Pride and Prejudice (Bantam Classics)
Home : Pride and Prejudice : Study Guide : Pride and Prejudice Summary

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. It mostly follows the Bennet family, particularly the second oldest daughter Elizabeth.

The novel opens at with a conversation at Longbourn, the Bennet's estate, about Mr. Bingley, "a single man of large fortune" who is soon to arrive at the nearby estate of Netherfield Park. Mrs. Bennet, who is obsessed with finding 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 meet Mr. Bingley and his companions is at the Meryton Ball. Mr. Bingley takes an immediate liking to Jane, and is judged by the townspeople as 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 - Charlotte and Mrs. Hurst - are judged as amiable by Jane, but as arrogant by Elizabeth.

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. She, however, remains contemptuous of him.

When Jane is invited for dinner at Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet refuses to provide her with a carriage, hoping that an impending rainstorm will force her to spend the night there. However, because Jane gets caught in the rain, she falls ill and has to recover at Netherfield. Upon hearing that Jane is ill, Elizabeth walks to Bingley's estate, despite the muddy fields left behind by the rain. Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst are scandalized by her appearance when she arrives, but join Bingley in welcoming her nevertheless.

During her time nursing Jane at Netherfield, Elizabeth increasingly impresses Darcy. She remains blind to his partiality, however, and continues to judge him a most proud and haughty man. Caroline, who hopes to attract Mr. Darcy herself, grows extremely jealous of Elizabeth, and mocks her and her relations to Darcy.

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.

Meanwhile, 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 is. 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, so he hopes to make amends for the entailment by marrying one of Mr. Bennet's daughters. Mr. Collins is a silly man who speaks in long, pompous speeches, always with 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. When Darcy and Wickham meet, both seem to be extremely uncomfortable.

Wickham shows an immediate partiality for Elizabeth, and they speak at length over the following days. In one of these conversations, Wickham explains his past with Darcy. Darcy's father had promised that Wickham, who had been raised as his godson, would be given a good living after the elder man's death, but Darcy failed to fulfill his father's dying wishes. Instead, he left Wickham to support himself. Elizabeth, already predisposed to think badly of Darcy, does not question Wickham's account. When Elizabeth tells Wickham's story to Jane, however, Jane refuses think badly of either Wickham or Darcy, assuming there must simply be some misunderstanding.

As he promised, Bingley hosts a ball at Netherfield. He and Jane stay together the whole evening, and their mutual attachment becomes increasingly obvious. Aloud and without discernment, Mrs. Bennet speaks of their marriage as imminent, and Elizabeth notes that Darcy overhears. Later that evening, Darcy asks Elizabeth to dance, 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, but it takes him a while to accept her sincerity; he assumes she is simply playing coy (as he assumes females do). Mrs. Bennet is extremely angry at Elizabeth for refusing him, but Mr. Bennet is glad. Mr. Collins quickly 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 for the sake of financial security.

Bingley travels to London for business, planning to return. His sisters and Darcy soon follow him, and Caroline writes to Jane that Bingley has changed his plans and will not return to Netherfield for at least 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. Elizabeth thinks that Darcy and Bingley's sisters somehow managed to dissuade Bingley from proposing to Jane.

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Elizabeth's aunt and uncle, come to Longbourn to visit. Noting Jane's sadness, they invite her to stay with them in London for a while. Elizabeth also hopes that Jane will run into Bingley while in London. Mrs. Gardiner, after observing Elizabeth and Wickham together, warns Elizabeth against marrying Wickham because of his poor financial situation.

While in London, Jane is treated very rudely by Caroline Bingley, leading her to realize the woman's insincerity. She assumes that Mr. Bingley knows she is in London, and decides that he must no longer care for her since he does not call.

In Meryton, Wickham suddenly transfers his attentions from Elizabeth to Miss King, a woman 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 visits Charlotte (now Mrs. Collins) at her new home in Kent. On their way, the travelers stop to visit Jane and the Gardiners. Mrs. Gardiner criticizes Wickham's change of affections, but Elizabeth defends him.

While staying with the Collinses, Elizabeth and the others are often invited to dine at Rosings, the large estate where Lady Catherine lives. Lady Catherine is completely arrogant and domineering. After Elizabeth has been at the parsonage for two weeks, Mr. Darcy and his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam visit Rosings. Elizabeth and Colonel Fitzwilliam get along very well. Darcy also pays a lot of attention to Elizabeth, and often visits her and Charlotte at the parsonage. He also purposely meets her during her daily walks through the nearby gardens.

While walking one day with Elizabeth, Colonel Fitzwilliam mentions how Darcy recently saved a close friend from an imprudent marriage. Concluding this comment concerns her sister, Elizabeth riles herself up about Darcy until she gets a headache, which keeps her from visiting Rosings that night.

While she is alone at the parsonage, Darcy pays a visit, and confesses that he wants to marry her despite her low family connections. Shocked at his arrogant address, she rudely refuses and rebukes him for acting in such an ungentlemanlike manner. She also accuses him of ruining Jane's future happiness, and of betraying Wickham. Shocked that she declined his proposal, Darcy leaves.

The next day, Darcy finds Elizabeth walking, and hands her a letter. After he quickly leaves, she reads it several times. The letter explains many things. First, he defends himself for dissuading Bingley from proposing to Jane. Not only were Jane's family connections low, but she also seemed to show no particular preference for Bingley. He then tells his side of the Wickham story. Before his death, Darcy's father asked Darcy to provide Wickham with a living, provided Wickham enter the clergy. Wickham, however, did not want to enter the clergy, and asked Darcy for 3,000 pounds with which to study law. He agreed he would ask for no more, but he soon squandered that money on a dissolute lifestyle and then asked Darcy for another stipend, promising this time to enter the clergy. When Darcy refused, Wickham seduced Darcy's young sister Georgiana. Before they could elope, Darcy intervened and saved Georgiana's honor.

Elizabeth initially refuses to believe Darcy's claims, but comes to consider the likelihood of truth as she reflects on the events he details. She realizes she was inclined to believe Wickham both because she was prejudiced against Darcy, and because she was flattered by his attention.

Soon afterwards, Elizabeth returns home, stopping to collect Jane on the way. Their mother and sisters are upset because the regiment is soon to leave Meryton for Brighton, depriving them of most of their amusement. Lydia, however, plans to join Colonel Forster and Mrs. Forster in Brighton, at their invitation. Elizabeth advises her father to refuse Lydia's request, believing that her frivolous nature will get her in trouble there. However, Mr. Bennet does not heed Elizabeth's advice.

Soon afterwards, 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 Elizabeth is pleased to learn that Darcy is currently away. During their tour of the estate, the Pemberley housekeeper praises Darcy in a way that impresses Elizabeth. She also thinks constantly about the happiness she would feel at being mistress of this estate.

While in the Pemberley gardens, the travelers suddenly run into Darcy, who has arrived early. Surprisingly, 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 the next day.

The next morning, Darcy and Georgiana visit Elizabeth and the Gardiners at their inn. Bingley soon joins them, and Elizabeth can discern that he still thinks fondly of Jane. Elizabeth and Mrs. Gardiner soon return the courtesy by visiting Pemberley, where Bingley's sisters treat them quite rudely.

One morning, Elizabeth receives a letter from Jane, announcing that Lydia has eloped with Wickham. Worse, the family fears that Wickham does not actually intend to marry her. Jane asks Elizabeth to return home immediately. Right as Elizabeth reads the letter, Darcy arrives at the inn, and she in a flurry tells him what has happened. He feels partially to blame, since he never publicly exposed Wickham's wickedness.

Elizabeth and the Gardiners depart for Longbourn almost immediately. There, a hysterical Mrs. Bennet has locked herself in her room, leaving all household matters to Jane. They learn from Colonel Forster that Wickham has amassed over 1,000 pounds of gambling debts. The next day, Mr. Gardiner leaves for London to join Mr. Bennet, who is already in the city searching for Lydia. After many days of fruitless searches, Mr. Bennet returns home, leaving the search in Mr. Gardiner's hands.

Soon, a letter arrives from Mr. Gardiner announcing 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 visit Longbourn. Lydia is completely shameless, and not the least bit remorseful for her conduct. Nevertheless, Mrs. Bennet is very happy to have one of her daughters married.

Elizabeth hears from Lydia that Darcy was present at the wedding. Curious, she writes for details to Mrs. Gardiner, who explains that it was Darcy who found Lydia and Wickham, and who paid Wickham to marry her. Mrs. Gardiner believes that Darcy did this out of love for Elizabeth.

Bingley and Mr. Darcy soon return to Netherfield Park, and they call at Longbourn frequently. After several days, Bingley proposes to Jane. She accepts, and all are very happy.

In the meantime, Darcy leaves on a short business trip to London. While he is gone, Lady Catherine comes to Longbourn, and repeats a rumor she has heard that Elizabeth is to marry Darcy. She forbids Elizabeth to accept the proposal, but an offended Elizabeth refuses to promise her anything. Lady Catherine leaves in a huff.

After returning from his trip, Darcy one day tells Elizabeth that his affection has not changed. She then reveals that her feelings have changed, and that she would be happy to marry him. They then discuss how and why their sentiments changed since the first 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 so affected by her vanity.

Both couples marry. Elizabeth and Darcy live at 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 elder sisters, and her education and character begin to improve. Mary remains at home to keep 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