Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Synopsis of Pride and Prejudice

'Vanity, not love, has been my follyí

When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.

About the Book

Pride and Prejudice was first published in January 1813. It is the most famous of Jane Austenís novels and is considered one of the first romantic comedies. It was originally titled First Impressions and was Austenís second published novel, after Sense and Sensibility.

Austen uses free indirect speech as a narrative technique in Pride and Prejudice Ė where the narrative adopts the tone of a particular character. In this novel, the novel is written from Elizabeth Bennetís viewpoint.

Pride and Prejudice first appeared in French in 1813 and went on to be published in German, Danish, and Swedish. It was first published in the US in 1832. The novel was favourably reviewed and is now one of the best loved books of English literature.

Short Biography of Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born December 16 1775 in Hampshire, England as the seventh child in her family. Educated mainly at home, her supportive family enabled Austen to develop as a writer. She began writing stories in early childhood and began her first novel at 21 called First Impressions (later re-named Pride and Prejudice). As an English writer, she brought a realism and social commentary to her works that now makes her one of the most widely-read authors of English literature.

Although Pride and Prejudice was Austenís first novel Sense and Sensibility was published before it in 1811. Many of her novels were published anonymously and her identity as an author was only made public after her death. From 1813 onwards, Austen had declining health and passed away in 1817 and was buried in Winchester Cathedral. Her last work, Sandition was left unfinished at her death. Two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were posthumously published in 1818.

Other Works

Into the Movies

Pride and Prejudice has been adapted to the screen several times. The most well-known are the 1940 version starring Laurence Olivier and, most recently, the 2005 version starring Keira Knightly. Various stage versions of Pride and Prejudice have also been produced.

Reading Guide

  1. Charlotte BrontŽ did not appreciate Pride and Prejudice. She felt that Jane Austen didn't write about her characters' hearts. Do you think BrontŽ's criticism is accurate? Is Austen's treatment of her characters' feelings superficial? Do they feel and/or express deep emotion?
  2. An earlier version of Pride and Prejudice was entitled First Impressions. What role do first impressions play in the story? In which cases do first impressions turn out to be inaccurate, in which cases correct?
  3. After Jane becomes engaged to Bingley, she says she wishes Elizabeth could be as happy as she is. Elizabeth replies, "If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness." Do you think Elizabeth's statement is true? Is it better to be good, to think the best of people, and be happy? Or is it better to see the world accurately, and feel less happiness?
  4. Mr. Bennet's honesty and wry humor make him one of the most appealing characters in the book. Yet, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that he has failed as a father. In what ways does Mr. Bennet let his children down? How does his action, or inaction, affect the behavior of his daughters? His wife? The course of the story?
  5. Charlotte doesn't marry Mr. Collins for love. Why does she marry him? Are her reasons valid? Are they fair to Mr. Collins? Do you think marrying for similar reasons is appropriate today?
  6. Both Elizabeth and Darcy undergo transformations over the course of the book. How does each change and how is the transformation brought about? Could Elizabeth's transformation have happened without Darcy's? Or vice versa?
  7. Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh are famously comic characters. What makes them so funny? How does Elizabeth's perception of them affect your trust in Elizabeth's views of other people in the book, particularly of Wickham and Darcy?
  8. For most of the book, pride prevents Darcy from having what he most desires. Why is he so proud? How is his pride displayed? Is Elizabeth proud? Which characters are not proud? Are they better off?