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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: SYNOPSIS / BOOK SUMMARY
The original title of the novel was First Impressions. In truth, Pride and Prejudice shows the folly of trusting one’s first impressions, which need to be corrected by keen observation and mature understanding in order to make a correct final judgment of character. Darcy’s manners are disagreeable and arrogant, but as the novel progresses, he proves to be superior in understanding and character. In fact, his character has a greater depth than Bingley’s. But Darcy also has the weakness of judging people by first impressions and outward behavior. At first, he sees nothing so attractive about Meryton or Elizabeth. Later, he values Elizabeth’s frankness and spirit much more than her outward appearance.
Jane Austen also frowned on snobbery and false sophistication. Her portrayal of Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh proves the truth of this. Even her brief analysis of the Bingley sisters bristles with irony and mockery of the false values by which they live. The Lucas family also acts with snobbery, even though they are only of middle class. In this chapter, they tell of snooping on the conversation of others and then gossiping it as fact.
The conclusion of chapter 5 gives, for the first time, some outward views on pride. Charlotte Lucas believes that if a person has the advantages of money, social position, and good looks, he has a right to be proud. Elizabeth somewhat agrees with this view. Mary ridiculously tries to distinguish between pride and vanity. But the author seems to make no distinction between the two, as she criticizes both in the novel.
It is important to remember that the major idea of the book is "pride"
and "prejudice", and both have come into play by this point
in the book. Elizabeth’s pride (her hurt feelings over Darcy’s insult
of her) prevents her from seeing any good in Darcy; she is totally prejudiced
against him. Likewise, the proud Darcy is prejudiced against Elizabeth’s
look and cannot see her good and spirited character underneath.
The ladies of Longbourn and those of Netherfield exchange visits. Jane Bennet’s immaculate manners and cheerful disposition please Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley, but they do not care much about her family. It is quite obvious to Elizabeth that Jane is succumbing to Mr. Bingley’s charms although she is inclined to think that "her uniform cheerfulness of manner" is a foolproof camouflage to hide her true feelings about anything. Elizabeth confides this fact to her friend Charlotte.
While Elizabeth is preoccupied with Bingley’s attention to her sister Jane, she does not realize that she herself is becoming the focal point of Darcy’s attention. Darcy, who had earlier written off Elizabeth as a ‘tolerable’ maiden, later realizes that she has lovely eyes and a fine figure. He wishes to know her better and tries to listen in on her conversations with others.
At a party, Elizabeth is goaded to play the piano and sing. She readily obliges
and charms the audience by her performance. She is followed at the piano
by her sister Mary, who is most eager to showcase her talent. Darcy stands
aloof, wrapped in his thoughts. Suddenly, Sir William Lucas draws him
into a conversation. Lucas stumps him by suggesting aloud that he must
dance with Elizabeth. Darcy beseeches her to dance with him, but Elizabeth
spurns him in retribution for his earlier refusal to dance with her. As
Darcy stands apart and thinks about Elizabeth, Miss Bingley approaches
and asks what he is thinking. He blatantly replies that the subject of
his musings is Elizabeth Bennet. Miss Bingley is stupefied and teases
him about the probability of having Mrs. Bennet for a mother-in-law.
Charlotte’s observations about the danger of concealing one’s love and her admonition that "a woman had better show more affection than she feels" are relevant. They foreshadow Darcy’s influencing Bingley against Jane on the grounds that her feelings do not seem very deep.
This chapter also offers a discourse on marriage, the central concern of the novel. Charlotte’s view of marriage is pragmatic. She is ready to sweep aside romantic considerations for monetary ones. Her later marriage will fulfill her expectation. Jane and Elizabeth want to marry for love, and Lydia wants to find physical gratification in marriage.
This chapter also reveals an ironic reversal of situations. At the first ball, Darcy refused to dance with Elizabeth. At the second ball, Elizabeth refuses to dance with Darcy. As a result, the theme of pride and prejudice gains momentum. It also causes miscommunication and misunderstanding. Elizabeth assumes that Darcy is again prejudiced against her because she has stung his pride, but Darcy is actually attracted by her pertness and her ‘fine eyes’.
Jane Austen also presents a contrast between Mary and Elizabeth in the chapter.
Mary plays the piano with studied perfection, reflective of how she lives
her life. She desperately attempts to cover up her plainness by pretending
to be rational and intelligent. On the other hand, Elizabeth’s piano playing
is not perfect, yet her spirited performance highlights her spontaneity
and her innate intelligence. She is a creature guided by feeling and impulse,
as will be seen repeatedly in the book.
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