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

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: LITERARY CRITICISM / FREE BOOK SUMMARY

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

The central theme of the novel concerns itself with marriage, as indicated in the ironic opening line of the book: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Throughout the novel, it is not the man who is seeking a spouse so much as it is Mrs. Bennet seeking suitable husbands for her older daughters.

The entire novel explores the various types of love and marriage. The Bennets’ marriage is shown to be a disaster, with the wife playing the part of a fool and the husband retreating to live an uninvolved life in his ivory tower. In contrast to the marriage of the Bennets is the pleasant conjugal life of the Gardiners, who are mutually compatible and supportive. Charlotte Lucas’ marriage to Mr. Collins is a compromise, one of economic necessity, so she will have a means of support. Lydia’s love, largely sensual, is pictured as a hollow kind of love between a senseless, vulgar flirt and a mean, unscrupulous man. In contrast, the love of Jane and Bingley is straightforward, simple, pure, and innocent. The relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth is a perfect match between two animated and intelligent adults who truly love, support, and respect one another. It is Jane Austen’s picture of the ideal marriage.


Pride and prejudice are additional central concerns of Jane Austen in this novel. Early in the book, she defines pride, via Mary Bennet, as the opinion one has of himself and distinguishes it from vanity which is "what we would have others to think of us". Although several of Austen’s characters, including Elizabeth, display some measure of destructive pride, it is Darcy who is the fully embodiment of a totally proud and arrogant man. Although pride is a natural adjunct to an aristocrat, in Darcy’s case it becomes his worst foe. Initially, it binds him within the narrow confines of the upper crust of society and gives him a distaste for the world which lies outside. Although he is attracted to Elizabeth, he is condescending towards her because of her inferior social level and her crass family. Even when he realizes his love for her and proposes, he is insulting and proud in his manner, causing Elizabeth to immediately reject his offer. Of course, she already holds a blind prejudice against him for the way in which he has earlier treated her and because of Wickham’s lies about him. Elizabeth’s rejection hurts Darcy’s pride and causes him to do some self analysis. Darcy’s later kindnesses to her and her family case Elizabeth to do a similar self analysis.

In the end, the couple rises above their pride and prejudice, finding true love for and admiration of one another. Through Darcy and Elizabeth, Jane Austen clearly shows the harm that can be done when people do not see the truth about themselves or others.


STUDY QUESTIONS - BOOK REPORT IDEAS

1.) Discuss the social background of Pride and Prejudice. Explain how this background is important to the novel.Who is the main protagonist of Pride and Prejudice and what/who is the antagonist. How is the conflict between them resolved?

2.) Comment on the opening statement of the novel and elucidate on how it reveals the theme of the book.

3.) Analyze the plot for its structure.

4.) Explain how the title relates to the book.

5.) Compare and contrast Jane and Elizabeth.

6.) Compare and contrast Bingley and Darcy.

7.) How does Austen develop the misunderstanding between Darcy and Elizabeth and how is it resolved?

8.) Discuss Pride and Prejudice as an exposition of the life and manners of a microcosm of nineteenth -century English society.

9.) Several characters in the plot are responsible for the Elizabeth-Darcy union. Who are they and what have they done, intentionally or unintentionally, to bring the couple together.

10.)Explain all the different kinds of marriages that are seen in the novel. Which marriage does Austen seem to consider the most effective and why?



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