Pride and Prejudice Crash Course - Part 3: Plot and Themes
August 16, 2020
The novel opens with the iconic phrase, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
In simpler, modern day paraphrasing, this means that a single man with heaps of money must be looking for a wife.
This is narrated by Elizabeth Bennet, and she is using sarcasm in saying this, as she is making fun of the way the world works in her time.
We learn from Mrs Bennet that a wealthy, young gentleman, Mr Bingley, has just moved into a large estate in Longbourn, which is where the Bennets live.
Mr Bennet pays a visit to Mr Bingley to welcome him to the neighbourhood, and is then invited, along with his family, to attend a ball that Bingley is throwing.
A ball in this time is the equivalent of a party in our time.
The Bennets attend the ball, in which Mr Bingley is immediately attracted to Jane, the eldest and most beautiful Bennet sister.
On the other hand, Elizabeth is introduced to Mr Darcy in a very rude manner.
Mr Darcy, without realizing Elizabeth was eavesdropping, tells Mr Bingley that Elizabeth is not attractive to him and refuses to dance with her, making Elizabeth viewing him as arrogant and obnoxious.
Elizabeth, despite strongly disliking Mr Darcy, slowly becomes attractive to him, as he is impressed by her intelligence and wit.
Jane’s friendship with Mr Bingley grows, and she is invited to his house, called ‘Netherfield’.
However, as she rides there horseback, she falls sick due to the rain, and must stay over at his house, much to Mrs Bennet’s joy.
Elizabeth goes to check on Jane on foot, but reaches their estate all muddied and dirty.
Mr Bingley’s sisters are there at Netherfield, and aren’t afraid to mock Elizabeth for her dirtied dress.
Their rude behavior is only made worse, when one of Bingley’s sisters - she is pursuing Darcy - notices that he pays quite a bit of attention to Elizabeth.
By now Jane has recovered, so she and Elizabeth make their way home, only to find Mr Collins there.
The girls are obviously not fond of Mr Collins, due to his pompous behavior.
However, Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth shortly after his arrival, but she turns him down.
Meanwhile, the younger Bennet girls are swooning over some military officers that have been stationed near town, including George Wickham, a handsome solider who initially captures the attention of Elizabeth.
While spending time with Elizabeth, he tells her that he and Mr Darcy knew one another as young boys, and how Darcy cheated him out of an inheritance.
Much to Jane’s dismay, the Bingleys and Darcy leave Netherfield and return to London at the beginning of winter.
In this time, London is the city where all the rich folk live.
It’s the Toorak of our time, while Longbourn is like Keysborough.
This leads Jane to believe that Mr Bingley did not have any romantic interest in her in the first place.
Elizabeth later learns that her best friend, Charlotte, has been engaged to Mr Collins.
When Elizabeth questions Charlotte, the latter states that she is not as lucky as her to have a middle-class family, and that she cannot choose from a range of men to marry due to financial reasons.
That Spring, Elizabeth visits Charlotte, who now lives near the home of a rich woman M Collins works for, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who happens to be Darcy’s aunt.
Due to this connection, Darcy and Elizabeth meet again.
Much to Elizabeth’s surprise, Darcy proposes to her, expressing his love for her.
Elizabeth rejects him, and tells him that she thinks he is arrogant and unpleasant, then reprimands him for steering Bingley away from Jane.
Darcy leaves, but shortly delivers a letter to her, admitting that he only steered Bingley away from Jane under the pretense that she was not serious about his friend
He also reveals in the letter that Wickham is not who he seems, as he is a liar, and caused drama amongst the Darcy family by trying to run away with his sixteen year old sister in order to receive her inheritance.
Truth revealed, Elizabeth reconsiders her feelings towards Darcy.
Her view of Darcy is lightened when she visits Pemberley, Darcy’s estate, and learns from his servants that his is a kind and generous master.
Shortly after, a letter arrives from home at Pemberley, telling Elizabeth that Lydia has run off with Wickham, and that they are no where to be found.
Fearful that her sister while have the same outcome as Darcy’s sister, Elizabeth rushes home, where the family goes on a search party, but come home empty handed.
A letter comes in soon after, informing the family that the couple has been found, and Wickham has agreed to marry Lydia in exchange for an annual income.
Elizabeth learns that Mr Darcy was the one to pay off Wickham, which further changes her idea of Darcy.
The newly married couple return to Longbourn, but Mr Bennet is not pleased with Lydia and her decision to have run off with Wickham.
Not long after, they leave for Wickham’s next station in North England.
Bingley then returns to Netherfield and resumes his courtship with Jane, where he soon proposes to her, much to the delight of the Bennet family, especially Mrs bennet.
As the family celebrates, Darcy’s wealthy aunt, Lady Catherine, pays a visit.
Lady Catherine pulls Elizabeth aside and informs her that Darcy intends on proposing to her, and tries to make her promise she’s refuse, as her lower class makes her unfit to marry him.
Elizabeth refuses, stating that she will not do anything that will refuse her happiness.
Later, Elizabeth and Darcy go out for a walk, and he reveals that his feelings for her have not changed since the last time he proposed, and that he wishes to marry her.
This time, Elizabeth accepts his proposal.
The novel ends with Elizabeth getting married.
Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story is now the basis of many teen dramas and romance plot lines, as it shows two individuals who initially dislike one another, but eventually grow fond of each other.
The novel explores these two characters, as well as characters such as Jane and Bingley, overcome several obstacles and unfortunate circumstances, in order to achieve their happy ending.
Because of Elizabeth and Darcy’s initial feelings about one another being bitter, Austen suggests that romance and love comes about when two independent individuals choose each other, despite their social situations.
In the novel, a woman’s reputation is the most important thing they have.
Women are expected to behave certain ways, and if they don’t, they are looked upon as outcasts.
We see this especially when Elizabeth turns up at Bingley’s house in a muddy skirt, and his sisters mock her for her appearance.
Ultimately, this theme asks the audience important questions about the value of a woman’s reputation, as well as a man’s by marriage.
Social class serves as an important trait in all the characters.
We see characters behaving the way they are expected of their class, such as Bingley’s upper class sisters who behave snobbishly, and Elizabeth who remains humble.
On the other hand, we see characters behaving above their class, such as Mr Collins who boasts about working for Lady Catherine, and My Bingley who does not care for class whatsoever.
It is suggested that Austen herself made class a heavy theme, as she constantly rejects the idea of class categories through the behaviour of her characters in the novel.