The novel Pride and Prejudice was anonymously published by Jane Austen, in 1813. It is an example of a “novel of manners” which presents a realistic picture of the then society through the customs and manners of everyday life. By depicting complex relationships between landowners and tradesmen, those with old money and the nouveaux riche, and men and women, Pride and Prejudice offers a glimpse into the social structures of early 19th-century England.
Set in the English countryside in a county roughly thirty miles from London, the novel opens with the Bennet family in Longbourn and their five unmarried daughters. The family itself is not nearly as rich as those they interact with and because they have no sons, the property is entailed to pass to a male heir, in this case Mr. Collins. Mrs. Bennet is intent on seeing her daughters married off to wealthy men and when Charles Bingley arrives at nearby Netherfield Park she is excited by the prospect of introducing her daughters to him. She immediately sends her husband to visit him on the first day he arrives.
When he next arrives, Bingley brings with him Mr. Darcy and his two sisters, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst. Bingley is immediately attracted to Jane Bennet, the oldest of the five sisters. Darcy, unlike the social apt Bingley, is proud and rude, immediately insulting Elizabeth Bennet when someone suggests he asks her to dance, insulting her appearance. Later, at the next dance after witnessing the sharpness of her mind, Darcy displays an attraction to Elizabeth at a second ball, but she refuses him because of how the insults he heaped upon her before.
Jane and Bingley however only become closer and when Jane becomes ill on a visit to Netherfield, she stays there for a few days, asking Elizabeth to join her and help care for her. During her stay, Elizabeth is forced to confront Darcy again and again and while she is still disinterested in him, he begins to fall for her wit and frank approach to conversation, being so used to pretty words from other women. Elizabeth quickly realizes that Miss Bingley largely dislikes the Bennet family and that she only pretends to be friends with Jane.
Soon after, Bingley, his sisters, and Darcy depart for London, announcing to Jane that they have no intentions of returning to Netherfield anytime soon and that Bingley will likely marry another woman, Miss Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s sister. Meanwhile, Elizabeth meets Mr. Wickham who she immediately is drawn towards. He tells her falsehoods about his relationship with Mr. Darcy, that he was cheated out of a piece of inheritance from Darcy’s father. However, Wickham soon takes up with another woman who he plans to marry and Elizabeth, after the careful warnings of her family leaves him be.
Jane goes to stay in London after the Gardiners, her aunt and uncle, arrive and offer their residence for her upon hearing of her plight with Bingley. She tries repeatedly to see him but is rebuked by Miss Bingley from even letting Bingley know she is in London and she slowly begins to accept the rejection.
Elizabeth goes to visit Mr. Collins and her friend Charlotte, recently married and there runs into Darcy again. He proposes marriage to her, but she flatly refuses, citing his treatment of Jane and Wickham. He however, gives her a letter explaining that Wickham had lied and that Jane had seemed largely disinterested by Bingley so he warned against the match. Elizabeth begins to believe him, but he has already left for London again. She returns home afterwards to find that her sister Lydia has been invited to Brighton to stay with a Colonel and the moving army regiment, which she advises her father against allowing. She however, leaves anyways.
After a planned vacation to the lake country is cut short, Elizabeth spends a summer vacation with the Gardiners in Pemberley instead where she once again runs into Darcy. She also meets his sister who is quite nice and finds that Darcy himself is much more agreeable than before. Most of the bad traits she had disliked before seem to have vanished.
She is however called back home quickly when it is revealed that Lydia has run off with Wickham. She returns home while her father and Mr. Gardiner search for the two in London. It’s revealed that Darcy actually finds them eventually and helps to pay the dowry for Wickham to take Lydia in marriage, an act that impresses Elizabeth greatly.
Bingley reappears in Netherfield Park for a short while and resumes courting Jane, while Lady de Bourgh arrives and acts rudely towards the Bennet family, warning Elizabeth against marrying Darcy, as her daughter is supposed to marry him. A few days later Darcy returns himself and reproposes to Elizabeth to which she now accepts. Jane and Bingley are also engaged shortly before Elizabeth’s engagement.
The two are married on the same day and Mrs. Bennet is ecstatic. Bingley and Jane move to Derbyshire after a year and Elizabeth and Darcy live together in Pemberley with often visits from many of her friends. The novel ends with everyone trying to get along after so many insults and poor relations.