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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The novel opens with an ironic statement about marriage, which is the axis around which the world of Longbourn turns: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife". Presently everyone in Longbourn, Hertfordshire, is excited about the fact that Mr. Bingley, an unmarried, rich young man, is to settle at Netherfield Park, a fine estate nearby. Mrs. Bennetís excitement is extraordinary, for she has five daughters that she wants to have married, especially the older ones. Her mind is fired with matrimonial speculations, and she tries to persuade her husband to pay a visit to Mr. Bingley as soon as he arrives. Mr. Bennet pokes fun at his wifeís impetuosity and jokes that he will give the newcomer a carte blanche so that he can marry any one of their daughters, including the little Lizzy. Mrs. Bennet is nettled and accuses her husband of having no compassion for her poor nerves.
The first sentence of this chapter is one of the famous ones in English
literature because of its masterful irony, its humorous tone, and its
foreshadowing of the entire novel. It would appear from the formal opening
words, "it is a truth universally acknowledged", that the novel
is going to dedicate itself to lofty ideals. The second half of the sentence,
however, reveals that the "universal truth" is nothing more
than a social truth, which ironically is not a truth at all, but a misrepresentation
of social facts. A man with a fortune does not need a wife nearly so much
as a woman, who has no means of outside support in the 19 th
century, is greatly in need of a wealthy husband. The entire
novel is really an explanation of how women and men pursue each other
prior to marriage.
It is apparent from this chapter that the novel is to center on character development and relationship and to investigate with great detail the behavior and manners of the landed middle-class society of 19 th century England. The family is the heart of the middle-class, and its preservation is vital. Marriage, the key subject matter of the book, is extremely important in order to continue the family and to supply stability and economic well- being for the women of the time.
At the beginning of the chapter, Mrs. Bennet is, as usual, displaying her stupidity and vulgarity. Her husband mercilessly mocks her silliness. It is obvious that Mrs. Bennet is a woman with little understanding and uncertain temperament, while her husband is shown to be serious, sarcastic, and cynical. He laughs at her total preoccupation with finding suitable husbands for her five daughters. Jane and Elizabeth, the two eldest daughters, are embarrassed by their motherís lack of class and blush every time she opens her mouth. Mrs. Bennet does, however, provide some entertainment to her lazy and heartless husband.