Pride and Prejudice

What does the opening tell us about life in 19th century England?

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The opening chapters of Pride and Prejudice serve to quickly introduce Austen's principal characters and outline the skeleton of the plot. Austen expediently establishes her primary themes and the stylistic devices through which she will explore the narrative. The very first line of the novel has become one of the most famous first lines in literature: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." This opening line establishes the novel's two major themes - marriage and class (particularly as as defined by money). Most of the characters in Pride and Prejudice are first and foremost defined by their financial background and marital status. In these the early chapters, Austen explores the stark contrast between Mrs. Bennet and Elizabeth through their opinions on these issues. Mrs. Bennet only cares about marriage and money, while Elizabeth refuses to let these superficial measures control her.