Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
SHORT PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)
Pride and Prejudice is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five unmarried daughters. They live in the estate of Longbourn in Hertfordshire, a rural district about thirty miles from London. The family is not rich. Their property is ‘entailed’ to pass to the nearest male heir in the family, in this case to Mr. Collins. The main concern of Mrs. Bennet’s life is to see that all her daughters are married, preferably to men with large fortunes. She sees an opportunity for her eldest daughter Jane when Mr. Charles Bingley, a wealthy gentlemen from the city, occupies the nearby estate of Netherfield Park. In her excitement, she urges her husband to visit Mr. Bingley on the very first day of his arrival, before any of the other neighbors. Mr. Bennet complies to his wife’s request and visits Mr. Bingley, but withholds information about his visit from the family.
At the next social gathering in Meryton, Bingley brings along his two sisters, Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst. But more importantly, he brings his closest friend, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Bingley, who is charming and social, is immediately attracted to the modest and gentle Jane Bennet. Darcy, in contrast to Bingley, is proud, rude, and disagreeable. When Bingley suggests that Darcy dance with Elizabeth Bennet, he refuses and negatively comments on her looks. Elizabeth overhears the comment and develops a strong prejudice against Darcy. At the next ball in Netherfield, Darcy feels an attraction for Elizabeth and asks her for a dance. She refuses to dance with him, thereby avenging the earlier insults.
Jane and Bingley continue to be attracted to one another. Caroline Bingley invites Jane to Netherfield for a visit. While at Netherfield, Jane falls ill and Elizabeth comes to look after her sister. While at Netherfield, Elizabeth is forced to confront Darcy. She approaches him with wit and sarcasm. Since Darcy has known only flattery from others, he is charmed by Elizabeth’s frankness. During her short stay at Netherfield, Elizabeth realizes Caroline is very contemptuous of her family, its social status, and Mrs. Bennet’s vulgarity. Elizabeth concludes that Caroline’s friendship and cordiality towards Jane is only a pretense.
The male relative to whom the Longbourn estate is ‘entailed’ is Rev. William Collins of Hunsfort. Mr. Collins pays a visit to Longbourn with the intention of proposing marriage to one of the Bennet daughters. His pompous manners and his bloated rhetoric disgust everyone, except Mrs. Bennet, who looks upon him as a prospective son-in-law. Collins is attracted to Jane, but Mrs. Bennet informs him that she is about to be engaged. He then turns his attention to Elizabeth and makes a ridiculous proposal of marriage to her. When Elizabeth rejects him, he proposes to her friend Charlotte Lucas, who, to everyone’s shock, accepts him. Mrs. Bennet is distressed by Elizabeth’s rejection of Mr. Collins because it is the one opportunity she has of keeping the Longbourn estate in the family.
Bingley and his companions soon depart for London. Both Bingley and Caroline write to Jane to say that they have closed Netherfield and have no plans of returning to it in the near future. Jane is very disappointed. As Jane feels frustration over Bingley, Elizabeth finds a new attraction. She meets Mr. Wickham and is foolishly and magnetically drawn to him. They have a friendly conversation in which she reveals her dislike of Darcy. Taking advantage of this information, Wickham concocts a story and tells Elizabeth that he has been cheated by Darcy. Elizabeth takes pity on him and almost falls in love. Mrs. Gardiner, however, warns Elizabeth about Wickham, who soon marries Miss King.
At the invitation of the Gardiners, Jane goes to London for some rest and change of air. She hopes that she sees Bingley, even accidentally. Jane makes many attempts to get in touch with him, but Caroline does not even inform her brother about Jane’s presence in London. Jane is heart broken, but grows to accept her rejection.