Pride and Prejudice Book Summary - Pride and Prejudice Book explained in key points
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Pride and Prejudice summary

Jane Austen

A Timeless Tale Where Love Conquers Societal Norms

4 (107 ratings)
18 mins
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    Pride and Prejudice
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    Prejudice, meet Pride

    Moby Dick has “Call me Ishmael.” Anna Karenina has “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” And, like those other two classics, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice opens with a similarly iconic first sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

    What exactly is the appeal of this opening? Well, to start, it’s firmly tongue in cheek. In the Regency era – a period that characterized early nineteenth-century England – wealthy men had a pretty good time, whether they were single or married. For women, it was a different story. There was huge societal pressure to marry, and the laws of inheritance at the time meant that even if a woman came from a wealthy background, her financial stability was often only secured through marriage. 

    So while single men in possession of good fortunes weren’t desperately in search of wives, their prospective wives were certainly in want of well-off husbands. With this satirical opening, Austen wittily establishes the tone for her novel, in which she pokes fun at the era’s high-stakes approach to matchmaking yet stays keenly attuned to the serious consequences that marriage had for women of the time. 

    One person who is convinced that single, wealthy men must be in want of wives? The high-strung and overexcitable Mrs. Bennet. She lives at the family home of Longbourn with her husband, the sarcastic Mr. Bennet, and her five daughters ranging in age from 15 to 22 – every one of whom she wants to marry off. They are the beautiful and sweet-tempered Jane, witty and headstrong Elizabeth, bookish Mary, and silly younger sisters Kitty and Lydia. And while Mrs. Bennet is presented as shallow and meddling, there is some urgency to her desire to see her daughters married off, and it has to do with the legal concept of entailment. 

    Entailment was a common practice among landowning, upper-class British families whereby an estate would remain in the family lineage – the male lineage, that is. Since Mr. Bennet doesn’t have any sons, Longbourn has been entailed to his nearest male relative, Mr. Collins, who will inherit the property upon Bennet’s death. And if that happens, Bennet’s wife and daughters will need to depend on Collins’s goodwill for their livelihood – legally, it’s possible for them to be thrown out with no inheritance or home. No wonder there’s pressure for the Bennet daughters to marry well!

    Luckily, a fresh marriageable prospect has just arrived on the horizon. News has spread through the countryside just outside the town of Meryton, where the Bennets live, that a wealthy bachelor named Mr. Bingley has just rented the nearby estate of Netherfield Park. Mrs. Bennet fixates on him as a potential suitor for one of the girls. She soon starts scheming. Which of her daughters should Bingley fall in love with? And how? The first question is answered with relative ease – Bingley pays a visit to the Bennets, and it’s immediately clear that he’s taken with the demure and graceful eldest sister, Jane. As for how the pair will begin their courtship, an opportunity soon arises: a ball is being held in a week’s time, and Mr. Bingley is planning to attend.

    The night of the ball arrives, and Bingley is accompanied by an entourage from London. Among them are his two sisters, Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, and his friend, one Fitzwilliam Darcy. Word quickly spreads that Darcy has a fortune of ten thousand pounds a year – twice that of Bingley’s! 

    Soon, Darcy is deemed the evening’s most eligible bachelor. Austen writes, “The ladies declared that he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley and he was looked at with great admiration.” It soon becomes apparent, though, that unlike the amiable Bingley, Darcy considers this rural ball beneath him. He is arrogant, dismissive, and declines to dance with anyone other than Bingley’s sisters. At this point, the tide of opinion turns, says Austen, and “not all his large estate in Derbyshire could save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance.” 

    He is particularly dismissive of one person: Elizabeth Bennet. Lizzy happens to overhear a conversation between the two men in which Bingley urges Darcy to dance with one of the local girls, and suggests that Elizabeth would make a “very agreeable” partner. Darcy is withering: “She is tolerable,” he says, “but not handsome enough to tempt me.” Darcy has already cemented his reputation for being disagreeably proud. Now, Elizabeth’s prejudice against him is formed.

    While Elizabeth wants nothing to do with Darcy, Jane is smitten by Bingley and accepts an invitation to stay at Netherfield Park. While there, she falls ill – and is obliged to stay longer to recover. Elizabeth visits to nurse her sister back to health and, during her stay, notices how Caroline Bingley flirts with Darcy. Although he doesn’t reciprocate, Lizzy’s dislike of Darcy intensifies; at the same time, he finds himself growing intrigued by her fine eyes and spirited wit. Bingley’s affections for Jane are blossoming, too, but his sisters disapprove of the potential match given the Bennet family’s comparatively lower social status.

    Meanwhile, the local militia regiment arrives in town. Bookish Mary is unmoved by the arrival of the soldiers, but Kitty and Lydia are delighted – and are especially taken with handsome officer George Wickham. When Elizabeth encounters Wickham, he volunteers the tale of how the cruel Darcy had denied him a parish living promised by Darcy's late father. Elizabeth, predisposed against Darcy, is hardly surprised to hear this, and her dislike of Darcy grows into something akin to disgust. 

    ANALYSIS

    The “marriage plot” is a literary term for a category of novels that revolve around the machinations of marriage – and in the time that Jane Austen was writing, as we’ve discussed, marriage was serious business. Whether Jane and Bingley or Lizzy and Darcy end up together at the end of the novel has implications way beyond “happily ever after” for the Bennet women. 

    Like many of her contemporary novelists, Austen centered her romantic tales around a female protagonist navigating respectable options for financial security and social validity. Marriage served as practically the only available path beyond staying at the parental home for genteel women. Interestingly, in her life Austen subverted the conventions of the marriage plots she so skillfully penned – she never married and, highly unusually for a woman of that time, supported herself through her work.

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    What is Pride and Prejudice about?

    Pride and Prejudice (1813) is the classic story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, a couple who must overcome all manner of social and financial obstacles – including their own initial dislike of each other – to find lasting love.

    Pride and Prejudice Review

    Pride and Prejudice (1813) is a timeless classic by Jane Austen that explores societal norms and the complexities of love. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • Featuring strong-willed characters like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, it offers a vivid portrayal of social dynamics and relationships.
    • The humorous and witty dialogue adds charm and wit, keeping readers entertained and engaged.
    • Through themes of pride, prejudice, and romantic misunderstandings, the novel remains relevant and compelling, resonating with readers of all generations.

    Who should read Pride and Prejudice?

    • True romantics seeking an all-time classic love story
    • History buffs curious about class life in Regency-era England
    • Lovers of classic literature and period dramas

    About the Author

    Jane Austen (1775–1817) was an English author who wrote the classic novels Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. She perceptively captured the manners of Regency-era England through stories exploring love, class, and social mores.

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    Pride and Prejudice FAQs 

    What is the main message of Pride and Prejudice?

    The main message of Pride and Prejudice is about love, society, and personal growth.

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    Reading time for Pride and Prejudice varies. The Blinkist summary can be read in a fraction of the time.

    Is Pride and Prejudice a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Pride and Prejudice is worth a read for its timeless story and insightful commentary on society.

    Who is the author of Pride and Prejudice?

    The author of Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen.

    What to read after Pride and Prejudice?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Pride and Prejudice, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Silas Marner by George Eliot
    • The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
    • Possible by William Ury
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