This historical romance by Jane Austen is published by Penguin Group and is written for adults but is sometimes studied by high school classes.
Though she knows that 18th-century women must — above all else — marry well, Elizabeth Bennet is a spirited thinker put off by social conventions. She's happy when her sister Jane falls for the wealthy Mr. Bingley, but Elizabeth and Bingley's prideful friend, Darcy, clash. As the tale unfolds, several of Elizabeth's other sisters experience the highs and lows of relationships. Meanwhile, debates and misunderstandings fuel Elizabeth's distain for Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. When she finally learns the truth about Darcy's character and discovers that his actions have restored her family's honor, Elizabeth overcomes her prejudice against his pride and realizes she loves him.
Mr. Collins, a cousin who will inherit the Bennet estate after Mr. Bennet's death, is a self-important clergyman, clueless about the way he presents himself to others. Noblewoman Lady Catherine de Bourgh is his patron. After Lydia Bennet scandalously runs off with Mr. Wickham, Mr. Collins advises Mr. Bennet to forgive his daughter but never to see or speak of the couple. Mr. Bennet scoffs at Collins' view of "Christian forgiveness." Aside from the mention of some characters attending church, little is said about religion — though critics note that Pride and Prejudice focuses on issues important to Christians, including love and family relationships.
Mr. Bennet remains fairly detached from his family's goings-on. Some critics attribute Lydia's family-disgracing relationship with Mr. Wickham to Mr. Bennet's lack of attention to his daughters' activities. Mrs. Bennet is single-minded — she wants to see that her daughters marry well. In her efforts to accomplish this, she makes foolish remarks at every turn, frequently putting off the people she means to impress. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Mrs. Bennet's brother and sister-in-law, offer wisdom, comfort and companionship to the girls, playing the role of surrogate parents in many instances. Lady Catherine de Bourgh demonstrates her contempt for the lower-class Bennets by first criticizing the girls' upbringing and, later, hatefully confronting Elizabeth about marrying Darcy.
Other Belief Systems
Most of the characters believe that nothing matters more than social class. Characters threaten, criticize, ostracize, flatter, marry, venerate and despise other characters, all for the sake of maintaining or elevating their status in society.
The Lord's name is used in vain several times.
When Lydia Bennet runs off with Mr. Wickham, she and her entire family face dishonor unless the couple are married. (Her indiscretion is assumed but never mentioned outright.)
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Nearly every interaction in this book revolved around the social class system of the era.
Do you think social rank and family name still play a role in society today? Give some examples.
- Do our misunderstandings, preconceived notions and judgments sometimes keep us from really getting to know others (as was the case with Elizabeth and Darcy)?
Can you think of a time when you really liked someone once you got to know him, even though you didn't at first?
- Which male/female relationships in the book did you admire, and why?
Which did you dislike, and why?
- What does the Bible say about pride and about prejudice?
Notes: In a 2003 BBC Big Read poll of the "UK's Best-loved Books," Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, was ranked No. 2 behind The Lord of the Rings.
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