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Pride and Prejudice

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First published in 1813, "Pride and Prejudice," Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners - one of the most popular novels of all time - tells the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet's five unmarried daughters after the rich and eligible Mr Bingley and his status-conscious friend, Mr Darcy, have moved into their neighbourhood. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." So begins the novel, that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

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Published 01 January 2007
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EAN13 9796500118475
Language English

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Jane Austen
Edited With an Introduction By Dr. MAHMOUD ABBAS
THE ANGLO-EGYPTIAN BOOKSHOP
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CONTENTS
I- Introduction byDr. Mahmoud Abbas 1- Jane Austen’s Life and Work 2-Pride and Prejudice 3- Plot - Theme 5- Characters and characterization Notes II. PRIDE ANDPREJUDICE III. Suggested Questions Select Bibliography
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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
I. Introduction
1. Jane Austen's Life and Work
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Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775. Her father was a country clergyman and the family lived in the rectory at Steven-ton in Hampshire. Steventon itself is a small village in the south of England, and it is in this area that she spent most of her life. There is little to say about this life except that she lived there with her family and close friends, remained unmarried, devoted herself to writing, cared for her nieces and nephews, and died relatively un-known.
As a child, Jane was naturally dependent upon her family for entertainment, social activities, and education. She had five elder brothers, an older sister and a younger brother. The eldest brother, James, became a clergyman like his father; the second son, George, was mentally defective and was sent away to live out of sight of the family; the third son was Edward who was later adopted by child-less rich relations and took their surname, Knight. His generosity became a mainstay for the female Austens after the death of the reverend George Austen, and he provided them with Chawton Cot-tage, where Jane lived from 1809 until the end of her life. The fourth brother, Henry, tried careers as a soldier and banker before becoming a clergyman. Henry was closely concerned with the pub-lication of Jane's novels, and she stayed with him in London quite frequently, seeming to enjoy this brother's company. Cassandra Austen was Jane's closest companion and confidante. She never married, and survived her younger sister, living until 1845. A fifth brother, Francis, and Jane's younger brother Charles, both went into the Navy, and both ended their lives with the rank of Admiral .
Jane was sent for a while to a school for young ladies at Reading, but most of her education came from within the family circle, especially from her father, who was greatly interested in ed-
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ucating his children. The members of the family were also respon-sible for educating each other. Occasionally they busied themselves with recitations, musicals, and dramatic productions, but in such an environment, the main social activities were simply walking, visit-ing, talking, reading, an occasional ball or dinner party, and, above all, flirtation. Out of this early period of her life came at least one proposal for marriage, which came to nothing .
It is best to see Jane Austen's writing career as divided into two periods, one at Steventon in the later years of the eighteenth century and a later one, the last decade of her life, at Chawton. These two periods were separated by what was probably the most disruptive events of her life, the retirement of her aged father in 1801, and the removal of the family to Bath for about nine years. For Jane, her father's decision was a severe blow; it is said that she fainted away upon hearing the news. However apocryphal that sto-ry may be, her writing career came to a sudden halt, apparently be-cause of her residence in an uncongenial urban environment.
The actual move occurred in the spring of 1801. Mother and daughters lived in Bath until Mr. Austen's death in 1805. During this brief residence in Bath-one of the most popular resort cities in Great Britain-all was not lost for Jane Austen : she refueled her imagination for the task of writing and rewriting her novels in the last years of her life. It is during these years, also, that she received a second proposal of marriage which was rejected .
After Mr. Austen's death, the family moved to Southampton. In 1809, Jane Austen's exile from rural England came to an end when a brother offered Mrs. Austen a cottage at Chawton, not far from Steventon. The return to the country ended Jane's wanderings and her decade of silence . Besides, her interest in writing seems to have revived after the family moved to Chawton. The years be-tween 1809 and 1817 saw the writing of Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion, together with the publication of the novels, begin-ning with sense and sensibility in October 1811 .The Chawton years seem to have been markedly stable for Jane Austen; they are
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characterized by her increasing success as a novelist, and satisfac-tion in her writing . In 1816, Jane Austen's health began to deteriorate. In 1817, Cassandra took her to Winchester to consult a specialist, but there was no hope of a cure . On July 18, 1817 she died in Cassandra's arms and was buried in Winchester Cathedral . As far as her novels are concerned, Jane Austen spent some-thing like twenty-seven years on her six novels, writing them with care, and constantly revising and polishing them. It is not-surprising, therefore, that the final versions of her novels have a formal perfection with neither loose ends nor characterization for its own sake. Her six novels were published in the following order:
1.Sense and Sensibility2. (1811); Pride and Prejudice (1813); 3.Mansfield Park(1814); 4.Emma(1815); 5.Northanger Abbey(1818); 6.Persuasion
2. Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice has always been Jane Austen's most widely-read novel, and popular notions of her style have tended to be based on it together with Emma. It was received well by her contemporary reading public and critics. Besides, it won the love and admiration of the generations to come. Even in the twentieth century, when the English novel has considerably developed,Pride and Prejudicehas not lost any of its appeal. It is greatly admired for many reasons-for its characterization and psychological truth, for its social insights, for its satire and wit, and for its artistic achievements .
The triumph ofPride and Prejudicelies in combining also poetry of wit with the dramatic structure of fiction. It is, in fact, characterized by being more dramatic than any of the other novels. In this respect, the dialogue is described as being intensely dramat-ic, in the sense of defining characters through the way they speak and are spoken about. It is quite obvious that Jane Austen inPride and Prejudicerelies heavily on dialogue for characterization, mak-
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ing use of narration and description largely to place conversation in its setting and to summarize characters' thoughts and feelings. The reader is less an objective observer than an active participant re-quired along with the heroine to reconsider much of what he has experienced. None of the characters is left untouched by the irony that infuses the novel. The plot structure is obviously ironic, partic-ularly the development of the relationship between Elizabeth Ben-net and Fitzwilliam Darcy .
Jane Austen began writingPride and Prejudice when she was barely twenty-one. The novel was probably written between October 1796 and August 1797. It was first written in the episto-lary style under the titleFirst Impressions. However, it was pub-lished sixteen years later, in January 1813, under a more relevant, literary and sophisticated titlePride and Prejudice.
3. PLOT Pride and Prejudiceis a very good example of Jane Austen's art as it has been described by critics as the most typical of her nov-els. As far as the plot of the novel is concerned, it is a typical Aus-ten plot ; an eligible and handsome bachelor comes to a small country village where an unmarried girl lives, and the problem of the novel is to get the two married in spite of certain obstacles in their path. InPride and Prejudice, this typical plot is extended by the fact that there are two young ladies in a small village, Elizabeth and Jane, being courted by two bachelors, Darcy and Bingley . Elizabeth - Darcy courtship and marriage constitutes the main plot of the novel, which Mary Lascelles describes as a series of diverging and converging lines. Immediately after they meet, Elizabeth and Darcy begin to diverge because of their "pride" and "prejudice". Elizabeth gets prejudiced against Darcy because of his proud and uncommunicative nature. Circumstances gradually con-firm this prejudice. Darcy, however, feels strongly attracted to-wards Elizabeth on account of the liveliness of her temper.
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Nevertheless, the plot gets complicated with the introduction first of Mr. Collins and then of Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth turns down a proposal from Mr. Collins and temporarily gets infatuated with Mr. Wickham. Collins marries her friend Charlotte Lucas and leaves for his seat at Hunsford Parsonage, in the neighbourhood of Rosings, the residence of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. Darcy's pompous and conceited aunt. Midway in the novel, when Elizabeth is on a visit to the Hunsford Parsonage and Mr. Darcy has come to see his aunt, the two are thrown together and Darcy makes his pro-posal to Elizabeth. But she immediately rejects it, accusing him of being responsible for separating Jane and Bingley and for spoiling the career of Mr, Wickham.
Darcy's letter in Chapter 35. however, marks the beginning of the process of self-awareness and mutual understanding. Eliza-beth, who has always prided herself on her perception, now feels ashamed of having been "blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd". Darcy, who has always considered himself a fine gentleman, is suddenly made to realize that his ungracious proposal to Elizabeth has been most ungentlemanlike . His pride is properly humbled. The two have taken a definite step towards maturity ,
Elizabeth's visit to Pemberley, Mr. Darcy's estate, brings them still closer. Elizabeth is greatly impressed by the adoration Darcy's servants show for him. She realizes that she has been grossly mistaken in her estimate of Darcy's'character. Once the lines begin to converge, their progress is not perfect. Rather at one point the convergence is temporarily halted, with the disgraceful elopement of Lydia, Elizabeth's younger sister, and Wickham, which results in the parting of Elizabeth and Darcy once more. In fact, their parting is very essential. By apparently frustrating Eliza-beth's hopes of a marriage with Darcy, it reveals how much she cherishes these hopes and how much she has come to love him. Moreover, it provides Darcy with an opportunity for proving that he is now resolved to act in a most gentlemanlike manner. Lady Catherine's intervention accelerates Darcy's proposal and their ulti-mate marriage. The Darcy-Elizabeth relationship progresses in
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such a way that their marriage could be the only logical conclusion of their earlier misunderstanding. Andrew H. Wright points out in this respect:
. . .Pride and Prejudicedisplays and illustrates the dangers of excessive pride and overweening prejudice : what 'hap-pens', in part, in the novel is that Darcy becomes decreasing-ly proud-compare his second proposal of marriage to the first; and that Elizabeth becomes proportionately less preju-diced-compare her haughty first reaction to Darcy's letter and the sweet pertness of her behaviour when at last she ac-(1) cepts him .
Meanwhile, the sub-plot involving Jane and Bingley is, in some ways, similar to the main plot, but there are great differences. Jane's relationship with Bingley begins, as Elizabeth's does with Darcy at the Meryton ball; but their attraction to each other is im-mediate, and it is other people, not themselves, who impede their developing attachment. The theme of appearance and reality is giv-en a new twist when Bingley is talked into mistaking Jane's touch-ing modesty for indifference, though in fact it conceals her genuine love for him. Once the misunderstanding between them is cleared, there are no further obstacles to their happiness. Neither of them is an 'intricate' character, and they therefore serve as foils to the hero and heroine .
4. Theme Pride and Prejudicemainly deals with the theme of love and marriage. It is, in fact, the dominant theme in almost all of Jane Austen's six novels. Jane Austen considers love and marriage to be the fundamental problem of human life . Human nature in its es-sence reveals itself through this most intimate of personal relation-ships. InPride and Prejudice, Jane Austen attempts to define good reasons for marriage as well as bad reasons through a detailed dis-cussion of five marriages, four new ones and a fifth old one. Char-