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.
The novel starts with a conversation at the Bennet household, an estate called Longbourn. A gentleman named Mr. Bingley, "a single man of large fortune" his rented Netherfield Park, a nearby estate, and Mrs. Bennet sees Mr. Bingley as a potential suitor for her daughters. Mrs. Bennet tries to persuade Mr. Bingley to visit him so that the girls can be properly introduced to Mr. Bingley. There are five daughters in the Bennet family: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine, and Lydia. Mr. Bennet prefers Elizabeth due to her sharp wit and intelligence. Mrs. Bennet prefers Jane, the eldest, because of her beauty. In Lydia, Mrs. Bennet sees something of herself as a young woman. Lydia is just as simple-minded and ill mannered as her mother.In chapter two, Mr. Bennet has paid a visit to Mr. Bingley without telling his family. He slips the news of his visit into a conversation with Elizabeth. However, he eludes all their questions about what Mr. Bingley looks like, and he refuses to discuss his character.
The novel begins with one of the more famous quotes in literature: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." The opening scene begins with Mrs. Bennet announcing to Mr. Bennet that Netherfield Park, a nearby estate, has been rented out. Mrs. Bennet goes on to say that the estate has been taken by a "young man of large fortune," whose name is Mr. Bingley, and who is also single, something Mrs. Bennet thinks is "a fine thing" for her daughters since she is thinking "of his marrying one of them." Mr. Bennet teases his wife, first by pretending that he did not want to know the name of the man, then asking if it was Mr. Bingley's intent, in moving to Netherfield, to fall in love with one of the Bennet daughters and get married. Mrs. Bennet asks Mr. Bennet to go see Mr. Bingley. Mr. Bennet acts as if he has no desire to meet Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennet begs him to do so for the sake of their daughters. Mr. Bennet replies sarcastically that his daughters are "silly and ignorant like other girls," but that the second eldest daughter, Elizabeth, "has something more of a quickness than her sisters." Mrs. Bennet fusses at Mr. Bennet for favoring Elizabeth and for thinking to ill of his other daughters. Mr. Bennet is described as sarcastic, quick witted, and reserved. Mrs. Bennet is described as having an "uncertain temper," and of having "little information."
In chapter two it is disclosed that Mr. Bennet was one of the first to visit Mr. Bingley, and that he had "always intended to visit him," though doesn't tell his wife about the visit until it has already taken place. Mr. Bennet tells of his visit to Mr. Bingley in a conversation to Elizabeth. Mr. Bennet continues to torture his wife about the meeting. There is a conversation about the next ball. The women discuss the fact that they will have to rely on Mrs. Long for an introduction to Mr. Bingley since Mr. Bennet has refused to visit Mr. Bingley. Mr. Bennet teases the girls and his wife as long as he can, continuing to keep the visit a secret throughout the conversation, but finally tells them that he has indeed visited Mr. Bingley, after his wife, out of frustration, says that she is "sick of Mr. Bingley." Mr. Bennet replies that it is a shame, since he has gone to the trouble of visiting Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennet exclaims that she knew the whole time that Mr. Bennet would visit Mr. Bingley. The women discuss who will get to dance with Mr. Bingley at the next ball, and when Mr. Bingley would return Mr. Bennet's visit. It is decided that Mr. Bingley should be invited to dinner.
The first line of the novel, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife," is among the most famous first lines in literature. The line calls attention to the central theme of marriage, and introduces the reader to Austen's use of irony. Though the line mentions "a single man . . . in want of a wife," Austen's emphasis is on the plight of the unmarried female in the late eighteenth century. It was a woman's need to find a husband in possession of a "good fortune that drove the plot of Austen's Pride and Prejudice . Austen attacks a woman's need for marriage as a means of economic survival.These two opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main characters: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters. They also introduce the main plot of the novel. From the start the reader understands that this novel will be primarily about family and marriage. Mr. Bennet's sarcastic treatment of his wife and daughters, and Mrs. Bennet's constant complaining about her "nerves" foreshadow a comedic style. Mr. Bennet's strange pleasure in "vexing" his wife and daughters starts from the very beginning, and will continue throughout.
The opening scene, in which Mr. Bingley's arrival is discussed, gives the reader an accurate sketch of the principal characters. Mrs. Bennett is simple-minded, frivolous, ill-mannered, and obsessed with marrying off her daughters to the highest bidder. Mr. Bennett is a detached, often absent father who takes pleasure in teasing his wife and daughters. He is close only to Elizabeth Bennet, the second oldest daughter, and considers the others, especially the younger two, to be as silly and frivolous as his wife. Jane is the beautiful, amiable, and good-natured daughter. She always assumes others are as good-natured as she. Jane is fast to trust and often cannot believe others mean to do her harm. Elizabeth is also good-looking but not as beautiful as Jane. She is sharp-witted and prides herself on her ability to gauge the character of others.
Austen effectively uses dialogue through the novel to develop these characters. It is through the polite yet sarcastic conversations between Mr. Bennet and his wife and daughters that the reader sees the family dynamic.