This much-loved novel by Jane Austen is a wonderfully enjoyable social comment on marriage, wealth, social standing and manners in the regency period, yet still manages to hit the right chord in today’s ‘classless’ society.The Bennet family, consisting of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five eligible daughters, are thrown into excited anticipation when they hear that the nearby Netherfield Park (the local big mansion house) is to be let to the very rich and single Mr Bingley. In particular, Mrs Bennet is extremely eager to get one of her daughters married off into a family of fortune and makes sure that her rather more temperate husband makes his acquaintance as soon as possible.Things start to go according to plan, as Mr Bingley shows signs that he has taken a liking to the eldest daughter, Jane. His friend, Mr Darcy (who is more handsome and more rich even than Bingley), is unpopular because of his extremely aloof and proud attitude and is generally thought to be very disagreeable. He particularly earns the disapproval of Elizabeth Bennet, who overhears him telling Bingley at a ball that she is not handsome enough to dance with.Although Darcy does begin to develop an admiration for Elizabeth, her attitude towards him is quite contemptuous. Elizabeth is an intelligent woman, but she becomes biased against Darcy because she believes him to be arrogant and disapproving of her own family. These feelings are compounded by her meeting with the charming Mr Wickham, who tells her that he had been brought up by Darcy’s father, and Darcy was jealous of their relationship and had prevented him from taking up a living that the late Mr Darcy had bequeathed to him.Meanwhile, Jane and Bingley’s relationship appears to be developing positively, but Jane’s hopes are shattered when Bingley leaves Netherfield to return to London without any explanation or farewell.Elizabeth turns down a proposal of marriage from her obsequious cousin, Mr Collins, much to the disapproval of her mother who had hopes of her marrying into money. Instead, Mr Collins marries her friend, Charlotte, and soon after this Elizabeth visits them, where she meets Darcy’s formidable aunt, the Lady Catherine de Bourgh. At this time, she discovers from a mutual friend, that it was Darcy who had been instrumental in Bingley’s move back to London to save him from an ‘imprudent’ marriage. Elizabeth knows that this was an interference between Bingley and her sister, Jane, and she is furious. When Darcy, to her surprise and alarm, declares his love for her and proposes to her, she refuses him angrily and confronts him with the information about Bingley and Wickham. They argue and part in animosity. The next day she receives a letter from him and explains his reasons for parting Bingley from Jane with an apology for hurting her feelings. He also corrects her on the story of Wickham, whose character is actually of the worst sort, who took advantage of Darcy senior, used up the money given to him, living a life of ‘idleness and dissipation’ and planning to elope with Darcy’s sister.
Elizabeth realises that she has been guilty of prejudice against Darcy, but believes it is too late for them to revive their friendship. On her return home, she behaves with some coolness towards Wickham, who leaves with his regiment for Brighton, where Elizabeth’s younger sister, Lydia, is also planning to visit. Elizabeth, believing the information she has received to be of a confidential nature, tells no-one about what she has learned of Wickham, and hopes that she will never see him again.Elizabeth now goes on a visit to her aunt and uncle in Derbyshire, and while there a trip is organised to visit Darcy’s great house, Pemberley. Believing Darcy to be away, Elizabeth agrees to this. The house is very impressive, but when, having seen the house, they start to walk through the extensive gardens, Elizabeth is horrified to see Darcy arrive and come to speak to them and she is very embarrassed, thinking that hewould misunderstand her reason for being there. However, he is very civil, and charming to her aunt and uncle, who are pleasantly surprised after Elizabeth’s previous description of his character. While she is staying in Derbyshire, she receives a letter from Jane which informs her of the terrible news that Lydia has eloped with Wickham. Immediately, Elizabeth rushes home, after relaying the news to Darcy, and believing that the news would make her and her family even more disagreeable to him. A terrible period of apprehension and confusions ensues, but eventually the two are found and Wickham is forced to marry Lydia, with a promise of a large income. The Bennets are puzzled as to where this money has come from.It is soon revealed to Elizabeth that it was Darcy who found the two and provided the money, which further increases her growing admiration for him. Further interesting news is that Bingley is to return to Netherfield, and soon after his arrival proposes to Jane to the delight of everyone.Both Darcy and Elizabeth have had to admit to themselves that they have been guilty of pride and prejudice, and in one of the most satisfying endings to a novel that it is possible to read, the pair come together to finally declare their mutual love.