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Free Study Guide: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Free BookNotes

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Mrs. Bennet’s brother and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, come to spend Christmas at Longbourn. Mr. Gardiner is a sensible, gentlemanly person, and his wife is an amiable, elegant woman who is very fond of her nieces, especially the elder two. Mrs. Bennet airs her grievances to her sister-in-law, stating her distress over her failure to get Jane and Elizabeth engaged or married. Mrs. Gardiner suggests a change of scene for Jane to help get over her disappointment over Bingley. It is decided that Jane will return to London with her uncle and aunt.

While the Gardiners spend the week at Longbourn, there are frequent visitors; Wickham is the most regular one. Mrs. Gardiner views with suspicion Elizabeth’s attraction to Wickham. Mrs. Gardiner has spent a considerable time in Derbyshire and knows the area from where Wickham comes. They have mutual acquaintances there, and Wickham is able to update her with information.

Mrs. Gardiner talks of the Darcy family. She has seen Pemberley, the Darcy estate, which is very impressive. She also speaks very highly of the late Mr. Darcy. She has a vague recollection that his son, Fitzwilliam Darcy, is a very proud, ill-natured young man. This reconfirms Elizabeth’s opinion of him.


The Gardiners are essential to the plot because they later serve as a point of contact between Darcy and the Bennets. The Gardiner couple is also an intentional contrast to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. The Gardiners are sensitive, kind, refined, and immensely superior to the Bennet couple. Mrs. Gardiner has a genuine interest in her nieces and seems to be more sensitive about their needs than their own mother. In contrast, the Bennets are unrefined and socially unacceptable. They are not compatible with one another, and they are not very responsible parents. Mr. Bennet is very aloof and comes out of his shell mostly to poke fun at his wife’s foolishness. Mrs. Bennet is vulgar and has no understanding of anyone, particularly her daughters.

The Gardiners are also radically different from Mr. and Mrs. Philips. The Gardiners give the girls sound advice and watch out for their well-being; later in the novel, Mr. Gardiner tries harder than Mr. Bennet to find Lydia. By contrast, the Phillips couple fills the silly minds of Lydia and Kitty with tales of the red-coat officers and encourages their waywardness.



Mrs. Gardiner cautions Elizabeth against falling in love with Wickham, who lacks wealth. Elizabeth denies that she is in love with him, but admits he is the most agreeable man she has ever come across. She promises her aunt that even if she is tempted at a later stage, she will not do anything in a hurry. Soon after the departure of the Gardiners and Jane, Mr. Collins returns to Hertfordshire. The wedding takes place on a Thursday and Mr. Collins and his bride leave for Kent immediately after the ceremony. Charlotte has extracted a promise from Elizabeth that she will visit them in March.

Jane’s letter arrives stating that she has arrived safely in London. Jane has written to Caroline Bingley, but has received no reply from her. Jane naively rationalizes that her letter must not have reached Caroline. When Jane visits Miss Bingley, her welcome is lukewarm; she says that she did not receive Jane’s letter. Caroline Bingley does not return Jane’s visit for four weeks; when she calls, her stay is short and brusque. Jane begins to understand that Caroline does not really care for her and writes to Elizabeth about it.

Wickham relocates his affections from Elizabeth to a Miss King, who has just inherited ten thousand pounds. Elizabeth writes to her aunt that she is not in love with Wickham and feels only cordiality towards him.


Mrs. Gardiner’s advice to Elizabeth against falling in love with Wickham underlines her sagacity and accentuates the fact that in marriage, money is almost as important as love. Mrs. Gardiner is not aware of Wickham’s shady past, but she has a problem with his lack of wealth and wisely gives her niece advice not to marry him.

It is paradoxical that Elizabeth should regard the phony Wickham as "the most agreeable man" and Darcy as "the most disagreeable man". Her incorrect judgement stems from her prejudice, which colors all of her thinking.

Caroline Bingley’s snobbery becomes more apparent to the naïve and accepting Jane, who finally realizes that the woman does not care for her. She writes to Elizabeth with the news.



In March, Elizabeth accompanies the Lucases to London, for she is eager see Jane. They are to spend the night at the Gardiners, where Jane eagerly awaits her sister. Mrs. Gardiner confides in Elizabeth that although Jane still has periods of utter dejection even though she tries to be cheerful. Mrs. Gardiner compliments Elizabeth on bearing Wickham’s new attachment to Miss King with grace. Elizabeth thoroughly enjoys her stay with the Gardiners. She readily accepts their invitation to accompany them on their summer vacation.


Mrs. Gardiner is a substitute mother for both Jane and Elizabeth; she gives her nieces understanding and friendship, which is missing in the relationship with their mother. The aunt, unlike Mrs. Bennett, is sensitive to Jane’s suffering and gently cares for her niece. She also gives Elizabeth wise advice about Wickham and praises her for behaving nobly when he deserts her.

Once again, the importance of money in marriage is highlighted in Elizabeth’s remark, "What is the difference in matrimonial affairs, between mercenary and the prudent motive? Where does discretion end and avarice begin?"

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