The Summary of Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen’s much loved novel Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813 at a time when family relationships in Britain were governed by rather rigid societal rules. Male and female roles were very clearly defined, and in the more wealthy families in particular, great effort was spent on maintaining moral respectability and financial security. This essay examines the various ways that Jane Austen depicts the related topics of love and marriage in the novel. It explores both the pressures upon different characters to behave in certain traditional ways, and the choices which are open to them, and explains how the author cleverly steers the reader towards an understanding of love and marriage which challenges some of the prejudices of her time.
Neither Lydia nor Elizabeth really conform to the expectations of the society that they live in. They are both different to the mould of average women of the setting, but in their own ways. Lydia is less discreet than her elder sister and certainly makes a name for herself with her flirtatious and attention seeking tendencies. She is only fifteen years of age and many people scorn her for socialising with men, attending balls and such like. Lady Catherine De Bourgh is a prime example of this and tells Elizabeth that it is ‘very odd’ Lydia being out at only fifteen years of age. Another far more scandalous way in which Lydia does not conform to the values of her society is her elopement with Wickham. She runs away with him to London without a single care for her family or the disgrace it might bring to their name. She believes all that he tells her unquestionably and is certainly very niaive. She is ignorant with regard to her family’s feelings and her actions outrage her father and cause her mother to be ‘taken ill immediately’. It places their home in ‘such confusion’ and forces Mr Darcy to pay out a substantial sum of money to the penniless Wickham. Lydia’s behaviour was not the norm and Elizabeth tells how her ‘conduct has been such as neither you, nor I, nor anybody can ever forget’ which implies that the elopement has tarnished the Bennett name lastingly. At the time the novel was written, women were expected to become ‘accomplished’ in things such as art, music and reading. Elizabeth is suitably talented at playing the piano and ‘has a good notion of fingering’ and Darcy tells how ‘no one admitted to the privilege of hearing’ her ‘can think of anything wanting.’ She is also ‘a great reader’ and so all in all is quite an accomplished girl. Lydia though does not, as far as I can tell, show much talent or interest in the areas of music and arts. She seems rather preoccupied with the soldiers in neighbouring Meryton, clothes, balls and gossip. Although Elizabeth is generally well liked and highly thought of, she does not completely live up to expectations in her society. As I have discussed previously she doesn’t, like most girls of the time, consider money an important enough reason to marry and hence refuses two marriage proposals. In this period, women were considered second class citizens in society, as equality had not yet been established between the sexes. This makes Elizabeth an even more remarkable character as she is by no means intimidated by Mr Darcy and is intelligent and assured enough to tease and mock him, questioning his actions and picking him up on his past wrongs. Her disposition is so confident that she has enough conviction to stand up for herself and express her views cleverly regardless of the company she is keeping. This is demonstrated when she stands her ground when confronted by Lady Catherine De Bourgh, telling her in no uncertain terms that her prospective marriage to Mr Darcy is none of her business. In the period that the novel was written, this would not have been considered acceptable conduct as Lady Catherine is of much higher social status than Elizabeth. Lady De Bourgh explains how she has ‘not been accustomed to language as this’ and goes on to ask Elizabeth – ‘do you know who I am?’
Even though the personages of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy create the most exciting line of the story, the other characters contribute to the humorous narrative. Thus, Mrs. Bennet is shown as a woman whose primary goal of life is to marry her daughters to wealthy men, even if it happens against their will. She says: “If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield, and all the others equally well-married, I shall have nothing to wish for” (Austen 2017, 9). Also, sometimes, she can behave in an indelicate way that creates comic situations and makes her eldest daughters Elizabeth and Jane blush. Another personage that is worth to pay attention to is the youngest daughter of Bennet, Lydia. She is shown as a silly little girl who tends to do foolish actions without taking responsibility for that. Even though the Bennets cannot serve as the best example of a well-mannered family of the Regency era, these characters help the author to use humor as the primary artistic means of the narrative. The main idea of the novel conveyed by the author is the importance of being unbiased and modest. Also, Jane Austen unfolds the concepts of marriage, true love, and the role of fortune in people’s lives (Wan 2019, 349). It does not matter how many years have passed since the first publication of the novel because these ideas remain significant for people, even nowadays, in the modern world. The novel Pride and Prejudice can be recommended to read for both youth and adults because it raises topical questions for people of all generations. It narrates love, morals, family relationships, and the social status of people. Moreover, it is especially interesting to read nowadays, because it tells the story about traditions, entertainments, and way of life of people who lived two hundred years ago. Therefore, the novel can serve as an excellent educational tool that not only entertains readers but also provides historical information. In my point of view, the author skillfully shows the influence of the social environment on people’s personalities in her novel. The story teaches readers to always stay true to themselves. For instance, even though society encourages women to marry wealthy men, the character of Elizabeth shows that one can still act in accordance with his or her opinion.
In the long run, this diversion is not detrimental to the story. Yes, it is evident that several changes have been made from the original text. Some subplots have been grouped together, significant exchanges taken to unusual locales, new scenes incorporated and others taken away completely. The filmmakers also changed the overall thematic emphasis of the story. However, the movie is persuasive, witty, powerful, and entertaining that makes it to be far superior to the novel.
Austen, Jane. 2017. Pride and Prejudiced. Seattle: Amazon Classics.
Awan, Abdul, and Ambreen Ali Nasir. 2018. “Matrimonial Issues and Marxist Approach in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.” Global Journal of Management, Social Sciences and Humanities 673 (4): 651-676.
Wan, Yongkun. 2019. “Study on Jane Austin’s Original Views toward Marriage in Pride and Prejudice.” Paper presented at the 9th International Conference on Education and Social Science, Yunnan Province, China, Francis Academic Press, 349-351.
Wilhelm, Julia. 2014. The Austen Formula: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century. Hamburg: Anchor Academic Publishing.