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.
Pride and Prejudice is a novel of marriage, but also a novel of love. The principal characters of the novel: Jane and Elizabeth, proclaim that they will only marry for love. They stand as symbols of the uncompromising woman who will not compromise her ideals for money. Because these two women stick to their principles, they are rewarded with husbands who are both rich and perfectly suited to them. There are other instances of love as well, such as Elizabeth's initial feelings of love toward Wickham. There are also examples of marriage without love: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Charlotte and Mr. Collins for example. The characters who marry for reasons other than love are often saddled with completely inappropriate mates. Charlotte is a symbol of the eighteenth century woman who must marry for money.
Class is repeated symbol throughout the novel. Lady Catherine, Miss Bingley, and Mr. Darcy all represent a higher social class that seeks to intimidate those of a different social status. Class determines who a woman or man can marry, as it was uncommon for someone to marry outside their class. Love, in Austen's time, was often secondary to class and money. Austen uses characters like Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins as symbols to satirize class and show how ridiculous it is to automatically respect a person because they are of a higher social class.
Longbourn is the Bennet estate and is entailed away from the female line, it serves as a symbol of the unfairness of the estate laws, and the position in which women of the eighteenth century often found themselves: whether or not to marry for money or love. Rosings is a very formal estate, much like Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Pemberley is described as being neither formal, nor falsely adorned, and is clearly meant to symbolize the character of Mr. Darcy.
Pride and Prejudice takes place in many different locations: Longbourn, Meryton, Pemberly and London to name a few. Elizabeth's character is based on her love of the outdoors and as she is touring Pemberly with her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner she meets up with Mr. Darcy. The journeys from place to place often set new scenes in the novel and allow a reason for the characters to interact. When Elizabeth visits Charlotte in Hunsford, she dines at Rosings and meets up with Darcy. When Jane travels to London, she has a meeting with Caroline Bingley.
Money is the central driving force of many matrimonial decisions that get made throught the novel. Carlotte Lucas marries for income and position, Wickham becomes engaged to Miss King for money, Mrs. Bennet readily accepts Mr. Darcy as a husband for Elizabeth because of his money. There are examples of how money stalls the marriage process as well: Elizabeth is advised not to pursue Wickham because of his lack of income; Colonel Fitzwilliam tells Elizabeth that he does not have the luxury of marrying for love since he is the second son; Mrs. Bennet's preoccupation with marrying her daughters is driven by money and the entailment of the Bennet estate and the lack of a male heir.
Pride and Prejudice is a novel centered on marriage, its failures and successes. In the novel, Mrs. and Mrs. Gardiner are the example of a good marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are the example of a bad marriage. Charlotte Lucas marries strictly for financial gain and is forced to live with Mr. Collins for the remainder of her life. Lydia Bennet forgoes her virtue and marries a man who does not love her. Pride and Prejudice is essentially the story of two courtships that eventually lead to marriage, that of Darcy and Elizabeth and Bingley and Jane. Just as there are several successful courtships, the novel is also full of failed attempts as well: Mr. Collins' failed attempt to marry Elizabeth; Miss Bingley's failed attempt to capture Mr. Darcy; Mr. Wickham's failed engagement to Miss King. Marriage and courtship are of great importance throughout the novel.