PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Jane Austen

 In this enchanting story of love, marriage, and mutual understanding, few readers have failed to be charmed by the witty and independent spirit of Elizabeth Bennet. Her early determination to dislike Mr. Darcy—who is quite the most handsome and eligible bachelor in the whole of English literature—is a misjudgment only matched in folly by Darcy’s arrogant pride. In Pride and Prejudice, first impressions give way to truer feelings in a comedy profoundly concerned with happiness and how it might be achieved.

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 In this enchanting story of love, marriage, and mutual understanding, few readers have failed to be charmed by the witty and independent spirit of Elizabeth Bennet. Her early determination to dislike Mr. Darcy—who is quite the most handsome and eligible bachelor in the whole of English literature—is a misjudgment only matched in folly by Darcy’s arrogant pride. In Pride and Prejudice, first impressions give way to truer feelings in a comedy profoundly concerned with happiness and how it might be achieved.

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  • Penguin Classics
  • Paperback
  • 2002
  • 480 Pages
  • 9780141439518

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About Jane Austen

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, at Steventon near Basingstoke, the seventh child of the rector of the parish. As a girl Jane Austen wrote stories, including burlesques of popular romances. Her works were only published after much revision, four novels being published in her lifetime. These are Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816). Persuasion was written in a race against failing health in 1815-16. Jane Austen died on July 18, 1817. At the time of her death, she was working on a new novel, Sanditon, a fragmentary draft of which survives. She also left two earlier compositions, a short epistolary novel, Lady Susan, and an unfinished novel, The Watsons. Two other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously in 1818 with a biographical notice by her brother, Henry Austen, the first formal announcement of her authorship.

Discussion Questions

Charlotte Brontë did not appreciate Pride and Prejudice. She felt that Jane Austen didn’t write about her characters’ hearts. Do you think Brontë’s criticism is accurate? Is Austen’s treatment of her characters’ feelings superficial? Do they feel and/or express deep emotion?

An earlier version of 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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

Editor Tony Tanner points out in the Notes to the Penguin Classics edition that Austen did not mention topical events nor use precise descriptions of actual places in Pride and Prejudice, so that the larger historical events of the time did not detract attention from the private drama of her characters. “This perhaps contributes to the element of timelessness in the novel,” he concludes, “even though it unmistakably reflects a certain kind of society at a certain historical moment.” In what ways are the themes and concerns of Pride and Prejudice timeless? In what ways are they particular to the times in which Austen wrote the book?