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.
Mr. Collins is said to have been brought up by an "illiterate and miserly father." This, along with his unexpected good fortune" in finding the patronage of Lady Catherine has led to his lack of good sense and his overwhelming sense of self-importance. Now that he is settled into an income and has a nice house, he wants to "make amends" for inheriting the Longbourn estate by marrying one of the Bennet sisters. After meeting them, he is first attracted to Jane because of her beauty, but Mrs. Bennet soon tells him that Jane may soon be engaged, but that any of her younger daughters are available. After the conversation with Mrs. Bennet, he switches his affections to Elizabeth.Mr. Collins joins the Bennet sisters for a walk to Meryton. After reaching Meryton they meet Mr. Denny, an officer Lydia and Kitty know. Captain Denny introduces the women to a new member of the regiment, Mr. Wickham. The ladies all find Mr. Wickham handsome and charming. While they are talking, Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy ride by and greet them. As soon as Darcy notices Mr. Wickham, he turns pale; in return, Mr. Wickham turns red. Bingley and Darcy continue on their ride. The girls then walk to their aunt and uncle's house. Jane introduces Mr. Collins to Mrs. Phillips. Mrs. Philips plans invites Mr. Wickham to dinner tomorrow and invites the Bennet girls and Mr. Collins to join them.
In chapter sixteen, Mr. Collins speaks to Mrs. Philips about Lady Catherine and her mansion Rosings, and Mrs. Philips is impressed. Elizabeth forms a good impression of Mr. Wickham, and talks to him at length throughout the evening. Elizabeth wants to find out why there is such animosity between Wickham and Darcy. Wickham asks Elizabeth how long Darcy has been in the area. Elizabeth tells Wickham how much she dislikes Darcy. Wickham mentions that he has known Darcy since childhood. Wickham tells Elizabeth that Darcy's father was his godfather and had promised to provide a living for him. After his godfather's death, says Wickham, Darcy did not make good on the promise. Elizabeth suggests that Darcy be publicly dishonored for his actions. Wickham refuses to do so, supposedly out of respect for Darcy's father. Wickham says that Darcy's dislike of him is due to jealousy. Elizabeth and Wickham also talk about Darcy's pride. Wickham alludes to a previous relationship with Darcy's sister that has now grown cold. Wickham also tells Elizabeth that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is Mr. Darcy's aunt, and that Mr. Darcy is expected to marry Miss de Bourgh in order to unite the estates of the two families.
Mr. Collins is "not a sensible man" and is described as someone whose nature had been "little assisted by education or society." Mr. Collins had spent the majority of his life under the guidance of his "illiterate and miserly" father. Mr. Collins' humility is often "counteracted by the self-conceit of a weak head...and the consequential feelings of early and unexpected prosperity." When the parsonage at Hunsford became vacant, Mr. Collins received the income due to a "fortunate chance" that recommended him to Lady Catherine. Now that Mr. Collins had an income and a nice house, he intended to marry. Because he sought reconciliation between the two families, he meant to ask one of the Bennet daughters to be his wife.
That morning Mr. Collins tells Mrs. Bennet about his plans. His first choice is Jane, but Mrs. Bennet tells him that Jane is not available, and was "likely to be very soon engaged." However, Mrs. Bennet tells Mr. Collins that any of her younger daughters are available. All the sisters except for Mary had plans to walk to Meryton that morning and Mr. Bennet encouraged Mr. Collins to walk with them. As they walked, Lydia and Catherine were immediately drawn to the officers, so Mr. Collins was left with Elizabeth.
While in Meryton, the sisters are introduced to an officer named Mr. Wickham, who is very handsome. Also in town are Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy, who tries not to look at Elizabeth. Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy exchange uncomfortable looks.
Mrs. Phillips, the girls' aunt, invites them all inside the house. Mr. Wickham is invited by the girls' Uncle Phillips to dinner that night. Jane and Elizabeth speak to each other about the oddness of the meeting between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, and conclude that both men acted inappropriately.
After the visit to Meryton Mr. Collins goes on and on about what attractive women the sisters are, that Mrs. Phillips' manners were perfect, and that he had never "met with so much attention" in all his life. Everyone grows tired of his long complimentary speeches.
In chapter sixteen, the girls and Mr. Collins go back to the Phillips' for dinner. The girls are happy to see that Wickham has accepted the invitation for dinner. Mr. Wickham is acknowledged to be very handsome. Mr. Collins talks endlessly about Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her patronage. Mr. Collins speaks to Mrs. Philips about Lady Catherine and her mansion Rosings, and Mrs. Philips is impressed. Elizabeth forms a good impression of Mr. Wickham, and talks to him at length throughout the evening while the other girls play a game of whist.
Elizabeth wants to find out why there is such animosity between Wickham and Darcy and asks him about the strangeness of the meeting between himself and Mr. Darcy earlier in the afternoon. Wickham asks Elizabeth how long Darcy has been in the area. Elizabeth tells Wickham how much she dislikes Darcy. Wickham mentions that he has known Darcy since childhood and that he once lived on Mr. Darcy's estate, Pemberley. Wickham tells Elizabeth that Darcy's father was his godfather and had promised to provide a living for him. After his godfather's death, says Wickham, Darcy did not make good on the promise. Elizabeth suggests that Darcy be publicly dishonored for his actions. Wickham refuses to do so, supposedly out of respect for Darcy's father. Wickham says that Darcy's dislike of him is due to jealousy. Elizabeth and Wickham also talk about Darcy's pride. Wickham alludes to a previous relationship with Darcy's sister that has now grown cold. Elizabeth, already prejudiced against Mr. Darcy's character, believes Wickham's story. Wickham also tells Elizabeth that Lady Catherine de Bourgh is Mr. Darcy's aunt, and that Mr. Darcy is expected to marry Miss de Bourgh in order to unite the estates of the two families.
The themes of pride and prejudice are once again prevalent in these two chapters. The character of Mr. Wickham is introduced, a man that at first glance seems charming and believable. Elizabeth's pride in her ability to judge the characters of others quickly forms a favorable opinion of Mr. Wickham. Her prejudice in Mr. Darcy allows her to readily believe Mr. Wickham's story about Mr. Darcy. Wickham's attentions toward Elizabeth make her more readily accept is story. Elizabeth trusts Wickham from the start and does not consider that his account of Darcy could be dishonest. His story seems to correspond with the impression she has already formed of Darcy. Elizabeth succumbs to believing in gossip when her curiosity about the meeting between Darcy and Wickham gets the better of her.Wickham at first pretends to avoid the subject of him and Mr. Darcy. He further pretends that, out of respect for Darcy's father, he does not want to say anything negative about Darcy or his sister Georgiana. The fact that Wickham so quickly divulges all the details of the story should also bring doubt to his sincerity. Elizabeth, however, sees no inconsistency in Wickham's behavior or his story, and believes everything he tells her without question. Elizabeth incorrectly judges Mr. Wickham to be trustworthy.
Elizabeth's judgments of Darcy have led to a complete lack of objectivity on her part. Of course, these judgments are a result of her wounded pride. Her judgment of Wickham is also tied to her pride, in that he is charming and attentive to Elizabeth.
The language of the novel makes the reader suspicious of Wickham's character. There is suspicion written all over his remarks. Wickham's introduction and his account of the story introduces another impediment and layer of tension in the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth. This added tension will only be resolved when their respective pride and prejudice is resolved by the end of the novel.