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Chapter 1: The Bennets¡¯ new neighbor
Rich, young, single man, Mr. Bingley moves next to the Bennets¡¯. Mrs. Bennet is very excited and is sure that he is going to marry one of his five daughters. In fact, Mr. Bingley and Jane, the first daughter, are interested in each other. Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley¡¯s friend, gets interested in Elizabeth although he thought that she was only an unfashionable village girl at first.
Chapter 2: Jane¡¯s illness
Kitty and Lydia get very interested in the regiment that arrives in Meryton where their Aunt lives. Jane goes to visit the Bingley¡¯s and becomes ill while going there because of the rain. Elizabeth comes to see how Jane¡¯s doing and stays with her for a few days. Mr. Bingley¡¯s sisters mock the Bennet family. Jane and Elizabeth go back home a few days later.
Chapter 3: Mr. Collins visits Longbourn
Mr. Collins, who is to inherit everything when Mr. Bennet dies because of legal reasons, comes to visit the Bennets to do something about the inheritance problem. Mr. Collins thought that he was being very generous to the family. And he is thinking of marrying one of the Bennet girls to make amends to them.
Chapter 4: Elizabeth meets Mr. Wickham
All the Bennet girls except Mary go to Meryton and meet a man named Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth and Mr. Wickham talk about Darcy and Wickham tells Elizabeth about how terrible a man Darcy is. Bingley is giving a ball at his house and the whole Bennet family goes. Elizabeth is embarrassed by her family¡¯s behavior at the ball.
Chapter 5: Mr. Collins proposes marriage
Mr. Collins asks Elizabeth to marry him but she refuses. Her mother is very mad about it but her father is glad that she decided not to marry him. Jane receives a letter from Caroline Bingley that their whole family is moving to London for the winter. And she also tells Jane that her brother is probably going to marry Mr. Darcy¡¯s sister and Jane gets very depressed. Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins get engaged.
Chapter 6: Elizabeth visits Mr. And Mrs. Collins
Mrs. Bennet¡¯s brother and his wife Mr. And Mrs. Gardiner come to visit the Bennets¡¯ for Christmas. Several days later they return to London and take Jane with them for her to get some fresh air. Mr. Collins and Charlotte get married soon after this and they leave for Hunsford.
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Chapter 7: Darcy proposes marriage
The next morning when Elizabeth is alone, Darcy walks in. They don¡¯t talk much until Charlotte and her sister come back. After Darcy leaves, Charlotte tells Elizabeth that she thinks he¡¯s in love with her but Elizabeth laughs about it. Once walking in the park, Elizabeth meets Fitzwilliam, and they speak of Darcy. Fitzwilliam tells her that recently Darcy has saved a friend from an unwise marriage, and he suspects this friend to be Bingley. Elizabeth is furious with Darcy for ruining her sister¡¯s life. Later Darcy comes to see her because she is sick and he declares his love for Elizabeth. Darcy speaks a good deal about his pride and makes Jane feel she is socially inferior to him. Elizabeth, furious over his superior attitude, spares no words in refusing him. She accuses Darcy of separating Jane and Bingley, of treating Wickham horribly, and of acting in an arrogant manner. Darcy accepts these accusations without apology.
Chapter 8: Elizabeth learns more about Darcy and Wickham
The next morning Elizabeth is walking by the park gates when Darcy confronts her, thrusts a letter in her hand and leaves. In the letter, Darcy admits that he persuaded Bingley to give up Jane. In regard to Wickham, Darcy tells Elizabeth a whole different story from Wickham, and a story which made more sense that that of Wickham¡¯s. Darcy ends the letter by asserting the veracity of his statements, which Colonel Fitzwilliam can certify. At first, Elizabeth finds the contents of Darcy¡¯s letter incredulous, but soon she realizes Wickham¡¯s story doesn¡¯t quite make sense. Elizabeth is very ashamed of herself after reading this letter. Darcy and Fitzwilliam leave Rosings the next day. Elizabeth and Maria go to London and return to Longbourn with Jane. Lydia and Kitty want to go Brighton for the summer, because the officers have moved to Brighton. Elizabeth tells Jane about Darcy¡¯s proposal and her rejection of it. Elizabeth also tells about Darcy¡¯s letter and explains about Wickham. Elizabeth does not tell Jane of Darcy¡¯s influencing Bingley against her, for she knows her sister still has a tender love for Bingley.
Chapter 9: Elizabeth in Derbyshire
Lydia goes to Brighton with Mrs. Foster. On the regiment¡¯s last day in Meryton, Wickham and some other officers dine at Longbourn. Elizabeth tells Wickham that she has visited with Darcy and Fitzwilliam, which seem to alarm Wickham. Lydia goes to Brighton with Mrs. Forster. Elizabeth goes on a trip to Derbyshire with the Gardiner¡¯s. Elizabeth is persuaded by her aunt and uncle to visit Pemberley, Mr. Darcy¡¯s. The housekeeper shows them around the house and they are interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Darcy. Darcy is very polite to Elizabeth and the Gardiner¡¯s are sure that he is in love with her. Darcy introduces his sister Georgiana to Elizabeth the next day and she seems like a very nice person unlike what Wickham said.
Chapter 10: Lydia and Wickham
Elizabeth receives a letter from Jane saying that Lydia and Wickham have eloped together. Elizabeth is very shocked by the news and when Darcy comes in she bursts out in tears and tells him the whole story and Elizabeth and the Gardeners¡¯ return to Longbourn. Her father and uncle go to London to find them A few days later they find them and Wickham agrees to marry Lydia if his debts are paid. Gardiner pays the debt and they get married. They come to Longbourn after the wedding and Elizabeth finds out that Darcy was at the wedding ceremony. She writes to her aunt to ask her about it.
Chapter 11: Bingley returns to Netherfield
When she responds to Elizabeth¡¯s letter, she informs Elizabeth that Darcy had found Lydia and bribed Wickham to marry her. Darcy then made Mr. Gardiner promise that he would conceal this information and take the credit for having paid Wickham. Elizabeth is overwhelmed by Darcy¡¯s kindness and finds it hard to believe that he has done all this. Elizabeth is both happy and sad by the news. Bingley and Darcy come to Netherfield and the whole Bennets are very excited. Darcy and Elizabeth don¡¯t get to talk much and Darcy doesn¡¯t seem that interested in Elizabeth anymore. Mr. Bingley and Jane get engaged at last.
Chapter 12: Elizabeth and Darcy
Lady Catherine comes charging in at Longbourn and asks Elizabeth if the engagement betweens her and Darcy was true. She bitterly derides the lack of class of the Bennets and speaks about Lydia¡¯s elopement. The self-assured Elizabeth unflinchingly argues that there is no reason why Darcy or she should not make his or her own choice about marriage. A letter arrives from Mr. Collins congratulating Mr. Bennet on Jane¡¯s marriage and also hinting at the rumors that are floating in and out of Hertfordshire that Darcy and Elizabeth are soon to be engaged. Mr. Bennet reads the letter to Elizabeth and voices his thorough amusement, for he believes that Darcy has no interest in his daughter. Darcy returns from London and visits Longbourn. And Elizabeth thanks him for his kind intervention in Lydia¡¯s affair. Darcy then proposes to Elizabeth again. This time Elizabeth happily accepts his proposal. Jane and Bingley decide to live in Derbyshire, rather than Netherfield. Kitty spends time a lot of time with her two oldest sisters and their husbands. Mary is content to sit at home. Elizabeth and Georgiana get along very well. Wickham and Lydia are incorrigible; they beg Elizabeth and Jane for favors, and they help him every once in awhile. Elizabeth and Darcy are on very intimate terms with the Gardeners. Both of them are fond of the couple that was accidentally instrumental in uniting them.
Pride and Prejudice has a symmetrical plot in which the action rises and falls as an ocean waves as the story follows. Besides Elizabeth, many of other characters are drawn very well. Jane Austen had begun this novel in 1796, but it was done and published after Austen¡¯s Sense and Sensibility appeared in 1811. Before it was published, its title was First Impression. The title Pride and Prejudice indicates the major conflict involving the kinds of pride and prejudice that prevents Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane, and Bingley from their marriages, but cause the marriages of Lucas and Collins and Lydia and Wickham.
In this novel, individual conflicts are caused and dismissed within a limited society, in which relationships are determined by money and social rank. The opening sentence of Mrs. Bennet establishes a great deal on the societal values that underlie the main conflict. ¡°It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.¡± Mrs. Bennet is well fit into society¡¯s edicts and Bingley is regarded only in the light of society¡¯s truth.
As the main character, Elizabeth is like her father in her scorn of society¡¯s conventional judgments, but challenges the concept of individual merit independent of wealth and rank. Indeed, she is prejudiced against the prejudiced society. In this assumption, she offends Darcy¡¯s pride in the thought that it comes from his good fortune. She prides herself on her discriminating judgment, but actually, it is Darcy who warns her against prejudiced conclusions. Therefore, she could judge with true discrimination both individual merit and the orders of the society she rejected only when she begins to move into Darcy¡¯s world.
However, more important than the ironic reversals is the growing revelation of Elizabeth¡¯s unconscious commitment to society. It is very revealing when her sister Lydia runs off with Wickham, she instinctively pronounces the judgment of society when she states that he would never marry a woman without wealth. Almost unconsciously Elizabeth acknowledges a connection between wealth and human values when she first looks upon Darcy¡¯s estate, Pemberley.
Elizabeth¡¯s discoveries of the well-ordered Pemberley and Darcy¡¯s wise generosity to Lydia and Wickham lead her to differentiate between Charlotte¡¯s theory and Darcy¡¯s position that the intelligent does not indulge in false pride. Darcy¡¯s pride is real but it is regulated by responsibility. He disapproves less of the Bennets¡¯ undistinguished family and fortune than he does of the lack of propriety displayed by most of the family.
By the end of the novel, the core of her conflict appears in the contrast between her father and Darcy. They face up the situations in different methods of dealing with society¡¯s restraints. Mr. Bennet consulted only his personal desires and made a disastrous marriage. But in contrast, Darcy defies society only when he has made certain that Elizabeth is a woman worthy of his love and lifetime devotion.
When Elizabeth confronts Lady Catherine, her words are of the selective freedom which is her compromise, and very similar to Darcy¡¯s. If she dares with impunity to defy the society around her, she does only because Darcy is exactly the man for her. Her marriage to Darcy can be considered as a triumph of the individual over society. But Elizabeth achieves most of her pride and prejudice only after she has accepted the full social value of her judgment that to be a mistress of Pemberley might be something.
Allowing the forces of the snobbery, the exploitation, the inhumanity of all the evils which diminish the human mind and which are inherent in a materialistic society, the novel clearly confirms the cynical truth of the opening sentence. Pride and Prejudice, like its title, offers falsely simple antitheses, which surrender the complexity of life itself.