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.
At breakfast the following day Mr. Bennet announces that Mr. Collins, a cousin has never met, will be visiting. Because Mr. Bennet has no sons, Mr. Collins is the next in line to inherit Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet hates Mr. Collins because of this. Elizabeth and Jane try to explain the laws of entailment to their mother, but she continues to hold a grudge against Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins has written a letter to Mr. Bennet announcing his arrival. In the letter, Mr. Collins explains that he has recently been ordained and is under the patronage of Lady Catherine de Bourgh.Mr. Collins arrives at Longbourn that afternoon. He is 25 years old, tall and heavy. His manners are very formal and he has a habit of giving long-winded speeches. When conversing with the women, he mentions the hardship of the entailment and states that he wants to make amends. He has come "prepared to admire" the Bennet daughters and expresses his admiration for the house and the lovely dinner.
In chapter fourteen, Mr. Bennet invites Mr. Collins to speak about his patroness Lady Catherine. Mr. Collins describes Lady Catherine with great solemnity and praise. He remarks on her great "affability and condescension" to him, though she is of much higher rank socially. He also describes Lady Catherine's daughter, Miss de Bourgh, as quite "charming" but as a person in poor health. He tries to flatter everyone around him, especially Lady Catherine, by thinking up flattering phrases about Miss de Bourgh that seem spontaneous. Mr. Bennet is convinced that Mr. Collins is "absurd" and does not wish to hear him talk anymore. After tea Mr. Bennet invites Mr. Collins to read aloud. Mr. Collins declares that he never reads novels and begins to read from a book of sermons with "monotonous solemnity." After a few pages Lydia interrupts to ask her mother a question about her uncle Philips; Mr. Collins is offended but stops reading after briefly reprimanding Lydia's behavior. He then asks Mr. Bennet for a game of backgammon.
At breakfast, Mr. Bennet announces that there will be a visitor for dinner at Longbourn that night, whom Mr. Bennet calls a "gentleman and a stranger." Mrs. Bennet assumes that it is Mr. Bingley visiting Jane. Mr. Bennet tells Mrs. Bennet that it is not Mr. Bingley coming to visit, but someone Mr. Bennet has never met, his cousin, Mr. Collins, who is to inherit Longbourn when Mr. Bennet dies. The purpose for Mr. Collins' visit, explains Mr. Bennet, is to make peace between the two families. Mrs. Bennet states how unfair it is that the estate is entailed away from the daughters. Mr. Bennet agrees, but then asks her not to judge Mr. Collins too harshly, and reads Mr. Collins' letter out loud. In the letter Mr. Collins explains that he is now a minister, and receives the patronage of a Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The letter also state that Mr. Collins will be at Longbourn at four o'clock and will stay a week at Longbourn. Mr. Collins also says that he intends to "make amends" with the girls, meaning he wishes to marry one of them to keep Longbourn in the family so that Mrs. Bennet and the girls will not be forced to leave upon the death of Mr. Bennet.
Mr. Collins arrives at Longbourn, and is received politely. He is described as "grave and stately" with "formal manners." When talking to Mrs. Bennet, he starts to tell her that he means to propose marriage to one of the girls but is interrupted by a call to dinner. When dinner is served, Mr. Collins makes the mistake of asking which daughter cooked the meal. Mrs. Bennet is offended, and states that they employ a cook. Mr. Collins apologizes, and continues to do so for another fifteen minutes.
In chapter fourteen, after dinner, Mr. Bennet sits down to talk with Mr. Collins and inquires about his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Mr. Collins, who likes to talk, and who likes to talk about his patroness even more, begins to talk and talk about Lady Catherine, stating that he has never met anyone of such "affability and condescension." He also brags at having been invited to Rosings twice for dinner, and having had the honor of preaching in front of her for an hour. Mrs. Bennet asks about Lady Catherine's estate. Mr. Collins describes Rosings as it were the most fabulous estate in all of England. Mr. Collins is asked about Lady Catherine's daughter. Mr. Collins describes her to the Bennets as he often does, as quite "charming" but as a person in poor health. He tries to flatter eveyone around him, especially Lady Catherine, by thinking up flattering phrases about Miss de Bourgh that seem spontaneous. Mr. Bennet is convinced that Mr. Collins is "absurd" and does not wish to hear him talk anymore. After tea Mr. Bennet invites Mr. Collins to read aloud. Mr. Collins declares that he never reads novels and begins to read from a book of sermons with "monotonous solemnity." After a few pages Lydia interrupts to ask her mother a question about her uncle Philips; Mr. Collins is offended but stops reading after briefly reprimanding Lydia's behavior. He then asks Mr. Bennet for a game of backgammon. Mr. Collins is so pompous and silly in his long speeches about Lady Catherine, that Mr. Bennet finds it humorous to watch Mr. Collins speak.
Chapters thirteen and fourteen introduce the character of Mr. Collins, and further develop the theme of social class. Where Elizabeth does not automatically respect those of higher social rank, and often questions their sincerity, Mr. Collins immediately respects those of higher social rank without question, especially Lady Catherine. Mr. Collins is an exaggerated character, so long-winded and in possession of such overly formal manners that no one can bear to be around him. Mr. Collins is filled with self-importance due to his patronage from Lady Catherine.Mr. Collins is in line to inherit Longbourn and Mrs. Bennet sees this as a great injustice to her daughters. Mr. Collins' future inheritance further establishes the question of economics for the young women of the late eighteenth century. Jane and Elizabeth are resigned to the entailment, but still believe that it is possible for them to fall in love first, and then marry. They do not blame Mr. Collins for being the next in line to inherit Longbourn, as their mother does. Mr. Collins believes that by marrying one of the Bennet daughters, he will make amends for taking their property. Mr. Collins is visiting Longbourn hoping to find a wife among his cousins. This issue of family marrying family to strengthen a fortune or estate is a subject that continues throughout the novel.
Mrs. Bennet's reaction, and her resentment of Mr. Collins, serves as a reminder of the unfairness of the eighteenth century entailment laws. Elizabeth and Jane, resolved that the estate will not fall to them, stand as a symbol of the plight of the eighteenth century woman, and her helplessness. It seems that the only thing a woman might have control over, with respect to her economic future, was her choice of husband, and the income he could provide. Mrs. Bennet brings attention to the injustice of the law and what a hardship it is for the young women. Without the independent income the Longbourn estate could provide them, the Bennet women must rely on a good marriage to take care of them in the future; however, their marriage prospects are considerably lower because of their small inheritance.
Also briefly introduced are Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her daughter. In spite of Mr. Collins' praise, the reader senses that Lady Catherine is an arrogant, rich woman who is as full of self-satisfaction as Mr. Collins. The characters show a similarity in self-importance and arrogance, in spite of their differing social positions. The novel barely mentions Miss de Bourgh, except to say that she is "sickly and weak." Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins will play an important part in the second half of the novel.