Pride and Prejudice (1813) is Jane Austen’s best known and most loved novel. The love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy has never ceased to fascinate. Was Jane Austen’s purpose only to write a love story or has she also incorporated issues which were important to society in the early 19th century?
The first two sentences in the novel are:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.
What does this tell you about the theme of the novel? Do you think Jane Austen is being ironical? In which way?
Read the book Pride and Prejudice - novel and/or watch the film (Pride and Prejudice, 2005). The novel will give you more insight and detail than the film.
Working With the Novel
- Where and about when is the novel set?
- The Longbourn estate is entailed. What does this mean? Who will inherit the estate when Mr Bennet dies?
- What conflicts might the militia be involved in at this time? British History Timeline
- How do we find out about Darcy’s estate of Pemberley? Describe it.
- Who are the main characters? How do the two main characters develop as the story progresses?
- Compare the personalities of the five sisters. What are their strengths and flaws? Is there a heroine among the sisters?
- Mr Bennet is described as being, “so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve and caprice”. Do you think that this is a suitable description? Give examples of these traits in his behaviour in the novel.
- How would you describe the relationship between Mr and Mrs Bennet?
- Compare the different attitudes of Mr and Mrs Bennett to their daughters' future.
- Charles Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy are both upper class gentlemen. Compare their personalities and their attitudes to class differences.
- Who is George Wickham and how would you describe him?
- Who is Mr Collins and what purpose does he have in visiting the Bennets?
- Who is Lady Catharine de Bourgh and what is Mr Collins' attitude toward her. Why do you think he behaves like this? Find out how clergymen attained their position at this time.
- Describe Charlotte Lucas. Why does she choose to marry Mr Collins?
- Describe Elizabeth's aunt and uncle. To what level of society do they belong and what values are important in their social circle?
- Give a brief summary of the plot.
- How does the plot emphasize important issues in Austen's society?
What would you say are the main themes in the novel?
Working With the Film - Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Work with the tasks at the following link:
- Why do you think Jane Austen gave the novel the title Pride and Prejudice? Find examples of pride and prejudice in the novel. Do these examples reflect what we think of as pride and prejudice today? Are these values eternal or do they change over time? Which part does culture play in this context?
- If you watch the film, you will see that the director has made certain choices to signify the characters' personality and position. At Fashions of Jane Austen study how the most important characters are dressed in the pictures. What does their dress code reveal about their personality and social position? If you have only read the novel, how does this agree with your impression of the characters?
- Do you think the story is a true reflection of Jane Austen's times? Give examples.
Pride and Prejudice has been the inspiration for films, e.g. Bride and Prejudice, Lost in Austen and for other novels e.g. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James and Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins. Make an outline for how you would continue the story of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and write the first chapter of your story.
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