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|Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Summary by Michael McGoodwin, prepared 1998
Acknowledgement: This work has been summarized using the Penguin 1996 edition. Quotations are for the most part taken from that work, as are paraphrases of its commentary.
Overall Impression: A masterpiece of social portrayal and highly enjoyable in my adult years, less so as a high schooler.
Notes from the Penguin edition: The novel was published in 1813 but was completed in the 1797 and initially titled First Impressions. It is set primarily in the village of Longbourn 1 mile from Meryton in Hertfordshire in England.
Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist, a witty and outspoken woman, the second of five daughters of Mr. & Mrs. Bennet. Mr. Charles Bingley leases a home, Netherfield Park, nearby. Mrs. Bennet busies herself to get introductions for her daughters. Elizabeth's oldest sister Jane, kind and trusting to a fault, falls in love with Bingley at the public ball. His even wealthier friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, snubs Elizabeth and the other local women at the ball, repelling them by his rudeness, superciliousness, and haughtiness, and this becomes the subject of considerable discussion and contempt. He starts to take an interest in Elizabeth, but she refuses to dance with him.
Jane visits the Bingley's, walking in the rain, and catches a cold. Elizabeth walks over to nurse her, impressing Darcy with her caring nature and intelligence. There is discussion about what it means for a woman to be educated, i.e., accomplished. Elizabeth is viewed disparagingly by Bingley's sisters Mrs. Louisa Bingley Hurst and Miss Caroline Bingley, the latter hoping to fix Bingley up instead with Darcy's sister Georgiana and to pair herself up with Darcy. Elizabeth spars verbally with the Bingleys and Darcy about country people, poetry, friendship, reading, pride, etc.
Mr. William Collins, Mr. Bennet's absurdly self-important cousin, newly-ordained parish rector, and future heir to the Bennet's home through male entailment, pays a visit to find a wife. He brags of his wealthy patron Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who proves to be Darcy's aunt.
In town, they meet Mr. George Wickham, the son of Darcy's father's steward. He impresses Elizabeth and tells a tale of being deprived of a living by Darcy against Darcy's father's intentions [subsequently found to be a misrepresentation]. Darcy is pained to see Wickham.
At the ball at Netherfield, Collins appears to be courting Elizabeth. Collins dances badly, then has the audacity to introduce himself to Darcy, despite Elizabeth's warning as to such impropriety. Eliz. and Darcy are cool to each other.
Collins proposes to marry Elizabeth, but she refuses-- he cannot believe her no really means no, thinking this is the "usual practice of elegant females". Her mother is upset but her father is relieved that E. has declined.
Bingley and his entourage suddenly move to London without a word to Jane. Mr. Collins shortly proposes marriage to Elizabeth's friend and neighbor Charlotte Lucas, who accepts-- the marriage takes place soon thereafter.
Jane is invited to visit Mrs. Bennet's brother, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Gardiner, in London. There she is seemingly neglected by Bingley [who is kept unaware of her presence by Caroline and Darcy].
Eliz. travels with the Lucases (Sir William and Lady) and their second daughter Maria to visit first Eliz's sister in London and then on to the Collins at Hunsford. They dine with Lady Catherine at her estate Rosings along with her sickly daughter Miss [Anne?] de Bourgh [who is planned for Darcy by her mother]. Eliz. balks at the intrusive questioning by the assertive and self-important Lady Catherine. Darcy & his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam arrive for a visit at Rosings. Eliz. continues to spar with Darcy and discusses her negative thoughts about him with Fitzwilliam.
Darcy visits frequently at the parsonage and Charlotte wonders if he has fallen in love with Elizabeth, but they still are cool to each other. Eliz. learns from Fitzwilliam that Darcy caused Bingley to stop pursuing Jane.
Darcy appears and declares his love for Eizabeth, having struggled futilely against his feelings of her inferiority & revulsion at her mother, sisters, and general lack of superior connections. Eliz. spurns him, prejudiced against him for blaming him for the breaking up Jane's relationship with Bingley, and condemning his pride and haughtiness as well as his apparent injustice to Wichkam. Later, Darcy sends Eliz. a letter explaining that he thought Jane was indifferent to Bingley and explains that Wickham has been deceptive in his claims, citing his attempt to elope with Darcy's 15 y/o sister for her money, his life of dissipation and idleness, and his turning down a living within the church, leading to a final monetary settlement with Darcy etc. Eliz. feels humiliated and understands much better. Soon, they all depart Hunsford.
Mary is the somber and moralistic 3rd Bennet dtr. Eliz.'s fourth sister Kitty (Catherine) and youngest sister Lydia are enamored with the militia quartered nearby. The militia moves to Brighton and Lydia, though only 15, arranges to travel with Colonel Forster and his wife Harriet, to be near the militia, despite Elizabeth's unsuccessful effort to persuade her father to stop Lydia. Eliz. feels much disappointment in her parents.
The Gardiners take Eliz. on a tour, originally intending to go to the Lake country, but deciding instead to got no farther than Derbyshire-- there they decide to visit Darcy's estate Pemberley near Lambton. She finds Darcy well spoken of by his servants and is soon embarrassed to encounter him unexpectedly-- he treats them all with great hospitality. He introduces her to his shy sister Georgiana. Miss Bingley again does all she can to dissuade Darcy from favoring Elizabeth.
Eliz. learns in a letter that the irresponsible Lydia has run off with Wickham. She urgently returns home to Longbourne. After a long painful period of uncertainty and general humiliation, the family learns from Mr. Gardiner that they have been located and that Wickham has agreed to marry her for a small monetary consideration. The wayward couple arrive for a cheerful visit, oblivious to the pain they have caused the family. Eliz. learns that Darcy attended their wedding and soon it becomes apparent that Darcy in fact found the couple and has bribed Wickham to marry Lydia to prevent shame to the family and preserve her respectability.
Bingley and Darcy arrive to visit the Bennets. Bingley warms back up to Jane and eventually proposes marriage, bringing new joy to the household. Lady Catherine arrives to demand that Eliz. renounce any intentions on Darcy, insisting he is de facto engaged to her daughter, but she holds her ground against this intimidation. Her father also receives a letter from Collins advising against Eliz. marriage to Darcy. At last, Darcy and Eliz. express their mutual love along with profuse apologies to eqach other for past misunderstandings. He asks for her hand, and the opinion about Darcy in the Bennet household improves remarkably. The kin are notified. Jane and Bingley marry and move thirty miles away. The marriage of Wickham and Lydia begins to cool. Lady Catherine and Miss Bingley reconcile with Elizabeth to some extent. She becomes mistress of Pemberley and becomes good friends with Georgiana.