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Pride & Prejudice Chapter 1-12 Analysis

Updated on October 12, 2012
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At the beginning of the novel, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are talking about a new bachelor in town, and marrying off their girls. Just the relationship between the Bennets itself is humorous, because they banter back and forth lightly, and they are completely opposite personalities. “Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice” and Mrs. Bennet “was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper” (3). The best part is that it is obvious that Mr. Bennet knows exactly what to say to make Mrs. Bennet react a certain way. He knows exactly what she will do, and he says the things he says just to amuse himself.

Mr. Bennet absolutely refuses to meet Mr. Bingley and he is very persistent in refusing, but then he goes to see him anyway without her knowledge (3). I find this ironic, because he goes through all the trouble to make sure she knows he will not visit under any circumstances, then completely turns around and visits Mr. Bingley behind her back (dramatic irony), and for his own amusement at their reactions (5).

I find that Mrs. Bennet is extremely hilarious in everything she says and does, because everything she says and does is absolutely absurd. She is very animated, enthusiastic, and dramatic. Her ignorance and arrogance is also funny, because it is unbelievable that anyone could say or think such things. For example, when Kitty is coughing, “Don’t keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven’s sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces” (4). If this were phrased any other way, it would not have the same effect on the reader. What Mrs. Bennet says here is so absurd, that it is funny.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Once a man has achieved and accomplished the things in his life that he strived for, he must want to share it with someone. A man with money is nothing without a woman to spend it. To me, this suggests that marriage is important to men only after they have done everything they need to do in life. So, be wild and have crazy adventures being a bachelor until everything is said and done, and the man is ready to settle down. It is the last priority for the male, but necessary. This seems to be why, in this time period, men were married at a later age than women. For women, their only goal in life was to get married and bear children.

The conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet establishes their personalities; Mr. Bennet is a distinguished man with a sarcastic humor, and is amused by the melodrama of his wife. Mrs. Bennet’s only worry in life is marrying off her daughters to rich men; “’It is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.’” Mr. Bennet, however, doesn’t put as much importance on it, because he is a man and took his time in this area. Mr. Bennet seems like the stereotypical male in this era: laid-back, distinguished, and wealthy. All he needed to complete that was a high-maintenance woman to use it on. And, he has that in Mrs. Bennet, who speaks as if she knows all and deserves all.

Mr. Bennet would agree with this sentence, but I don’t think he would have his daughters marry someone solely for their wealth. Darcy would not agree with this, because he is an independent male and quite bitter and cynical. Though, a woman may do him some good, he thinks he has it all. Elizabeth would not agree with this as well, because she is independent and pensive. Elizabeth knows there is more to life than fortune, and she seems like someone who puts true love above everything else.

Elizabeth thinks that Jane like Bingley and Bingley likes her, but Charlotte doesn’t think that Jane is obvious enough in liking him. She thinks “a woman had better show more affection than she feels” or else he could give up on her (17). Elizabeth disagrees with Charlotte; she thinks that if the woman is not trying to conceal her affection, he will find out (17). So, Elizabeth thinks Jane should continue being herself and let things happen, because if he likes her, he will be with her. Charlotte, on the other hand, thinks Jane should try harder and marry him as soon as possible so their relationship is secure. They have the rest of their lives to know each other and fall in love anyway (17).

Elizabeth believes that two people should get to know each other before they get married, and that women should not be so manipulative when it comes to marriage. Love is more important than money. To Charlotte, marriage is important, so all she cares about is marrying a wealthy man. She thinks the woman should drop all of her guards and do everything to secure the relationship (16-17). She doesn’t believe the couple should know each other too much before marriage, because they have the rest of their lives for that.

I don’t think Elizabeth would care much how wealthy her man is as long as they are happy together. I feel like Elizabeth puts more weight and importance on happiness and love, while Charlotte puts more importance on money and societal roles. Happiness will either happen or it won’t; it “is entirely a matter of chance” (18). Charlotte holds the more traditional view of marriage in that time period; you don’t get married for love, but because it’s what is expected of you. Falling in love in the end is just a bonus. Elizabeth expects the opposite.

After reading chapter one, I would describe Mr. and Mrs. Bennets’ relationship as light and happy. It is obvious they know each other well and have been married for a long time. They are very comfortable with each other and have grown to love one another just as a couple should. To me, their marriage seems like the model marriage a couple is supposed to have in this time period. The melodramatic woman, occupied with marrying off their daughters, while the husband is laid-back and joking about the matter. They bicker, but it isn’t at all serious. He only has eyes for her, and although he likes to make her think otherwise, it seems like he always gives her what she wants.

In my opinion, Mrs. Bennet isn’t a very good wife and mother, though, because she is way too conceited and selfish. She has a warped view of what is best for her children, but she is only doing what is right in her eyes. So, I think she has good intentions. She would give her children off to anyone as long as they are wealthy and of good social standing. Mr. Bennet is the opposite; I don’t really think he cares about social status and money at this point, because it doesn’t affect him at all. He doesn’t want to give his daughters off to some psychopathic killer though. I think Mr. Bennet is a good father, but he does have a favorite; “Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters” (3). Lizzy is more like her father, and so he favors her. Other than that, I think he is a good father.

Money and social class are extremely important in this novel; it determines the kind of people they are. For women, it’s what they look for in a man, because it is typical that a woman marries a man who is of higher social status than her. To a woman, money and status is everything, which is why it is so important to all these mothers to marry their girls off to some wealthy man they hardly know.

Longbourn House – The Bennets: Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, and their daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine, and Lydia. The Bennets are well-off, making around a quarter of a million dollar per year. In the eyes of the Bingleys and Mr. Darcy, though, the Bennets are too low for them, and don’t have “good connections”. The house is nothing to be ashamed of; I would assume that the Bennets are part of the lower-end of the upper class. Having family of trade, though, is looked down upon, and Mrs. Bennet has several relations who work in town.

Netherfield – The Bingley: Charles Bingley, Caroline Bingley, and Mr. and Mrs. Hurst. The Bingley are wealthy, making about a million dollars per year. Netherfield is an estate, so the Bingleys are definitely of upper class with good social standing and connections.

Lucas Lodge – The Lucas family: Sir William Lucas and Lady Lucas, Charlotte Lucas, and Maria Lucas. It appears that the Lucas family is much higher in class and financially than the Bennets, but according to Mrs. Bennet, Charlotte tended to the mince pies (37). This is apparently a job for servants, so Mrs. Bennet tries to belittle her by suggesting that they must be poorer.

Meryton – a village: Mr. and Mrs. Philips, George Wickham, and Colonel Forster. From what I’ve gathered, Meryton seems like a middle-class town. Mr. and Mrs. Philips are lawyers, but according to Miss Bingley, not respected ones. There is also an officer camp there, where Colonel Forster resides, who is “going to be married” (51). I would think that military was of the middle/working class as well, because they work for what they earn.

As mentioned earlier, the Bingleys, Mr. Darcy, and the Lucas family look down upon trade. Because they are of such high class, working for your money is preposterous. People of high class should only live on the money of their estate, and therefore, they should do nothing. The Bennets have relative who live on their trade. Mr. Philips is an attorney, and another relative lives in Cheapside (30); Miss Bingley in particular jabs at this, because it is beneath her.

Characters

Jane is very beautiful and naïve. “Compliments always take [her] by surprise” and she “never see[s] a fault in anybody” (11). It seems that Elizabeth admires her sister for always being so optimistic and never manipulative or ostentatious about it. Jane is just an overall sweet, innocent girl that everyone loves.

Elizabeth is more cynical and independent. She studies the character of those around her, so she has a good perception of what is going on. She stands back and observes those around her, and she does not have the same rainbows and unicorns attitude as her sister does; she sees what is really there, whether it is bad or not. Elizabeth is a lot more experienced, for whatever reason, than Jane; she seems to be aware of the world a lot more.

Mary likes to study and sound intelligent, but in an argument she can’t gather her thoughts enough to say anything worth saying. Lydia and Catherine are just like little teenagers ogling over officers, and putting so much importance on going to balls and dancing. They aren’t very vital to the novel itself, and none of them have much of importance to say. Mr. Bennet favors Elizabeth, because he considers the rest of them as “silly and ignorant” (3), while Mrs. Bennet favors Jane, because she is the most beautiful. Mrs. Bennet also favors Lydia; she has a “fine complexion and good-humoured countenance” (38), and she thinks pretty highly of herself enough to address Mr. Bingley as an equal.

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