Pride and Prejudice is one of the great love stories in English literature. It takes place in a fictional village called Meryton in Hertfordshire where the Bennet family makes their home. The family consists of a father and mother and five unmarried daughters. The story revolves around the interaction of this family with their neighbors and family. The first 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” sets the stage for the story to unfold.
Mrs. Bennet, a loud and pushy woman of a lower class and little wit, is set on finding husbands for her daughters. Her daughters are determined to marry for love. Jane the eldest daughter, attracts a wealthy young man who is of a higher class than the Bennets. Jane is as sweet as she is lovely and she falls in love with Mr. Bingley. They are both quite shy so neither expresses their feelings in so many words. Mr. Bingley has brought his friend Mr. Darcy with him from London. Mr. Darcy is very wealthy and very proud. He doesn’t approve of the Bennets but at the same time is attracted to the intelligence and pretty eyes of Elizabeth Bennet.
The plot revolves around the relationship that develops between Darcy and Elizabeth and the many twists and turns that it takes. There are several subplots going on as well. The youngest daughter Lydia is soldier crazy and in a moment of lunacy elopes with a soldier who has a grudge against Mr. Darcy. When he doesn’t marry her, Mr. Darcy proves his worth by saving the family from a very great shame.
Another subplot in Pride and Prejudice is Mr. Collins relationship with the Bennet family. He is a distant cousin who is set to inherit since the Bennets have no son. When none of the Bennet girls want to marry him, he marries Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte Lucas. Elizabeth visits them and meets Mr. Darcy’s Aunt Lady Katherine De Burgh. She does not approve of Elizabeth and she dominates the lives of Mr. Collins and Charlotte.
We learn very clearly about the English class system in this story. Lady Katherine has a title and money. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingly have no title but have money. The Bennets have no money and the Gardeners (Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle) are in trade which is very low class indeed. Marriage and its many forms are a central theme of this story.
The Bennets are a poor match of two people of different classes. Charlotte and Mr. Collins are almost as mismatched because they married for convenience. We see hope in the relationships of Jane and Bingley and Elizabeth and Darcy. And as Elizabeth tells Lady Katherine, “I am the daughter of a gentleman and Darcy is a gentleman, there is no class difference.”
In the end, love triumphs over class and pride.
I realize that this isn't really a book review, but I so love this story that I enjoyed writing about it.