Pride and Prejudice Summary
by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Summary
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 recovers, she returns home with Elizabeth.
A militia regiment is stationed at the nearby town of Meryton, where Mrs. Bennet's sister Mrs. Phillips lives. Mrs. Phillips is just as foolish as Mrs. Bennet. Lydia and Kitty love to go to Meryton to visit with their aunt and socialize with the militia's officers.
Mr. Collins, a cousin of Mr. Bennet who is in line to inherit Longbourn because the estate has been entailed away from the female line, writes a letter stating his intention to visit. When he arrives, he makes it clear that he hopes to find a suitable wife among the Miss Bennets. Mr. Collins is a clergyman, and his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (who is also Darcy's aunt), has suggested that he find a wife, and he hopes to lessen the hardship of the entailment by marrying one of Mr. Bennet's daughters. Mr. Collins is a silly man who speaks in long, pompous speeches and always has an air of solemn formality.
When the Miss Bennets and Mr. Collins go for a walk to Meryton, they are introduced to an officer in the regiment named Mr. Wickham. They also run into Mr. Darcy, and when Darcy and Wickham meet both seem to be extremely uncomfortable. Mr. Wickham immediately shows a partiality for Elizabeth and they speak at length. Wickham tells Elizabeth that the reason for the mutual embarrassment when he and Darcy met is that Darcy's father had promised that Wickham, his godson, should be given a good living after his death, but that Darcy had failed to fulfill his father's dying wishes and had left Wickham to support himself. Elizabeth, already predisposed to think badly of Darcy, does not question Wickham's account. When Elizabeth tells Jane Wickham's story Jane refuses think badly of either Wickham or Darcy and assumes there must be some misunderstanding.
As promised, Bingley hosts a ball at Netherfield. He and Jane stay together the whole evening, and their mutual attachment becomes increasingly obvious. Mrs. Bennet speaks of their marriage as imminent over dinner, within earshot of Mr. Bingley's friend Mr. Darcy. Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance with her and she inadvertently accepts. She does not enjoy it and cannot understand why he asked her. Mr. Collins pays particularly close attention to Elizabeth at the ball, and even reserves the first two dances with her.
The next day Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. She refuses him, and after a while Mr. Collins comes to understand that her refusal is sincere, not just a trick of female coquetry. Mrs. Bennet is extremely angry at Elizabeth for not accepting, but Mr. Bennet is glad. Mr. Collins shifts his attentions to Elizabeth's friend Charlotte Lucas. He proposes to Charlotte and she accepts. Elizabeth is disappointed in her friend for agreeing to marry such a silly man simply to obtain financial security.
Bingley goes to London for business and shortly after he leaves his sisters and Darcy go to London as well. He had planned to return quickly to Netherfield, but Caroline Bingley writes to Jane and tells her that Bingley will almost definitely not return for about six months. Caroline also tells Jane that the family hopes Bingley will marry Darcy's younger sister Georgiana and unite the fortunes of the two families. Jane is heartbroken, thinking that Bingley must not really be attached to her. Elizabeth thinks that Darcy and Bingley's sisters somehow managed to convince Bingley to stay in London rather than returning to Netherfield to propose to Jane.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeth's aunt and uncle, come to Longbourn to visit. They invite Jane to come and spend some time with them in London, hoping that the time away will help to cheer her up. Elizabeth also hopes that Jane will run into Bingley while in London. Mrs. Gardiner, after observing Elizabeth and Wickham together, warns Elizabeth against the imprudence of a marriage to Wickham because of his poor financial situation, and advises Elizabeth not to encourage his attentions so much.
While in London Jane is treated very rudely by Caroline Bingley and comes to realize that she is not a sincere friend. She assumes that Mr. Bingley knows she is in London, and decides that he must no longer be partial to her since she does not hear from him at all.
Wickham suddenly transfers his attentions from Elizabeth to Miss King, who has recently acquired 10,000 pounds from an inheritance.
Along with Sir William Lucas and Maria Lucas (Charlotte's father and younger sister) Elizabeth goes to visit Charlotte (now Mrs. Collins) at her new home in Kent. On their way they stop to see the Gardiners. Upon hearing of Wickham's change of affections, Mrs. Gardiner is critical, but Elizabeth defends him.
While staying with the Collinses, Elizabeth and the others are often invited to dine at Rosings, the large estate of Mr. Collins' patroness Lady Catherine. Lady Catherine is completely arrogant and domineering. After Elizabeth has been at the Parsonage for a fortnight, Mr. Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam visit Rosings. Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam get along very well. Darcy also seems to be paying a lot of attention to Elizabeth, and often visits her and Charlotte at the Parsonage along with Colonel Fitzwilliam. He also purposely meets her very frequently on her usual walking route through the park.
While walking one day with Elizabeth, Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth how Darcy recently saved a close friend from an imprudent marriage. Elizabeth concludes from this comment that it must have been Darcy's advice which convinced Bingley not to propose to Jane. She becomes so angry and upset that she gets a terrible headache and decides not to go to Rosings for dinner. While she is alone at the Parsonage, Darcy pays a visit. He tells her that in spite of all his efforts to avoid it because of her low family connections, he has fallen in love with her and wants to marry her. Elizabeth is shocked. She rudely refuses and rebukes him for the ungentlemanlike manner in which he proposed, as well as for preventing the marriage of Bingley and Jane and for ill-treating Wickham. Darcy is shocked because he had assumed she would accept.
The next day Darcy finds Elizabeth and hands her a letter then quickly leaves. The letter contains an explanation of his reasons for advising Bingley not to marry Jane and for his actions toward Wickham. He had prevented Bingley from proposing to Jane because it did not seem to him that Jane was truly attached to Bingley. Wickham was Darcy's father's god-son. Before his death, Darcy's father had asked Darcy to provide Wickham with a living if Wickham were to decide to enter the clergy. Wickham, however, did not want to enter the clergy. He asked Darcy for 3,000 pounds, purportedly for law school, and agreed not to ask for any more. Darcy gave Wickham the money and he squandered it all on dissolute living, then came back and told Darcy he would like to enter the clergy if he could have the living promised to him. Darcy refused. Later, with the help of her governess Miss Younge, Wickham got Darcy's younger sister Georgiana to fall in love with him and agree to an elopement, in order to revenge himself on Mr. Darcy and get Miss Darcy's fortune. Fortunately, Darcy found out and intervened at the last minute.
After reading these explanations in the letter Elizabeth's first reaction is disbelief, but after reflecting upon and slowly rereading the letter, she begins to see that Darcy is telling the truth and that she was only inclined to believe Wickham's story because he had flattered her with his attentions, while she was inclined to think ill of Darcy because he had wounded her pride on their first meeting.
Soon afterwards, Elizabeth returns home from her stay with the Collinses and Jane returns home from her stay with the Gardiners. When they return their mother and sisters are upset because the regiment stationed in Meryton will soon be leaving, depriving them of most of their amusement. Lydia receives an offer from Mrs. Forster, Colonel Forster's wife, to accompany her to Brighton, where the regiment will be going. Elizabeth advises her father not to allow Lydia to go, thinking that such a trip could lead to serious misconduct on Lydia's part because of the flirtatiousness and frivolity of her character and her complete lack of a sense of propriety. However, Mr. Bennet does not heed Elizabeth's advice.
Elizabeth goes on vacation with the Gardiners. Their first stop is in the area of Pemberley, Mr. Darcy's estate. The Gardiners want to take a tour, and having found out that Mr. Darcy is away, Elizabeth agrees. During their tour of the estate the housekeeper tells them about how kind and good-natured Darcy is. Elizabeth is impressed by this praise, and also thinks of how amazing it would be to be the mistress of such an estate. During their tour of the gardens Elizabeth and the Gardiners run into Mr. Darcy, who has returned early from his trip. Darcy is extremely cordial to both Elizabeth and the Gardiners and tells Elizabeth that he wants her to meet his sister Georgiana as soon as she arrives.
Darcy and Georgiana pay a visit to Elizabeth and the Gardiners at their inn on the very morning of Georgiana's arrival. Bingley comes to visit as well. It is clear that he still has a regard for Jane. Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth return their civilities by calling at Pemberley to visit Georgiana. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst are there as well, and they thinly conceal their displeasure at seeing Elizabeth.
One morning Elizabeth receives a letter from Jane announcing that Lydia has eloped with Wickham, and that they fear Wickham does not actually intend to marry her. Jane asks Elizabeth to return home immediately. Darcy comes to the door just after Elizabeth has received the news. She explains to him what has happened. He feels partially to blame for not having exposed Wickham's character publicly.
Elizabeth and the Gardiners depart for Longbourn immediately. Mrs. Bennet is in hysterics and the entire burden of keeping the household together in this moment of crisis has fallen on Jane's shoulders. They find out from Colonel Forster that Wickham has over 1,000 pounds of gambling debts and nearly that much owed to merchants. The next day Mr. Gardiner goes to join Mr. Bennet in London to help him search for Lydia. After many days of fruitless searches Mr. Bennet returns home and leaves the search in Mr. Gardiner's hands.
Soon a letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner explaining that Lydia and Wickham have been found and that Wickham will marry Lydia if Mr. Bennet provides her with her equal share of his wealth. Knowing that, with his debts, Wickham would never have agreed to marry Lydia for so little money, Mr. Bennet thinks that Mr. Gardiner must have paid off Wickham's debts for him.
After their marriage Lydia and Wickham come to visit Longbourn. Lydia is completely shameless and not the least bit remorseful for her conduct. Mrs. Bennet is very happy to have one of her daughters married.
Elizabeth hears from Lydia that Darcy was present at the wedding. She writes to her aunt to ask her why he was there. She responds explaining that it was Darcy who had found Lydia and Wickham and who had negotiated with Wickham to get him to marry her. Mrs. Gardiner thinks that Darcy did this out of love for Elizabeth.
Bingley and Mr. Darcy return to Netherfield Park. They call at Longbourn frequently. After several days Bingley proposes to Jane. She accepts and all are very happy.
In the meantime Darcy has gone on a short business trip to London. While he is gone Lady Catherine comes to Longbourn and asks to speak with Elizabeth. Lady Catherine tells Elizabeth that she has heard Darcy is going to propose to her and attempts to forbid Elizabeth to accept the proposal. Elizabeth refuses to make any promises. Lady Catherine leaves in a huff.
Darcy returns from his business trip. While he and Elizabeth are walking he tells her that his affection for her is the same as when he last proposed, and asks her if her disposition toward him has changed. She says that it has, and that she would be happy to accept his proposal. They speak about how they have been changed since the last proposal. Darcy realized he had been wrong to act so proudly and place so much emphasis on class differences. Elizabeth realized that she had been wrong to judge Darcy prematurely and to allow her judgment to be affected by her vanity.
Both couples marry. Elizabeth and Darcy go to live in Pemberley. Jane and Bingley, after living in Netherfield for a year, decide to move to an estate near Pemberley. Kitty begins to spend most of her time with her two sisters, and her education and character begin to improve. Mary remains at home keeping her mother company. Mr. Bennet is very happy that his two oldest daughters have married so happily. Mrs. Bennet is glad that her daughters have married so prosperously.
Pride and Prejudice Essays and Related Content
- Pride and Prejudice: Major Themes
- Pride and Prejudice: Essays
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- Pride and Prejudice: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Jane Austen: Biography
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- 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
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