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Free Study Guide-Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen-Free Plot Summary
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Elizabeth Bennet

Elizabeth is a spontaneous, high-spirited, vivacious, witty, and warm young lady. She is also a bright, complex, and intriguing individual who is realistic about life. Unlike her sister Jane, she is not ready to believe that everyone is flawless. She knows the ‘impropriety’ of her father and is aware that it springs from the unhappiness of his life with his wife. She also perceives the fickleness of her mother’s temper and her crass social behavior. Even to the point of being saucy and blunt at times, Elizabeth is not afraid to speak her mind.

Throughout the novel, Elizabeth’s encounters with Darcy are a battle of adult minds. Elizabeth’s speeches, crackling with irony, filled with pep, and displaying vibrant humor, exert a magnetic pull on Darcy. He recognizes that she is a woman endowed with sense and sensibility, radically different from most young females that he knows. He is particularly impressed with her poise; she is not intimidated by the upper class or overawed by the arrogant Darcy.

Elizabeth’s main flaw is an exaggerated prejudice. Her first negative impression of Darcy at the Netherfield ball, Wickham’s tall story about him, and Darcy’s influencing Bingley against Jane fuel her prejudice. She spends most of the novel truly disliking her future husband. When Darcy proposes to her the first time, she does not even give the offer serious thought before turning the man down. Fortunately, Darcy is determined and does not give up on Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is an honest individual, both to others and to herself. Once she realizes the truth about Darcy, she admits her incorrect prejudice against him and regrets her previous rejection of him. In fact, she even admits to herself that she is in love with Darcy, but she is realistic enough to think that she no longer stands a chance with him. When she learns that Darcy has saved Lydia from disgrace, she swallows her remaining pride and states her appreciation to Darcy. His response is to ask for her hand in marriage once again. This time, a much wiser Elizabeth eagerly accepts.

In the novel, Elizabeth Bennet proves that she is a woman both particular to her age and society and yet different from it. Like her mother, Elizabeth is sometimes prone to outspoken speeches and impulsive actions; yet, she never disregards the propriety which the age insisted upon for women. Her keen intelligence, her good sense, and her unconventional charm make Elizabeth an unforgettable character.

Fitzwilliam Darcy

While Elizabeth is the symbol of prejudice in the novel, Darcy embodies the element of pride, which is clearly established in him from the very beginning of the book. His arrogant ways make him unpopular and misunderstood, even though he is envied for his good looks and wealth. Elizabeth takes a particular disliking to him for his haughty rudeness when he initially says that he is not interested in her at the ball. When she learns that he has advised Bingley not to pursue a relationship with Jane, she is further incensed at the man. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, he is turned down, especially since his offer was made in a haughty and condescending manner. Elizabeth’s refusal jolts his pride and sets him on a course of self realization.

When Elizabeth visits Pemberley, she discovers a different side of Darcy. She is impressed with the taste and refinement of his home. He is obviously a cultured and intelligent man. From the housekeeper, she also learns that he is a generous landlord, a kind master, and a devoted brother. Later in the novel, it is revealed that he is the only son of aristocratic parents and that at a very early age he had to take up family responsibilities which made him independent and conceited.

Darcy’s love for Elizabeth is clearly a conflict for him between head and heart. He thinks he should not love her because of her lower social position and her crass family; but his heart is attracted to her beauty, her sensibility, her independence, and her vivacity. When he proposes to her the first time, he is sure that she will accept. Because of her rejection, Darcy undergoes a metamorphosis from an insolvent aristocrat to a kind, down-to- earth soul. Out of his love for Elizabeth, he silently rescues Lydia by "buying" her marriage to Wickham. Later, he is even kind and courteous to her parents. In summary, Darcy becomes the perfect picture of a thoroughbred gentleman and the ideal husband for Elizabeth.

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