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.
After Elizabeth leaves the dinner table to continue nursing Jane at her bedside, the Bingley sisters criticize her harshly for having walked to Netherfield alone. They further say that Elizabeth is far too proud and independent for having done such a thing alone. Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, however, admire Elizabeth's devotion to her sister and defend her behavior to the sisters. Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Hurst then talk of the low social connections of Jane and Elizabeth. Bingley does not seem to care about Jane's connections, but Darcy does acknowledge that their low connections are indeed a barrier to their ability to marry well.In the evening, after Jane has fallen asleep, Elizabeth joins the party in the drawing room. What follows is a conversation about what it means for a woman to be accomplished. Darcy and Miss Bennett provide very unrealistic criteria for an accomplished woman and Elizabeth claims that she is surprised they could know even one woman who could live up to such high expectations.
In chapter nine, Elizabeth asks that her mother visit Jane. Mrs. Bennet sees that Jane is not in danger but insists that she is still not well enough to travel back home. The doctor agrees with Mrs. Bennet. Mr. Bingley will not hear of her being moved. Mrs. Bennet is happy that Jane will stay on another day. Elizabeth is embarrassed by her mother's manners and her extreme rudeness to Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Bennet returns home, Elizabeth stay on at Netherfield to take care of Jane.
In chapter ten, Darcy writes a letter to his sister that evening while Miss Bingley observes him and continually makes admiring comments style of letter writing. As the Bingley sisters sing and play the piano, Elizabeth notices that Mr. Darcy is frequently looking at her. Elizabeth is unable to imagine that he might be attracted to her and thinks that he must be looking at her out of disapproval. Darcy asks Elizabeth if she would like to dance a reel, but Elizabeth assumes that there is only sarcasm in his invitation, and declines the offer with her own sarcasm. Miss Bingley notices the attention Darcy is paying to Elizabeth and talks about the Bennet family, and emphasizing the inferiority of their connections.
Elizabeth dines with the Bingley party, and reports that Jane is not any better. The Bingley sisters exclaim how bad it is to be sick, but then think no more of Jane. Elizabeth reaffirms her dislike for the sisters. Mr. Bingley is the only one of the party who seems genuinely concerned about Jane. Mr. Hurst is described as a man who generally cares about no one and prefers to play cards and drink. After dinner, Elizabeth returns to Jane's side. As soon as she leaves, the Bingley sisters begin to talk about her, calling her manners poor, and saying that she had no taste or beauty. They ridicule Elizabeth for having walked so far alone, and talk about how dirty her petticoat was when she got there. Mr. Darcy says he would not have allowed his sister to walk such a distance; Bingley says it shows affection for her sister. Mr. Darcy also begins to defend Elizabeth against the sisters', saying that Elizabeth's "fine eyes" were "brightened by the exercise."
The Bingley sisters then talk about Jane, saying it is too bad that she is so poorly connected. Bingley does not seem to care about Jane's connections, but Darcy does acknowledge that their low connections are indeed a barrier to Elizabeth and Jane's ability to marry well. They also talk about Mr. Phillips being engaged in trade, and another aunt and uncle who live in the village of Cheapside.
Elizabeth comes back downstairs later and tells them that Jane is no better. Elizabeth decides to spend her time reading a book. A discussion between Miss Bingley and Elizabeth ensues. Miss Bingley is haughty to Elizabeth, but Elizabeth is sharp-witted and defends herself well against Caroline Bingley's insults. A discussion about Darcy's younger sister, Georgiana begins. Caroline Bingley remarks at what an accomplished woman Georgiana is. Mr. Bingley declares that he knows many accomplished women; Mr. Darcy says that Mr. Bingley's expectations are too low. Elizabeth asks Mr. Darcy what he thinks an accomplished woman should be able to do, his list is very long, and he declares that he only knows of six such women. Elizabeth declares, with such a long list, that she is surprised if he knows even one accomplished woman.
In chapter nine, Elizabeth has spent the night with Jane and is able to report the next morning that Jane is feeling much better. She sends a note home to her mother. Mrs. Bennet refuses to allow Jane to be sent home, and tells Bingley that she is worse and must not be moved. Mr. Bingley agrees and seems genuinely concerned about Jane. Caroline Bingley agrees, but obviously does not want Jane to stay. Mrs. Bennet continues on about how sick Jane is, and yet how sweet. Mrs. Bennet talks to both Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy in a very ill mannered way; Elizabeth fusses at her mother and advises her to "remember where [she] is." Mr. Darcy comments that in the country, "you move in a very confined and unvarying society," an obvious insult to Mrs. Bennet's manners. Mrs. Bennet tells Mr. Darcy that London "does not have any great advantage" over the country. Mr. Bingley tries to make peace between the two and says that he enjoys both the country and the city equally. Mrs. Bennet talks about the Lucas family, and says that they are her idea of "good breeding." She talks about Charlotte, and compares her to Jane, stating how beautiful Jane is in comparison. Elizabeth is embarrassed by her mother's manners. There is an awkward silence; Lydia mentions to Mr. Bingley that he has promised to give a ball. Mrs. Bennet and Lydia leave, Elizabeth returns to Jane's bedside.
In chapter ten, Jane continues to get well, though she is still sick. In the evening, Mr. Darcy writes a letter to his sister, Georgiana; Caroline Bingley repeatedly interrupts him to compliment him, an obvious attempt at a flirtation. Miss Bingley compliments Mr. Darcy on his letter writing, calling his letters "charming" and "long," and offers to "mend" his pen. She repeatedly interrupts him to relay messages in his letter to Georgiana: "...tell your sister that I long to see her." There is a heated discussion between Mr. Bingley, Darcy, Caroline Bingley, and Elizabeth. Mr. Darcy finishes his letter and asks Caroline and Mrs. Hurst to play some music, as they sing Elizabeth notices that Mr. Darcy is staring at her, but she can only imagine that he is staring at her because she has done something wrong, not because he likes her.
The truth is that Mr. Darcy has become "bewitched" by Elizabeth. Darcy asks Elizabeth if she would like to dance a reel, but Elizabeth assumes that there is only sarcasm in his invitation, and declines the offer with her own sarcasm. Miss Bingley becomes jealous and tries to engage him in a discussion of insults against Elizabeth, teases him about hanging portraits of Elizabeth's Aunt and Uncle Phillips in the gallery at Pemberley, but Mr. Darcy does not participate, and instead defends Elizabeth. Later, as they all walk along the lane, which is too small for all of them to walk side by side, Caroline Bingley takes Mr. Darcy's arm. Mr. Darcy, recognizing the insult, suggests that walk on the avenue, which is large enough to accommodate them all. Elizabeth teases Mr. Darcy, and declines to walk on the avenue, stating that he is "charmingly group'd."
Elizabeth and Jane's stay at Netherfield intensifies the class differences in the novel. Though Elizabeth does not shirk from the verbal attacks of the Bingley sisters, it is acknowledged by Darcy that she does indeed come from lower connection, an impediment to his continued attraction to her. Chapter eight shows the depth of Mrs. Bennet's desire to get Jane married to Mr. Bingley, as she will try any trick, including sending her daughter on a horse back ride in the rain, to keep the two together. In chapters eight, nine, and ten, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst make constant reference to the low connections of Jane and Elizabeth out of jealousy. It is apparent that Miss Bingley wants Mr. Darcy for herself and she will say anything to make Elizabeth seem less in Mr. Darcy's eyes.Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst peak about the fact that one of Bennet's relations works "in trade" and is an attorney. These chapters further identify the sisters as class-conscious snobs. Though today, everyone must work to earn a living, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a person who worked for a living was considered to be socially inferior to someone who lived off the income of his or her estate. To work for a living was considered distasteful. While Caroline Bingley brings up Elizabeth's low connections out of jealousy, Jane's connections are mentioned as a limitation of her marriage possibilities, a hint to Mr. Bingley that he should look elsewhere for a wife.
Darcy acknowledges "were it not for the inferiority of [Elizabeth's] connections, he should be in some danger." This very belief, however, reveals that he is already in more "danger" than he would like to admit. While Bingley seems to have little concern for class issues, it is in fact Bingley who will eventually allows the class considerations expressed by his sister and friends to kill his feelings for Jane. In the conversation Elizabeth and Bingley have about Bingley's character, Darcy criticizes the Bingley's quickness to follow the advice of family and friends. Elizabeth defends Bingley, saying that this character trait in Bingley is a good one. However, as the story progresses, it is Darcy who will eventually talk Bingley out of a marriage with Jane, something that will cost him the love and admiration of Elizabeth.