Pride and Prejudice is set primarily in the county of Hertfordshire, about 50 miles outside of London. The novel opens at with a conversation at Longbourn, the Bennet's estate, about the arrival of Mr. Bingley, "a single man of large fortune," to Netherfield Park, a nearby estate. Mrs. Bennet, whose obsession is to find husbands for her daughters, sees Mr. Bingley as a potential suitor. Mr. andMrs. Bennet have five children: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia.
The Bennets' first acquaintance with Mr. Bingley and his companions is at the Meryton Ball. Mr. Bingley takes a liking to Jane and is judged by the townspeople to be perfectly amiable and agreeable. Mr. Bingley's friend Mr. Darcy, however, snubs Elizabeth and is considered to be proud anddisagreeable because of his reserve and his refusal to dance. Bingley's sisters are judged to be amiable by Jane but Elizabeth finds them to be arrogant.
After further interactions, it becomes evident that Jane and Bingley have a preference for one another, although Bingley's partiality is more obvious than Jane's because she is universally cheerful and amiable. Charlotte Lucas, a close friend ofElizabeth with more pragmatic views on marriage, recommends that Jane make her regard for Bingley more obvious. At the same time, Mr. Darcy begins to admire Elizabeth, captivated by her fine eyes and lively wit.
When Jane is invited for dinner at Netherfield, Mrs. Bennet refuses to provide her with a carriage, hoping that because it is supposed to rain Jane will be forced to spend the night.However, because Jane gets caught in the rain, she falls ill and is forced to stay at Netherfield until she recovers. Upon hearing that Jane is ill, Elizabeth walks to Netherfield in order to go nurse her sister. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst (Bingley's sisters) are scandalized that Elizabeth walked so far alone in the mud. Seeing that Jane would like Elizabeth to stay with her, Bingley's sisters inviteElizabeth to remain at Netherfield until Jane recovers.
During her stay at Netherfield, Elizabeth increasingly gains the admiration of Mr. Darcy. She is blind to his partiality, however, and continues to think him a most proud and haughty man because of the judgment she made of him when he snubbed her at the ball. Miss Bingley, who is obviously trying to gain the admiration of Mr. Darcy, isextremely jealous of Elizabeth and tries to prevent Mr. Darcy from admiring her by making rude references to the poor manners of Elizabeth's mother and younger sisters and to her lower class relatives. When Mrs. Bennet and her younger daughters come to visit Jane, Elizabeth is mortified by their foolishness and complete lack of manners. Bingley's admiration for Jane continues unabated and is evident inhis genuine solicitude for her recovery. After Jane recovers, she returns home with Elizabeth.
A militia regiment is stationed at the nearby town of Meryton, where Mrs. Bennet's sister Mrs. Phillips lives. Mrs. Phillips is just as foolish as Mrs. Bennet. Lydia and Kitty love to go to Meryton to visit with their aunt and socialize with the militia's officers.
Mr. Collins, a cousin of Mr.Bennet who is in line to inherit Longbourn because the estate has been entailed away from the female line, writes a letter stating his intention to visit. When he arrives, he makes it clear that he hopes to find a suitable wife among the Miss Bennets. Mr. Collins is a clergyman, and his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh (who is also Darcy's aunt), has suggested that he find a wife, and he hopes tolessen the hardship of the entailment by marrying one of Mr. Bennet's daughters. Mr. Collins is a silly man who speaks in long, pompous speeches and always has an air of solemn formality.
When the Miss Bennets and Mr. Collins go for a walk to Meryton, they are introduced to an officer in the regiment named Mr. Wickham. They also run into Mr. Darcy, and when Darcy and Wickham meet both seem to...
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