Pride and Prejudice Summary and Analysis
by Jane Austen
Volume I, Chapters 7-14
Volume I, Chapter 7 Summary:
Lydia and Catherine, the two youngest in the family, often go to visit their aunt, Mrs. Phillips, in Meryton, where a militia regiment has recently arrived. Mr. Bennet complains of his daughters' foolishness, but Mrs. Bennet does not consider their obsession with the officers to be a cause for concern.
Jane receives an invitation to have dinner with Bingley's sisters. Rather than allowing her to use the carriage to go to Netherfield, Mrs. Bingley tells Jane to go on horseback, hoping that it will rain and that Jane will have to spend the night at Netherfield. Jane does not like the scheme, but has no choice but to accept it.
The plan works all too well, howevernot only is Jane forced to spend the night at Netherfield, but she falls ill as a result of getting soaked in the rain, and has to stay at Netherfield until her recovery. Elizabeth goes to Netherfield to visit Jane, and because there are no horses available she walks. The Bingley sisters are scandalized that Elizabeth walked such a distance in the mud. Jane's condition having intensified, Elizabeth attends to her with great solicitude. Because Jane does not want Elizabeth to leave, Miss Bingley invites her to stay at Netherfield.
Volume I, Chapter 7 Analysis:
Chapter 7 gives the reader a closer look at the youngest sisters in the Bennet family, Catherine and Lydia. Because of their "vacant" minds, the two sisters love to go to the nearby town of Meryton, where the presence of a militia regiment provides a great deal of amusement. While they were there they visited aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips. Mr. Bennet criticizes the silliness of Lydia and Catherine, but is characteristically detached from the situation and makes no attempt to stop them from going to Meryton or even to warn them about the possible dangers of their obsession with the militia officers. Mrs. Bennet does not even criticize the girls, and considers it completely acceptable for the girls to act so frivolously "you must not expect such girls to have the sense of their father and mother.'" Ironically, what Mrs. Bennet's attitude proves is that girls lack of sense is precisely the result of her own foolishness and of Mr. Bennet's indifference. Austen views the family as the fundamental unit of society, within which children educated in virtue. The failure of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet to take their parental duties seriously will result in family disgrace. Their nonchalance with regard to Lydia and Catherine's involvement with the military regiment forebodes future trouble.
An analysis of the significance of Jane's stay at Netherfield will be presented as a whole after Chapter 12.
Volume I, Chapter 8 Summary:
When Elizabeth leaves the dinner table to continue attending to Jane, the Bingley sisters harshly criticize her pride and stubborn independence for having walked to Netherfield alone, but Mr. Bingley and Darcy admire Elizabeth's devotion to Jane. The Bingley sisters also deride the low family connections of Jane and Elizabeth. Bingley does not seem to care about their low connections, although Darcy considers it an impediment to their marrying well.
In the evening after Jane has fallen asleep, Elizabeth joins the others in the drawing room, and they have a conversation about what it means for a woman to be accomplished. Darcy and Miss Bennett provide such unrealistic criteria that Elizabeth claims she has never seen such a woman in her life.
Volume I, Chapter 9 Summary:
Elizabeth asks that her mother be summoned to come and see Elizabeth. Mrs. Bennet is happy because she sees that Jane is not in danger but that she is ill enough to continue her stay at Netherfield. Elizabeth is thoroughly embarrassed by her mother's conduct in the conversation, and particularly by her extreme rudeness to Darcy. Mrs. Bennet returns home and Elizabeth continues to attend to Jane.
Volume I, Chapter 10 Summary:
That evening in the drawing room Darcy writes a letter to his sister while Miss Bennet observes him and continually makes comments in admiration of his letter-writing style. The group gets into a discussion about Bingley's characters, which leads to Elizabeth's praise of someone who yields to the persuasion of friends.
As the Bennet sisters sing and play the piano, Elizabeth notices how frequently Mr. Darcy looks at her, butunable imagine that he might admire hershe assumes he is staring at her because of his disapproval of her. Darcy asks her to dance a reel, but Elizabeth assumes that there is some sarcasm in this invitation, and satirically declines the offer. Miss Bingley notices, and begins to taunt Darcy by speaking about the possibility of marrying into the Bennet family and emphasizing the inferiority of her connections.
Volume I, Chapter 11 Summary:
After dinner Jane is feeling well enough to join the others in the drawing room, and Elizabeth is delighted by the attention which Bingley shows to her. Miss Bingley continues in her vain attempts to please Darcy, and even feigns a love for reading, picking up the second volume of the book which he is reading. She then begins to walk around the room, attempting to catch Darcy's admiration. She fails, but as soon as she invites Elizabeth to walk with her Mr. Darcy looks up and stops reading. They begin to converse about Darcy's character, and Darcy admits that he has a tendency to be resentful.
Volume I, Chapter 12 Summary:
Jane having recovered from her illness, she and Elizabeth resolve to go home the next morning. Her mother is unwilling to send the carriage so soon, wanting to extend Jane's stay as long as possible, but Elizabeth and Jane are resolved to go and they ask for the Bingleys to lend them their carriage. Elizabeth and Jane are glad to be returning home, and all except Bingley are happy to see them go. Darcy is glad to be removed from the danger of Elizabeth's company, and Miss Bingley is glad to be rid of her competition.
Volume I, Chapters 8-12 Analysis:
Elizabeth and Jane's stay at Netherfield acts a vehicle by which the issue of class difference is brought to the fore. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst make constant reference to the low connections of Jane and Elizabeth whenever the two are not in the room. They speak about the fact that one of Bennet's relations is an attorney. While from today's point of view it seems difficult to see why this fact should be an object of derision, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries when Austen was writing, working for a living rather than living off the income of capital or land was judged to be socially inferior. While the issue of class is usually brought up by Miss Bingley who is extremely envious of Darcy's obvious admiration for Elizabeth, the Bingley sisters also bring up the class issue with relation to Jane, expressing their sorrow that her low connections will limit her marriage possibilities.
Darcy believes that "were it not for the inferiority of [Elizabeth's] connections, he should be in some danger." This very belief, however, reveals that he is already in more "danger" than he would like to admit. While Bingley seems to have little concern for class issues, paradoxically it is he and not Darcy who allows class considerations overall his affections. Yet Bingley's actions are not so incomprehensible considering the information which Austen about Bingley's character. Darcy, Elizabeth and Bingley have a conversation about Bingley's character in which Darcy criticizes the ease with which he succumbs to the influence of his family and friends, and Elizabeth defends Bingley, saying the yielding to the persuasion of a friend is meritorious. Ironically, further along in the story Darcy is the one who will be persuading Bingley, and Elizabeth will be quite angry at him for having done so.
While Mrs. Bennet had hoped that Jane's forced stay at Netherfield would further the attachment of Jane and Bingley, she would have never guessed at the second attachment which would begin to formthat between Elizabeth and Darcy. In spite of Elizabeth's obvious coldness toward him and Miss Bingley's constant ridicule about the inferiority of Elizabeth's connections, Darcy finds himself increasingly attracted to Elizabeth, particularly her beautiful dark eyes. Yet as beautiful as her eyes are, their darkness also represents Elizabeth's main weaknessthe clouding of her perception by pride and prejudice. Elizabeth prides herself on her ability to judge the others' characters and to uncover the motives behind their actions. Yet her prejudgment of Darcy blinds her to his admiration of her. When Darcy asks Elizabeth if she is inclined to dance a reel, she assumes that he only asked her in order to ridicule her for her unrefined taste. She does not know what to make of his respectful treatment of her. Toward the end of the Bennet sisters' stay at Netherfield, Miss Bennet, Darcy and Elizabeh have a conversation about Darcy's character. Elizabeth concludes that Darcy's defect is "a propensity to hate everybody," while Darcy perceptively replies that hers is "wilfully to misunderstand them.'"
Volume I, Chapter 13 Summary:
At breakfast the following day Mr. Bennet announces that Mr. Collins, a cousin of his whom he has never met, will be coming to visit. Because of the laws of inheritance at the time and because Mr. Bennet has no sons, Mr. Collins is in line to inherit Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet hates Mr. Collins because of this, but Elizabeth and Jane try to explain the nature of the laws of entailment.
To inform them of his visit, Mr. Collins writes a letter to Mr. Bennet. In the letter Mr. Collins explains that he has recently been ordained and is under the patronage of Lady Catherine De Bourgh.
Mr. Collins arrives in the afternoon as expected. He is 25 years old, tall and heavyset, with a grave air and formal manners. When he is conversing with the women of the household before dinner, he mentions that he is well aware of the hardship involved in the entailment of the estate and that he wants to make amends for this hardship. He has come "prepared to admire" the young ladies of the household. Mr. Collins also expresses his admiration for the house itself and for the quality of the dinner.
Volume I, Chapter 14 Summary:
After dinner Mr. Bennet invites Mr. Collins to speak about his patroness Lady Catherine. Mr. Collins describes Lady Catherine with great solemnity and effusive praise, remarking on her great affability and condescension to him in spite of her high rank. He also describes Lady Catherine's daughter, Miss de Bourgh, as quite charming but rather sickly. He tries to ingratiate himself with Lady Catherine by thinking up pretty and flattering phrases to tell her about Miss de Bourgh while trying to make his praise seem spontaneous. Mr. Bennet is convinced that Mr. Collins is absurd.
After tea Mr. Bennet invites Mr. Collins to read aloud to the ladies. Mr. Collins declares that he never reads novels and instead begins to read with a book of sermons with "monotonous solemnity." After a few pages Lydia interrupts the reading by asking her mother a question about her uncle Philips. Mr. Collins is offended but takes the hint and stops reading after briefly reprimanding the frivolity of Lydia. He then proposes playing a game of backgammon.
Volume I, Chapters 13-14 Analysis:
These two chapters serve to introduce the reader to the character of Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is a supercilious man with exaggerated and overly formal manners and a strange combination of self-importance and obsequiousness. Mr. Collins is in line to inherit Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet sees this as a great injustice for which Mr. Collins is responsible, but Jane and Elizabeth are resigned to the fact that they have no control over the inheritance laws and that Mr. Collins is not at fault for being in line to inherit their father's property. Thinking that by marrying one of Mr. Bennet's daughters he will be able to make amends for taking their property, Mr. Collins is visiting Longbourn with the express purpose of finding a wife, a purpose which he only alludes to in these chapters but which becomes clearer later on.
Mrs. Bennet's gut reaction and sense of injustice with regard to the entailment of the estate serves to call attention to the injustice of English inheritance laws. Elizabeth and Jane, more moderate in their reaction, are inclined to accept the practice of entailment as simply part of the way their society works. While of course they do not like the fact that they will not be able to inherit their father's estate, their education has led them more or less to accept the conventional inheritance laws. Mrs. Bennet, on the other hand, through her unstudied and unguarded reaction, brings attention to the natural injustice of the law. The entailment of the estate will be a great hardship for the young women. Without the sort of independent income which could be derived from an estate, they will need to marry well in order to secure their livelihood. Further, their marriage prospects are considerably lower because of their small inheritance.
Austen uses this situation in the novel to call attention to the difficulties which women faced in early 19th-century England. Austen's critical attitude toward the limitations which society placed upon women is emphasized in her choice of a character such as Mr. Collins to be the one who will inherit the Bennet's estate. Far from being a close relation to the family, Mr. Collins is a cousin whom they have never even met. The fact that Mr. Bennet's property should pass to him instead of to his own daughters is absolutely ridiculous. Further, Mr. Collins silly and pompous personality lead the reader to dislike him and therefore to object even more intensely to the fact that he will inherit Longbourn.
Also indirectly introduced in these chapters are Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter. In between the lines of Mr. Collins praise for Lady Catherine's great "condescension" and generosity the reader gets the sense that that Lady Catherine is an extremely rich woman who is arrogant and self-satisfied because of her wealth and social position. Little is said about Miss de Bourgh, Lady Catherine's daughter, except that she is sickly and weak. These characters will play an important part in the second half of the novel.
Pride and Prejudice Essays and Related Content
- Pride and Prejudice: Major Themes
- Pride and Prejudice: Essays
- Pride and Prejudice: E-Text
- Pride and Prejudice: Questions
- Pride and Prejudice: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Jane Austen: Biography
- Pride and Prejudice Summary
- About Pride and Prejudice
- Character List
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Volume I, Chapters 1-6
- Summary and Analysis of Volume I, Chapters 7-14
- Summary and Analysis of Volume I, Chapters 15-23
- Summary and Analysis of Volume II, Chapters 1-10
- Summary and Analysis of Volume II, Chapters 11-19
- Summary and Analysis of Volume III, Chapters 1-10
- Summary and Analysis of Volume III, Chapters 11-18
- Related Links on Pride and Prejudice
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources