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.
Elizabeth spends much time over the next few days reflecting on the contents of the letter and on her past conduct. She does not regret her refusal, but does regret her actions and misjudgments.Mr. Darcy and Mr. Fitzwilliam leave Rosings. Elizabeth makes plans to leave as well. Lady Catherine tries to talk Elizabeth into staying another week. Elizabeth and Maria stop at the Gardiner's to spend a few days in London. Jane is to return home with them. Elizabeth is tempted to tell her about Darcy's letter, but decides to wait because she is not sure how much she should reveal.
When they reach Hertfordshire the girls are greeted by Kitty and Lydia who have prepared lunch for them at the inn but have no money to pay for the meal. Elizabeth is happy to hear that regiment will soon be leaving Meryton, but does not like Lydia's plan to talk Mr. and Mrs. Bennet into a summer in Brighton. Lydia tells Jane and Elizabeth that Miss King has left and that Wickham is "now safe." Lydia and Kitty talk of nothing but officers and balls on the way home to Longbourn. Lydia urges a walk with her to Meryton, but Elizabeth stays home to avoid seeing Wickham.
Mr. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam leave Rosings. Lady Catherine mistakes Darcy's mood and thinks that he is upset because he is leaving her estate and he will miss her. No one knows of Darcy's proposal to Elizabeth. Lady Catherine mistakes Elizabeth's glum mood and also thinks she is upset at having to leave Kent. Lady Catherine insists that Elizabeth stay longer at the Collins' at Hunsford but Elizabeth insists that her father can spare her no longer. Lady Catherine insists that father's can always spare a daughter but Elizabeth still declines, saying she expected back on Saturday. In spite of Lady Catherine's insistence, Elizabeth sticks to her original departure date. Elizabeth is to travel by post, something Lady Catherine thinks highly improper. When Elizabeth tells Lady Catherine that her uncle will send a man servant, Lady Catherine seems relieved that Elizabeth will not be traveling alone. Elizabeth rereads Darcy's letter.
In chapter thirty eight, Elizabeth and Mr. Collins meet before breakfast and talk. Mr. Collins asks Elizabeth if she has enjoyed her stay. Elizabeth assures him that she has. Mr. Collins congratulates himself for having introduced Elizabeth to such superior society. Elizabeth assures Mr. Collins that she will return to Hertfordshire with a "favorable report" of her visit. Elizabeth regrets leaving Charlotte with "such society," but consoles herself with the fact that Charlotte has chosen her marriage to Mr. Collins "with her eyes open." Elizabeth travels from Kent to the Gardiners' where she is reunited with her sister Jane.
In chapter thirty nine, Lydia and Kitty meet Jane in Hertfordshire. They have ordered a large meal for all the girls and say they mean to pay for it but Jane and Elizabeth will have to loan them the money as they have just spent theirs in the shop next door. Lydia shows Elizabeth a bonnet and tells her she thinks it is ugly, but bought it anyway. When the sisters agree that the bonnet is ugly, Lydia defends herself by saying that there were "two or three much uglier in the shop."
Lydia tells Elizabeth about the regiment leaving Meryton for Brighton, and that she hopes to talk their parents into making a summer trip to Brighton. Lydia tells Elizabeth that Mr. Wickham and Miss King are no longer engaged and that Miss King has "gone down to her uncle at Liverpool." Lydia exclaims that "Wickham is safe." Elizabeth mummers that it is Miss King who is the one who is safe.
The girls eat lunch and then get back into the carriage to travel to Longbourn. While in the carriage Lydia and Kitty ask Jane if they have met any men or done any flirting. Lydia teases Jane for being twenty three and unmarried, she then states how she would like to be married before both Jane and Elizabeth and "chaperon [them] to all the balls." Lydia talks of Mrs. Forester and their great friendship.
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are glad to have Jane and Elizabeth home. As soon as they are home, Lydia again brings up spending the summer in Brighton. Mr. Bennet seems unyielding that a trip to Brighton will not happen, but his answers to Mrs. Bennet on the subject were "so vague...that her mother...had never despaired of succeeding at last."
In these chapters, Elizabeth has come to realize how wrong she was in judging Darcy harshly. Though she does not regret telling him no to his proposal, she does regret making such a quick judgment in favor of Wickham and regrets his introduction to her family, something that will soon come to haunt her.
Lydia and Kitty are reintroduced as principal characters, and their foolish behavior is once again in the foreground as they talk non-stop of balls and officers. Lydia foolishly wants to follow the regiment from Meryton to Brighton, making her seem simple-minded. Though the idea that a sixteen year old would be allowed to go to Brighton to follow a regiment of officers, the idea has been planted in the reader's mind, and trouble has been foreshadowed for the Bennet family.
These chapters serve mostly to call the reader's attention to the frivolousness of Kitty and Lydia, and to reintroduce their characters, as they will soon become an important part of the climax and resolution of the novel. These chapters pay special attention to Lydia, who has throughout the novel has most mirrored her mother's bad judgment. Kitty, though the elder of the two sisters, lacks Lydia's impudence and follows Lydia's lead in everything. Neither of the girls have had a decent education, nor have they had proper supervision from their parents. The realization of Wickham's true character and Lydia's future trip to Brighton foreshadow trouble.