Mrs. Bennet announces that she cannot understand this preference. This reason she cannot understand the preference is that she does not appreciate quickness of wit as an attribute. She finds Jane’s looks and Lydia’s good humor to be much more appealing...

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