Pride and Prejudice Study Guide

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice follows the lives of the five Bennet sisters and their parents, especially focusing on the second eldest daughter Elizabeth. Though weary of her mother's desperation to place each of her daughters in good marriages, Elizabeth finds herself drawn to Mr. Darcy, a proud and wealthy gentleman who is attracted to Elizabeth because of her intelligence and wit. Amidst the drama of their friends' and families' lives, both must overcome preconceived notions and expectations in this story that explores class, love, and social change.

Biography

Jane Austen was born in 1775 and died in 1817, just three years after the publication of Pride and Prejudice . She is credited with being the first modern novelist to write about the every day details of provincial English middle-class society. Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in Hampshire, a village of which her father was rector. She was the youngest of seven children. In 1801, the family moved to Bath, a town that Austen frequently wrote of in her novels. Austen lived in Bath until 1805, when her father died. The family then moved to Southampton, and then to Chawton. Jane was devoted to her older sister, Cassandra-Elizabeth. At the age of 10, Cassandra was sent away to school in Oxford. Jane begged to be sent also, even though she was too young. However, Jane's father couldn't afford the schooling and the girls were sent back home after less than three years. Apart from this schooling, Austen never lived outside of her family circle again. She was well-educated, for a female of her time period, something she owed to her oldest brother James. Austen had a good knowledge of history, Latin, Italian and some musical training. Around early 1804, Jane started a novel called The Watsons , but when Jane's father died on 21 January 1805, she stopped working on the novel and never returned to it. After her father's death, Jane and her mother were exceedingly poor. Three of the boys in the family arranged an annual income and lodgings for Jane and her mother, but Jane was depressed by the restrictions caused by her finances. Out of desperation for a living, Jane sent off one of her manuscripts to a publisher. In 1810, Sense and Sensibility was accepted for publication, but Jane would have to pay the printing costs. Austen agreed only reluctantly, expecting to lose money. However, the novel sold well and gave Jane a modest profit. Austen then started work on Mansfield Park and sold Pride and Prejudice for publication in 1812. Austen lived a quiet life. She did not marry, and her novels were published anonymously. She seldom left home, except on short visits to towns like Bath. She is considered to be one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Historical Context

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen's earliest work and was published in 1813, some fourteen years after it was first written. Austen began writing the Pride and Prejudice in 1796 at the age of twenty-one. The original version of the novel may have been in the form of letters Jane exchanged with family and friends. The manuscript was first offered for publication in 1797, but was not accepted by a publishing house. After completing Pride and Prejudice , Austen began writing Sense and Sensibility , which was not published until 1811, two years before Pride and Prejudice was first published. Austen also wrote other minor works during this same time period. These works were also developed into novels that would be published later in Austen's life. Pride and Prejudice is considered one of Austen's most popular works. The opening line of Pride and Prejudice demonstrates Austen's typical subject matter: a young female of landed gentry, in various economic circumstances, trying to maintain or enhance her social position by marriage. In an Austen novel, it is typical to find numerous examples of marriages, both good and bad, formed from either love or need of circumstance. Austen's typical heroine is a well-bred young woman involved in the act of courtship and its pitfalls. Often the heroine of a Jane Austen novel, much like the women of her time period, would find herself facing a situation in which her financial future looked bleak, as in the case of Elizabeth Bennett, whose family estate was entailed away from the female line. This was the plight of Austen herself, and so many women of her class, to be faced with the possibility of a marriage without love in order to provide a home and income. Austen used comedy and irony to render a faithful and sympathetic view of the provincial, country life she had known all her life. Austen's novels were a first of this time period and she had no rivals in her comedies of manners, as no one else could depict the English gentry as Austen had done. Austen's novels were all published anonymously.

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