Few writers in the English language have had as much enduring popularity as Jane Austen. Her books are still popular and are still read more than 200 years after they were written. Pride and Prejudice was her first published novel and remains one of her most famous works today, along with Sense and Sensibility and Emma, among others. The British public voted Pride and Prejudice their favourite book in 2012, making it the nation’s all-time favourite book.
About the Author
Jane Austen was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction, set among the landed gentry. Her works earned her a place as one of English literature’s most widely read writers. Her realism, biting irony, and social commentary have gained historical importance among scholars and critics. Some of her novels have been adapted for film or television. She wrote two additional novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, but they were published posthumously in 1818.
Pride and Prejudice is a novel by Jane Austen that follows five sisters from wealthy families as they search for husbands. The story focuses on protagonist Elizabeth Bennet who learns that her mother has invited Mr. Bingley to stay with them after meeting him at a ball. Elizabeth finds herself attracted to Mr. Darcy, who is his friend. However, she is prejudiced against him due to his pride and haughty manners, which she considers rude and arrogant. Meanwhile, Mr. Bingley develops feelings for Elizabeth’s elder sister Jane. Despite already being engaged to another woman with whom he broke off after meeting Elizabeth Bennet at their house party earlier in the story.
What Inspired Jane Austen to Write Pride and Prejudice?
Pride and Prejudice is one of Jane Austen’s most popular novels with love, Prejudice, marriage, family relationships, social class, courage in our convictions, and family loyalty. In 1797 at 18 years old, she published her first novel, Sense & Sensibility, under a pseudonym, as all women writers were expected to do at that time. Her father disapproved of her writings due to his strict views on women solely for domestic duties within a household. Despite his disapproval, she continued writing many novels, including Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, and much more, until her death from unknown causes at age 41 in 1817.
Although no direct records exist to tell us what inspired Jane Austen to write Pride and Prejudice, we can make some educated guesses based on her own life experiences. From an early age, she was exposed to upper-class society through visits with relatives. Still, their village also had extreme poverty, which influenced some of her novels, such as Northanger Abbey. She lived through two wars; The French Revolution (1789-99) and The Napoleonic Wars (1803-15). These historical events must have impacted how she viewed relationships between men and women, class structure, and social roles during that period.
It is believed that she may have been engaged to a man named Harris Bigg Wither, who died in 1800 before they could marry. This may be where Mr. Darcy’s character came from since he shares similar characteristics with Mr. Wither. However, he does not die before marrying Elizabeth Bennet as Mr. Wither did with Jane Austen.
It has been speculated that since both couples are so similar, it might be possible that part of Jane Austen’s heart went into creating Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. This is because they were like characters out of her own life story or perhaps even wishful thinking if you will!
What Happens in Pride and Prejudice?
In Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice, love develops between Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman of rank with no fortune, and Mr. Darcy, a handsome yet reserved man whose large estate is entailed upon his cousin. The story opens as Mr. Bennet welcomes his two sisters to Longbourn for an extended stay after many years. His eldest daughter Elizabeth soon begins to feel lonely due to her lack of suitors despite her affable manners.
When Mr. Bingley arrives in town with his new friend Mr. Darcy, all eyes are on him—including those of Mr. Bennet’s second daughter Jane. But Elizabeth catches his eye at a ball held by Mrs. Philips, one of their neighbours. They quickly fall in love but are separated when he leaves for London without explanation. However, when he returns and proposes marriage to her sister Jane, she realizes that it was all part of a plan concocted by both men to avoid making enemies in the neighbourhood gossip. After overcoming some initial misgivings about his character, she accepts his proposal, and they marry happily ever after.
Meanwhile, Lizzy’s younger sister Lydia elopes with Wickham, a local ne’er-do-well. Despite Mr. Darcy’s attempts to intervene, Wickham refuses to release Lydia from their marriage contract unless he receives financial compensation. Lizzy and her family must rely on Mr. Darcy once again when they discover that Wickham has stolen money from them and absconded to Europe with Lydia before she can be found guilty of adultery. At great expense to himself and despite considerable personal risk, Mr. Darcy tracks down Wickham and brings him back so that justice may be served against him. He then confesses his love for Lizzy before winning her heart again!