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Lecture Notes on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

For Web-Sites concerning the work of Jane Austen




Jane Austen 1775-1817
Born in Steventon (Hampshire) in the south of England, a traditionally conservative, quiet, rural area of the country. Her father was a rector (vicar) and she was educated by him at home.
In 1801, the family moved to Bath, a big city in the west of England, but it wasn't a happy experience.
In 1805, her father died and they returned to Jane's beloved Hampshire to live in the country.
She died in 1817 at the age of 41 in Winchester.
Her life seems to have involved very few incidents of note, periods of quiet frustration at her situation, and a strong connection with her family.


She wrote six famous novels, none of which were popular during her lifetime, but all of which have gained popularity more recently. These novels (in order of writing) were:

Northanger Abbey - mockery of gothic style of novel writing which had dominated English fiction during the previous twenty or thirty years.
Pride and Prejudice.
Sense and Sensability.
Mansfield Park.

A few smaller works were also written, a few of which were published, but they have not received the attention that the six major novels have.

During the course of her career, she took a ten year break (between writing the first and last three major novels). During this time, she became much harsher and less tolerant towards bad characters in her books, her analysis and deep subtlety and seriousness became more obvious, but the boundaries of her fiction remained the same. She always continued to analyse the same situations and characters in all of her novels.


The major writer of the day was Sir Walter Scott, who wrote historical, adventure/romantic novels, the most famous of which are Rob Roy, Ivanhoe and The Heart of Midlothian. Scott was extremely popular while alive, Austen was not. The situation is completely the opposite now.
Furthermore, these two novelists were writing at the close of the GOTHIC period of English literature. Gothic novelists, Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis in particular, wrote deep psychological/horror novels. I would recommend Lewis's 'The Monk' to anyone who has some free reading time, if you can find it in Turkey of course!


1. Focus on a small group of people.
2. A middle-class, provincial (countryside) setting.
3. The subject of courtship and marriage.
4. An economy of material. Everything in the novel has its place.
5. The use of irony and moral commentary.
6. Humour : Making fun of the manners of the middle-class.
7. Contempt towards stupid people/characters.
8. Extensive use of dialogue : Minimal scene settting.
9. Admiration of self-command, consideration of others, knowledge of the heart and the principle of right from education.
10. Attainment of self-knowledge is the key to happiness.


Austen is often regarded as the master of the 'pure novel'. In other words, she was an expert in her art and nothing is absent from her work. During the C18th, novels were often long and disorganized. Austen wanted compact and limited works.

The idea of 'The Pure Novel' includes the following:

(a) A concentration on humans and mutual reactions. (Subjects are therefore marriage and relationships)
(b) No large gallery of characters, no invention, no contrasting scenes. (Austen was writing at the time of the Napoleonic wars and the Indutrial Revolution; both of these topics are absent from her work)
(c) A concentration on design - The parts make up the whole. (Every chapter has its reason in Austen's work)
(d) Relations between characters and relations to a central theme. (Austen always limits the theme/subject)
(e) Recognition of limits. (Other C19th novelists tried to write about everything)

Samuel Richardson (author of Pamela) influenced her deeply and produced the men that Austen admired.
Henry Fielding (author of Tom Jones) focussed on the same world as Austen and showed how to analyse characters to minute particular details.
Charlotte Bronte criticized Austen's work for having no passion, no energy and no enthusiasm.
Walter Scott however, admired Austen's work although his own novels were so different from hers.


Austen is seen as the final C18th moralist in the wake of Defoe, Richardson and Fielding. Later novelists tended to focus on society and social problems more than individual morality.
She is both a forthright moralist and sophisticated artist : An admirable and difficult to attain combination.
She blames parents for the mistakes of childen.
She used irony to get across her moral arguments.
In her later novels, her morality is much harsher, but she still avoids practical jokes (which Fielding used excessively).
The attainment of self-knowledge is always the key to happiness: Emma needs to mature and stop playing games, Anne Elliot in Persuasion needs to be braver and avoid the interference of her family in her private life, Elzabeth (the main character in PandP) needs to lose her Pride and Prejudice is she wants to be happy.


The original title of the novel was 'First Impressions' in 1796-7.
It is probably Austen's most popular novel, mainly due to the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth.
It is full of wit and irony and gives the readers an ending which satisfies them.


1. Bingley (a rich, single man) leases Netherfield.
2. Bingly falls in love with Jane.
3. Elizabeth and Darcy have a misunderstanding.
4. The Bingley sisters are antagonistic towards the Bennets.
5. Elizabeth starts to like Wickham.
6. Darcy prevents Bingley from marrying Jane.
7. Mr Collins asks Elizabeth to marry him - she refuses - he asks Charlotte Lucas - she accepts.
8. Elizabeth visits Collins - meets Darcy accidentally.
9. Darcy condescendingly proposes marriage - Elizabeth refuses due to his prevention of Bingley and Jane's marriage.
10. Darcy writes a letter of confession about his behaviour in the Jane-Bingley marriage incident.
11. Elizabeth goes on holiday - accidentally meets Darcy again.
12. Lydia and Wickham run away together - Darcy finds them and forces them to marry to avoid family shame for the Bennets.
13. Bingley returns to Jane - they decide to marry.
14. Darcy and Elizabeth agree to marry.

The result? Three marriages in which financial reward is given for mature decision making.
Elizabeth gets 10'000 pounds from Darcy.
Jane gets 5'000 from Bingley.
Lydia becomes poor, as she ran off with Wickham for love.

PRIDE? A high or overbearing opinion of one's worth or importance.
PREJUDICE? A preconceived opinion, bias or partiality.
Both words are connected - Prejudice can be a subset of Pride.

In the novel - Prejudice - Elizabeth after Darcy refused to dance with her (She never forgot this!). Darcy against the lower classes of society.
Pride - Elizabeth and Darcy, Bingley sisters, Lady Catherine and Mr Collins.
Moral of the novel : Pride is OK - excessive pride is the problem. Furthermore, a lack of pride in oneself can also be a problem, as shown by Mr and Mrs Bennett, Lydia and Kitty, who don't seem to care about their reputation in society. This, according to Austen, is a problem.

The Lesson?
(1) Darcy and Elizabeth's initial pride and prejudice.
(2) Their mutual humiliation.
(3) The recognition of a proper distribution of humility and self-esteem. (i.e. attainment of self-knowledge)

The following passages are taken from the Wordsworth Classics edition of the novel. These are the passages that I personally would use in analyses of the novel. You don't have to do the same.


p.36 "Oh, said she.....and now despise me if you dare" - trying to hurt Darcy after he had refused to dance with her at the ball.
p.70 "At length however.....second song, said aloud" - Mary is singing badly; Elizabeth is embarrassed for her family.
p.105 "Oh if that is all.....ones worth knowing at all..." - She's fed up with men
p.109 "I like her apperance.....very proper wife" - She's extremely bitter towards everyone and is pleased when she's sees Miss de Bourgh, a sickly looking girl who is going to be Darcy's wife.
p.118 "My courage always rises with every attempt to intimidate me" - proud and ready to fight Darcy
p.119 "My fingers....." - Lessons for the snobs in society.
p.141 "How despicably I've acted..." - learns her lesson while reading Darcy's letter.
p.144 "Mr Darcy's letter....." - Starts to analyse her own family and their faults.
p.156 "If you were aware....." - arguing with her father about his lack of interest in his children's welfare.
p.177 "As for Elizabeth....." - she sorts out her own feelings towards Darcy.
p.208 "From such a connection....." - she realizes that being together with Darcy will improve her as a person.


p.8 "Come Darcy....." - he is too proud to dance at the ball.
p.40 "No - said Darcy....." - he accepts his own weaknesses.
p.41 "To Mr Darcy....." - he doesn't want to be attracted to Elizabeth - he is trying to deny his own feelings.
p.128 "In vain have I struggled....." - asks Elizabeth to marry him while telling her at the same time that he didn't want to fall in love with her.
p.166 "He is the best landlord......" - Darcy's servants praise his character - Elizabeth begins to see the real man.
p.248 "I cannot give you credit....." - Darcy explains his character flaws as consequences of his upbringing and childhood.


Jane - too optimistic and good-hearted, not as real as Elizabeth, unable to show her emotion and for this reason, she is destroyed by Darcy.

Mary - unemotional, arrogant due to learning, plays a minor part in the novel.

Lydia - Reckless, thoughtless, childish, eventually suffers due to irresponsible actions.

Kitty - follows Lydia in everything and is left alone at the end when Lydia marries.

Mr Bennett - comic figure, mixed reaction from reader probably, nice man but he's too relaxed - Austen probably sympathized with him as his favourite daughter is Elizabeth.

Mrs Bennett - Lack of pride in her family makes her disagreeable to the reader - she's only interested in money and position from the marriage of her daughters. p.4 "Mr Bennett....." - a good passage to summarize both parents' characters.

The Bingley sisters - excessively proud of the wealth - dislike Elizabeth due to jealousy as the younger sister wants to marry Darcy - p.181 "How very ill....." - attack Elizabeth in front of Darcy, p.27 "Oh certainly....." - their opinions concerning what a woman should be like.

Bingley - nice man, too weak, too influenced by Darcy.

Lady Catherine - A symbol of upper-class stupidity and snobbery, p.110 "Do not make yourself uneasy....." - she attacks Elizabeth at the end, as she wants her own daughter to marry Darcy.

Mr Collins - His whole existence depends on Lady Catherine - a stupid, arrogant, comic man.


Very compact and accessible to the reader. There's no need for 700 pages!
Every chapter has its place and they all combine to make upa perfect whole.
Austen often uses 'letters' (epistolary style) at key points in the novel.
Chp.35 - Darcy's confession.
Chp.47 - Explanation of Lydia's stupidity.
Chp.52 - Mr Gardiner revealing Darcy's true character.
The plot revolves around various members of the cast coming together at various intervals to continue the story. Characters are revealed through dialogue, not description.
The plot reveals Austen's moral views - she doesn't need to openly express her opinions.


Restricted to village life, but this doesn't harm the novel in any way.
It's one of the first examples of the LOCAL novel in which place affects the characters. There's no need for geographical descriptions for English readers. Every English village looks the same.
The Ball in Chp.3, p.9 "The evening altogether passed off....." = activities such as balls are the highlights of the villagers' lives and everyone tries to make an impression there.
Darcy's view of the country - p.30 "The country, said Darcy....."
Austen will not describe the world for us - p.162 "It's not the object of this work....."
Marriage is the subject of the work - look at the opening line of the book!
p.85 "In as short a time....." - Collins and Lucas' marriage preparations - love plays no role in marriage.
p.96 "I do not blame Jane....." - Mrs Bennett only wants marriages for her daughters, not love.
p.222 "I saw you look at me today....." - the fear of gossip in provincial society.

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