Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Pride and Prejudice": the Story of the Novel in Brief

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and their Five Daughters
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet live in the village of Longbourn which is situated in the County of Hertfordshire. They have five daughters — Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (or Kitty), and Lydia. The youngest is fifteen years old. Mrs. Bennet's chief desire in life is to see all her daughters suitably married and happily settled. In fact, the marriages of her daughters have become an obsession with her.

Mrs. Bennet's Expectation
A rich young man by the name of Mr. Charles Bingley takes a palatial house called Netherfield Park on rent. This country house is situated at a distance of about three miles from the village of Longbourn. Mr. Bingley begins to live in this house with his sister, Caroline Bingley, as his housekeeper. He has a friend by the name of Mr. Darcy who joins him at Netherfield Park for a short stay, but continues to stay there for a couple of months. Mrs. Hurst, a married sister of Mr. Bingley, also comes with her husband to stay at Netherfield Park. Mrs. Bennet feels very glad to know that the new occupant of Netherfield Park is a rich bachelor. She tells her husband that there is every possibility that Mr. Bingley would choose one of their daughters as his would-be wife. Mr. Bennet does not share his wife's enthusiasm though he too would like Mr. Bingley to choose one of his daughters as his future wife. As Mrs. Bennet is a woman of a mean intelligence, and as her talk is very often foolish, Mr. Bennet has got into the habit of making sarcastic remarks to her and about her. In other words, he often pokes fun at her.
Mr. Darcy, a Very Proud Man; Elizabeth's Prejudice against Him
An assembly is held periodically in the town of Meryton which is situated at a distance of about one mile from Longbourn. This assembly is a kind of social gathering which is attended by all the respectable families of the town and the neighbouring villages. At the first assembly, which is attended by Mr. Bingley and the other inmates of Netherfield Park, Mr. Bingley feels greatly attracted by Jane Bennet who is the prettiest of the Bennet sisters. He asks Jane for a dance, and she gladly accepts his request. In fact, he dances with her a second time also. Mr. Bingley suggests to his friend Mr. Darcy that the latter should not stand idle but should dance. He suggests that Mr. Darcy that should dance with Elizabeth Bennet who is sitting nearby. Mr. Darcy, however, replies that this girl is not attractive enough to tempt him to dance with her. Elizabeth overhears this remark and conceives a dislike for the man who has made such a disparaging remark about her in her hearing. In fact, from this time onwards, she becomes prejudiced against him. Mr. Darcy, on his part, is a very proud man. Like Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy is also a very rich and handsome bachelor. Any girl in this neighbourhood would be glad to marry him, but his pride is a most disagreeable trait of his character. Mrs. Bennet describes him to her husband as a haughty and horrid man. In fact, everybody at the assembly finds him to be too proud.
Mr. Bingley, Expected to Propose Marriage to Jane
Mr. Bingley's preference for Jane Bennet is noticed by everybody at the assembly. In fact, both Mr. Bingley and Jane have felt mutually attracted by each other. Mr. Bingley's two sisters, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, also develop a liking for Jane. In fact, Miss Bingley invites Jane to dinner at Netherfield Park; and the Bennet family considers this invitation to be a great honour and also a golden opportunity for Jane. Jane goes to Netherfield Park but catches cold on the way because it has been raining. The consequence of her indisposition is that she has to stay on at Netherfield Park for about a week during which Elizabeth also joins her in order to attend upon her. The intimacy between Jane and Mr. Bingley's sisters now increases; and both Jane and Elizabeth begin to think that Mr. Bingley would surely propose marriage to Jane soon. However, Miss Bingley does not feel any liking for Elizabeth. In fact, Miss Bingley begins to feel jealous of Elizabeth.
A Change in Mr. Darcy's Attitude to Elizabeth
In the meantime, Mr. Darcy's attitude towards Elizabeth changes. On a closer acquaintance with her, he finds that there is, after all, a good deal of charm about this girl. She has a very intelligent face; and she has dark eyes which add to the charm of her countenance. She also has a pleasing figure and a lively temperament. Mr. Darcy begins actually to like this girl of whom he had originally disapproved even for the purpose of dancing. Miss Bingley begins to dislike Elizabeth all the more because she finds Mr. Darcy feeling inclined towards her (Elizabeth). Miss Bingley wants Mr. Darcy for herself. In other words, she hopes that Mr. Darcy might marry her; and therefore Miss Bingley would not like any other girl to catch Mr. Darcy's fancy and thus to come in her way. It is during Elizabeth's enforced stay with her sister Jane at Netherfield Park that Mr. Darcy gets the opportunity to know Elizabeth better. Elizabeth takes an active part in the conversations which takes place between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, with Miss Bingley participating in those conversations.
Miss Charlotte Lucas, the Daughter of Sir William Lucas
Within a walking distance of Longbourn, there lives a family which is on visiting terms with the Bennet family. The head of that family is Sir William Lucas, and he lives in a house, which he has named "Lucas Lodge", with his wife and several children, the eldest of whom is Charlotte Lucas, aged twenty-seven years. Charlotte is a great friend of Elizabeth; and they always talk to each other frankly. Charlotte expresses to Elizabeth her view that Mr. Bingley has felt greatly attracted by Jane and might marry her if Jane encourages him and reciprocates his interest in her. Elizabeth agrees with this view.
Elizabeth's Continuing Prejudice;
and Darcy's Continuing Pride
Elizabeth finds herself no closer to Mr. Darcy. If anything, the rift between them has become wider. Mr. Darcy would certainly like to marry Elizabeth but he finds that she belongs to a much lower status than he does, and he, therefore, finds it most improper on his part to marry a girl of that status. Elizabeth continues to harbour her original prejudice against Mr. Darcy, and therefore, does not show any special attention to him. In fact, in the course of a conversation, Elizabeth says to him that he has a strong tendency to hate everybody, while he says in reply that she has a strong tendency deliberately to misunderstand everybody.
Mr. Collins's Proposal of Marriage, Rejected by Elizabeth
Mr. Collins now appears on the scene at Longbourn. He is a cousin of Mr. Bennet; and he is the man to whom Mr. Bennet's whole property is entailed. On Mr. Bennet's death, Mr. Collins would inherit all Mr. Bennet's property because Mr. Bennet has no male issue. On Mr. Bennet's death, therefore, Mrs. Bennet and her daughters would find themselves impoverished. Mr. Collins comes on a visit to the Bennet family, his intention being to choose one of the Bennet sisters and propose marriage to her. As Jane is expected by everybody to marry Mr. Bingley, Mr. Collins makes a proposal of marriage to Elizabeth. Elizabeth, however, has found Mr. Collins to be an oddity, that is, a queer kind of man. Mr. Collins speaks a good deal about his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh who has been kind enough to him to confer a living upon him and to appoint him the rector at Hunsford. The manner in which he talks about Lady Catherine shows him to be an accomplished flatterer. At the same time, he has too high an opinion of himself. Elizabeth, therefore, rejects Mr. Collins's proposal without the least hesitation. Mr. Collins makes his proposal of marriage a second time, but Elizabeth refuses again, this time even more firmly. Elizabeth is privately supported in her decision by her father though she is scolded by her mother for her failure to avail this opportunity of getting a husband. Mr. Collins now leaves Longbourn and returns to his parsonage at Hunsford.
Elizabeth's Prejudice, Deepened by
Mr. Wickham's Account
Another character now enters the story. He is Mr. George Wickham, an officer in the militia regiment which is stationed near the town of Meryton. Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy had known each other in their boyhood because Mr. Wickham's father was the steward to Mr. Darcy's father. Mr. Wickham has certain grievances against Mr. Darcy, though these grievances are baseless and show only Mr. Wickham's ill-will towards Mr. Darcy. In the course of a social gathering, Mr. Wickham gets acquainted with Elizabeth and tells her his grievances against Mr. Darcy, emphasizing the fact that Mr. Darcy is a very proud man. Elizabeth develops a liking for Mr. Wickham who is a very handsome man and whose talk is very interesting. In fact, she fancies herself as being in love with Mr. Wickham. If Mr. Wickham were to propose marriage to her, she would probably have accepted the proposal. In any case, she now feels further prejudiced against Mr. Darcy because of Mr. Wickham's tale of injustices and wrongs which, according to his account, he has suffered at Mr. Darcy's hands. At a ball which Mr. Bingley has arranged at Netherfield Park, Elizabeth is told both by Mr. Bingley and Miss Bingley that Mr. Wickham is an undesirable man, and that he seems to have told many lies to her about Mr. Darcy; but Elizabeth is not convinced by what she is told by these persons. She cannot believe that Mr. Wickham could have told any lies. In this, of course, she is badly deceived because later she will discover the reality of this man.
Mr. Collins, Married to Miss Charlotte Lucas
Mr. Collins visits Longbourn again. Having come into contact with Miss Charlotte Lucas, he decides to propose marriage to her. He is very anxious to get married because Lady Catherine has been pressing him to get married, and also because he thinks that a clergyman should set an example of marriage to his parishioners. So he proposes marriage to Miss Charlotte Lucas who is only too pleased by this proposal because, having already attained the age of twenty-seven, she is very keen to get married at the earliest opportunity. And thus Mr. Collins and Miss Charlotte Lucas get married. Mr. Collins takes his newly wedded wife to the parsonage at Hunsford where Lady Catherine is quite pleased to meet the rector's wife.
A Setback to Jane's Hope of Marrying Mr. Bingley
Instead of receiving a proposal of marriage from Mr. Bingley, Jane now receives a letter from Miss Bingley informing her that all the inmates of Netherfield Park are leaving for London. This piece of information comes as a great blow to Jane's hopes. Then Miss Bingley writes another letter to Jane, this time from London. Miss Bingley, through this letter, informs Jane that Miss Bingley and the others might not return to Netherfield Park during the whole of the coming winter. Furthermore, Miss Bingley informs Jane that Mr. Bingley is thinking of marrying Mr. Darcy's sister, Georgiana, who is a very beautiful and highly accomplished girl. Thus, Jane finds that her hopes of marrying Mr. Bingley have been dashed to the ground. Elizabeth, on learning from Jane the contents of Miss Bingley's second letter, feels as disappointed and distressed as Jane herself. Elizabeth is deeply attached to Jane; and therefore, she fully shares all Jane's anxieties and Jane's joys.
Elizabeth's Visit to Hunsford
Elizabeth now pays a visit to Charlotte at Hunsford. She goes there in the company of Charlotte's father, Sir William Lucas, and Charlotte's younger sister, Maria. Charlotte introduces her friend and her relatives to Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine is a very proud woman who takes every opportunity to impress upon others the fact that she is socially superior to them. Lady Catherine invites them all to dinner at her house which has the name of "Rosings Park" and which is a splendid mansion, splendidly furnished. Sir William and Maria are deeply impressed and awed by the splendour around them; but Elizabeth remains calm and composed.
Elizabeth's Rejection of Mr. Darcy's Proposal of Marriage
A new development now takes place. Mr. Darcy, accompanied by a cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, comes on a brief visit to Lady Catherine who is Mr. Darcy's and Colonel Fitswilliam's aunt. And now the stage is set for another meeting between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. At a party which is held by Lady Catherine at her house, Elizabeth plays on the piano and also has much conversation with Colonel Fitzwilliam who impresses her as a very nice kind of man. Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam now begin to call at the parsonage daily to meet the inmates. However, Mr. Darcy's chief interest in paying these visits is to meet Elizabeth. Actually, Mr. Darcy is now more in love with Elizabeth than he had been before. And so one day he makes a proposal of marriage to her. However, in the course of making this proposal, he emphasizes her social inferiority to him, and he makes her conscious of the fact that he is doing her a favour by proposing marriage to her. As a self-respecting girl, Elizabeth does not like the condescending and patronizing tone in which Mr. Darcy proposes marriage to her. She, therefore, declines his proposal. But she gives two other reasons also for her refusal. One is that Mr. Darcy had been unjust and cruel to Mr. Wickham; and the other is that Mr. Darcy had advised Mr. Bingley not to marry Jane. The information about Mr. Darcy's having obstructed Mr. Bingley's proposal of marriage to Jane has been given to Elizabeth by Colonel Fitzwilliam who, however, is not himself aware of the exact particulars regarding Mr. Darcy's intervention in Mr. Bingley's plans of marriage. Elizabeth has been able to infer the correct situation from Colonel Fitzwilliam's talk.
Mr. Darcy's Defence Against Elizabeth's Charges
On the following day Mr. Darcy hands over a letter to Elizabeth. On going through the letter, Elizabeth is filled with astonishment. This letter contains Mr. Darcy's defence of himself against the charges which Elizabeth had levelled against him on the previous day. In this letter Mr. Darcy states the true facts about Mr. Wickham, exposing that man as a most unreliable fellow and a rogue. In this letter he also admits that he had prevented Mr. Bingley from proposing marriage to Jane but he defends himself by saying that he had done so under a genuine belief that Jane was not really in love with Mr. Bingley. This letter produces a deep effect on Elizabeth. In fact, her reading through this letter marks a turning-point in her attitude towards Mr. Darcy. She begins to think that she had been totally wrong in her judgment of Mr. Darcy's character and also that she had been grossly mistaken in having relied upon Mr. Wickham's account of his relations with Mr. Darcy. At the same time, Elizabeth finds that Mr. Darcy's letter, though containing a defence of himself, is written in a tone which is insolent and haughty. Thus, Mr. Darcy's pride still remains intact, though Elizabeth's prejudice has begun to crumble.
No Development in the Jane-Bingley Affair
Mr. Darcy leaves Rosings Park for London before Elizabeth can take any action on the letter which he had handed over to her. After a few days she herself leaves Hunsford for Longbourn. On her way home, she stops in London for a day with her uncle and aunt Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner with whom Jane has already been staying for the past three months. Although Jane had been staying in London for such a long period, she had not been able to meet Mr. Bingley who also lives there. Jane had during this period called on Miss Bingley but even she had shown some indifference to Jane. This creates an impression in Jane's mind that perhaps she is now permanently alienated from Mr. Bingley whom, at one time, she had hoped to marry. Both sisters now return home. Elizabeth informs Jane of what had passed between Mr. Darcy and herself. She also tells Jane of Mr. Wickham's real character as revealed in Mr. Darcy's letter to her. Jane feels shocked to know that such a handsome and smart man as Mr. Wickham possesses a wicked heart.
Lydia, Invited by Mrs. Forster to Brighton
The militia regiment stationed near the town of Meryton is now shifted from there to a site near the city of Brighton. Lydia feels very depressed because she would no longer be able to mingle with the officers of that regiment and would therefore not be able to lead a gay life. However, Mrs. Forster, the wife of the colonel of that regiment invites Lydia to accompany her to Brighton. Lydia feels delighted by Mrs. Forster's invitation because, by going to Brighton, she can continue her contacts with the officers. Elizabeth privately urges her father not to allow Lydia to go to Brighton because she is already a spoilt girl and might go astray if she gets too much freedom. Her father, however, does not wish to stop Lydia from going thither.
An Unexpected Meeting between Elizabeth
and Mr. Darcy
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner come to Longbourn on their way to Derbyshire whither they intend to go on a pleasure trip. They would leave their two children with the Bennet family, and themselves proceed to Derbyshire. They had previously arranged with Elizabeth that she would also accompany them on their trip. Originally, they had wanted to go to the Lake district, but subsequently they had changed their minds. In any case, Elizabeth now goes with them. On the way they visit Pemberley House which is tourist attraction. Pemberley House is a splendid mansion and belongs to Mr. Darcy. When going round this great country house, they happen to meet Mr. Darcy himself. Mr. Darcy was not expected at the house till the following day when he was to arrive here from London; but he has come a day earlier because of a change in his schedule. Mr. Darcy greets Elizabeth most cordially and shows a lot of courtesy to her uncle and aunt. There is not the least touch of arrogance in Mr. Darcy's attitude at this time. Both Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner get the feeling that Mr. Darcy is in love with Elizabeth. On the next day, Mr. Darcy calls on Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner and Elizabeth at the inn where they are staying in the nearby town of Lambton. He brings his sister Georgiana with him. This visit further strengthens Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner's belief that Mr. Darcy is in love with Elizabeth. Elizabeth too gets the same impression. In response to Mr. Darcy's visit, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, accompanied by Elizabeth, call at Pemberley House where Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst are also present, having come from London.
The News of Lydia's Elopement with Mr. Wickham
Now Elizabeth has also begun to feel attracted towards Mr. Darcy. This attraction had begun at Hunsford after Elizabeth had gone through Mr. Darcy's letter. It is now quite likely that Mr. Darcy would renew his proposal of marriage to Elizabeth. But an unexpected event occurs to disturb the peace of the Bennet family. Colonel Forster informs Mr. Bennet by an express letter that Lydia, who was staying with Mrs. Forster in Brighton, had eloped with Mr. Wickham whom she had been meeting frequently. When Elizabeth learns this sad news from a letter written to her by Jane, she tells her uncle and aunt that she must get back home to provide whatever comfort she can to her parents in this crisis. She also tells Mr. Darcy of what has happened.
Elizabeth, Back at Longbourn
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner now cut short their holiday and return with Elizabeth to Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet is almost crazy with grief at Lydia's misconduct and at the disgrace which Lydia has brought to the family. Mr. Bennet has gone to London in order to trace the runaway lovers. Mr. Gardiner now also proceeds to London in order to help Mr. Bennet in his efforts to trace Lydia. After a few days Mr. Bennet returns to Longbourn, having failed in his efforts to trace Lydia or Mr. Wickham. Mrs. Gardiner now leaves Longbourn with her children, and joins her husband in London where they have their home. Mr. Bennet feels most repentant of his having always indulged Lydia's desires and whims.
Lydia, Married to Mr. Wickham,
Through Dairy's Intervention
After a few days, a letter is received by Mr. Bennet from Mr. Gardiner. According to the information contained in this letter, Mr. Wickham and Lydia have been traced and are staying in London without having got married. Mr. Wickham has said that he would marry Lydia only on certain conditions. These conditions include the payment of a certain amount of money to him. At the same time, Mr. Gardiner has informed Mr. Bennet that everything is being settled with Mr. Wickham and that Mr. Bennet should not worry about the welfare of Lydia. A marriage duly takes place after Mr. Wickham's demand for money has been met. The Bennet family gets the impression that the money has been paid by Mr. Gardiner. But Elizabeth soon learns from her aunt, Mrs. Gardiner, that the whole settlement had been arrived at by the intervention of Mr. Darcy, and that the entire money had been paid by Mr. Darcy himself. This information produces a profound effect upon Elizabeth regarding the character of Mr. Darcy who has done a great service and a great favour to the Bennet family by saving the good name of the family. But for Mr. Darcy's intervention, Mr. Wickham would never have married Lydia but would have forsaken her. Lydia would in that case have been a deserted girl with a shameful past.
Mr. Bingley's Proposal of Marriage to Jane
A change now takes place in Mr. Bingley. This change is as sudden as the change which had been responsible for his having given up his intention to marry Jane. Accompanied by Mr. Darcy, he now goes to Netherfield Park and gets into touch with the Bennet family. He makes a proposal of marriage to Jane which she most gladly accepts.
Elizabeth's Acceptance of Darcy's
New Proposal of Marriage
Lady Catherine de Bourgh now pays a visit to Longbourn and has a private interview with Elizabeth. She warns Elizabeth not to agree to marry Mr. Darcy in case he makes a proposal of marriage to her. Lady Catherine says that Mr. Darcy has to marry her own daughter, Miss Ann de Bourgh, and that Elizabeth should, therefore, not come in the way. Elizabeth, however, refuses to give Lady Catherine any promise in this connection. After a few days, Mr. Darcy comes to Longbourn and proposes marriage to Elizabeth. By this time Elizabeth's attitude towards Mr. Darcy has undergone a complete change. All her prejudices against him have disappeared. She now feels that he would be the right kind of husband for her. She, therefore, accepts his proposal without the least demur or hesitation. Thus, Mr. Darcy whose pride has by now completely melted away, and Elizabeth whose prejudices have completely disappeared, are united in wedlock. In fact, the marriage of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth takes place on the same day as the marriage of Mr. Bingley and Jane.

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