Pride and Prejudice

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Critical Analysis of Pride and Prejudice

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on February 19, 2021 • ( 0 )

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife” [3]. So begins Jane Austen’s arguably most enduringly successful novel—one that has been translated into at least 35 languages. At the heart of the novel lies irony—what appears to be so may indeed not be so. These words at the start of the novel are those of the author, who is a subtle commentator throughout the story. But they express precisely the sentiments of the anxious and fussy Mrs. Bennet, hardly noted in the rest of the novel for her wisdom or diplomacy. Her self-appointed task in life is to make sure that each of her five daughters secures a suitable that is, a financially sound, preferably very rich husband. Her observations reflect the key concern of Pride and Prejudice: the crucial importance of money and property in influencing human activity and relationships. The 20th-century British poet, playwright, and critic, Wystan Hugh Auden (1907–1973) summed up the qualities, pithily and brilliantly encapsulated in Mrs. Bennet’s opening words at the start of Pride and Prejudice . In his “Letter to Lord Byron” (1936), he wrote of Jane Austen:

You could not shock her more than she shocks me; Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass. It makes me uncomfortable to see An English spinster of the middle class Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass’, Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety The economic basis of society

Mrs. Bennet hears that Netherfield, a nearby country estate, has been rented by the young, wealthy, and single Mr. Bingley. She directs her husband to visit Bingley immediately to prepare for future relationships. The Bennets have five daughters, and Mrs. Bennet is anxious to find husbands for them. After some teasing, Mr. Bennet makes the visit and Bingley reciprocates, although the Bennet girls are out when he calls. He meets them at the next Meryton Ball—Meryton being the nearest large town—and is immediately attracted to Jane, the oldest and most attractive daughter.

Bingley is accompanied by his sisters Caroline and Mrs. Hurst, and her husband, Mr. Hurst. With them is the noble-looking, handsome, and exceedingly wealthy Darcy. He does not have Bingley’s charm and is quickly judged “the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world” (11). He refuses to dance with anybody but Bingley’s sisters and makes an enemy of Mrs. Bennet by making a disparaging remark about Elizabeth, the second daughter. Elizabeth also hears the remark, but she is highspirited and confident, and the comment does not endear Darcy to her. Bingley continues to court Jane, and Darcy and Elizabeth are frequently in each other’s company. Darcy revises his opinion of her and admires her wit, intelligence, and “fine eyes” (36). Sir William Lucas, a neighbor of the Bennets, throws a party that Darcy attends. Charlotte, Sir William’s daughter, is a very close friend of Elizabeth who seems unaware of Darcy’s interest in her. Caroline Bingley, who has designs on Darcy, becomes aware that Elizabeth is a rival and plays on Darcy’s snobbery, reminding him of Mrs. Bennet’s vulgarity.

The Bingley sisters invite Jane to spend an evening with them at Netherfield. Mrs. Bennet withholds the use of the family carriage, insisting that Jane go on horseback; she hopes that the possibility of rain will get an invitation for Jane to stay overnight. It rains sooner than anticipated, Jane catches a severe cold, and she is forced to spend some time at the Bingleys’. Elizabeth tramps three miles through muddy fields to visit her. The Bingley sisters consider such behavior inappropriate for a lady; Darcy silently admires the complexion the walk brings to Elizabeth’s appearance. Elizabeth is invited to stay at Netherfield to nurse Jane. This brings Darcy and Elizabeth closer together, but the surprise visit of Mrs. Bennet and her irresponsible daughters, Lydia and Kitty, serves as a reminder to Darcy of the social barriers between him and the Bennets, and he begins to distance himself from Elizabeth.

As the Bennets have daughters, the estate will be inherited by Mr. Bennet’s nephew, the Reverend William Collins. He visits their home at Longbourn apparently to heal the family rift but really to find a suitable wife from among the Bennet daughters. Collins is obsequious to his patron, the wealthy Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings in Kent, who has advised him to marry. Foolish, full of self-importance, and tactless, he is the object of ridicule among the Bennets. Mrs. Bennet, however, sees him as a suitable prospect for one of her daughters. Thinking that Jane is spoken for, she directs his attention to Elizabeth.

Kitty and Lydia, the younger Bennet daughters, frequently visit Meryton, where the militia are stationed, and they use their Meryton aunt, Mrs. Phillips, as an excuse for their visits. Accompanied by Jane, Elizabeth, and Collins, they walk from Longbourn to Meryton to hear the latest gossip and meet an officer they know, a Mr. Denny, who is accompanied by the charming and handsome Mr. Wickham, newly arrived from London to take up a commission in Denny’s regiment. Bingley and Darcy appear on horseback and come over to greet Jane and Elizabeth. As soon as Darcy and Wickham see each other, there is an evident awkwardness and Elizabeth realizes that they know each other. At a dinner party the following evening, Wickham and Elizabeth are mutually attracted and she asks him about Darcy. According to Wickham, Darcy destroyed his career by denying him a living in the church, reserved by Darcy’s father. Apparently Darcy’s motivation was pride and jealousy. Further, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s aunt and she have planned for a long time to unite their estates by arranging a marriage between Darcy and her daughter. Wickham’s descripton of Darcy’s character accords with Elizabeth’s own first impressions; she believes Wickham’s version of events and grows even more hostile to Darcy.

Bingley hosts a ball at Netherfield and Elizabeth looks forward to dancing with Wickham. Collins, to her surprise, tells her he will be at the ball, engages her for the first two dances, and clearly has designs on her. Wickham, to Elizabeth’s disappointment, does not appear, and she believes that Darcy is the reason for his not coming. The behavior of Mrs. Bennet and Mary, who sings too much, confirms Darcy in his perceptions that a marriage with one of the Bennet daughters would be inappropriate. He resolves to take Bingley away from the area in spite of his love for Jane. Following the ball, Jane is distressed to receive a letter from Caroline Bingley saying that the Netherfield party has left for London and does not intend to return again until winter. Caroline mentions that there are hopes that Bingley will marry Georgiana, Darcy’s sister. Elizabeth believes that to be wishful thinking on Miss Bingley’s part.

On the day following the ball, Collins proposes to Elizabeth and cannot accept her refusal, so that she has to leave the room. Mrs. Bennet insists that Mr. Bennet pressure Elizabeth to accept Collins, but Mr. Bennet takes Elizabeth’s side. Mr. Collins’s pride is restored by the appearance of Charlotte Lucas, who pays attention to him and is encouraging him. Charlotte openly admits to Elizabeth “I ask only a comfortable home” (125), and that her motives are mercenary. Mrs. Bennet is mortified. Her neighbors will have married off a daughter before she does. Their daughter one day will be mistress of Longbourn.

Jane receives another letter form Caroline Bingley telling her that her brother will remain in London for the winter and is seeing Georgina Darcy a good deal. Jane concludes that she is mistaken in supposing that Bingley loved her. Elizabeth tells her that Caroline wishes her to react that way. Jane is stoical and refuses to think ill of the Bingleys. Mrs. Bennet begins to think that her daughters will never marry. Wickham’s presence and his relationship with Elizabeth is the sole ray of light in a depressed atmosphere. His apparent bad treatment by Mr. Darcy is widely known. Only Jane Bennet reserves judgment.

Christmas arrives and Mrs. Bennet’s brother, the successful London tradesman Mr. Gardiner, and his wife stay at Longbourn for the holiday period. Mrs. Gardiner is close to Jane and Elizabeth, and she cautions Elizabeth to be careful regarding Wickham. They invite Jane to London in the hope that she may see something of the Bingleys, who will be in a more fashionable area of London than they are. Charlotte marries Collins and leaves for Kent after getting a promise from Elizabeth that she will visit her in March at Hunsford Parsonage. In London, Jane does not see Bingley and is twice snubbed by Caroline Bingley. Jane also gathers that Bingley will probably give up Netherfield for good.

It is now Elizabeth’s turn to be disillusioned. Wickham has transferred his attentions to Miss King, a very wealthy young woman. Elizabeth remains in no doubt about Darcy but cannot blame Wickham too much, as he has acted in a similar fashion as her friend Charlotte. Elizabeth realizes that her feelings for Wickham were not too strong. Wickham’s pursuit of the rich Miss King is unsuccessful.

Elizabeth spends a night with Jane and the Gardiners in London on her way to visit Charlotte. The Gardiners invite her on their summer tour during which they hope to travel as far north as the Lake District. At Hunsford, Elizabeth is warmly welcomed by Charlotte and surprised to see how well she has adjusted to her new surroundings. Hunsford is on the edge of Rosings Park, and about one and a half miles from Rosings House, home of Collins’s haughty patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. On the third day of her visit, Elizabeth, accompanied by the Lucases, visits Rosings House. Elizabeth is the only one not to be in awe of rank, money, and snobbery. Lady Catherine dominates the conversation and her sickly daughter, Miss de Bourgh, remains pale, oppressed, and silent.

Darcy and his cousin Fitzwilliam arrive to stay with Lady Catherine. In each other’s company, Darcy and Elizabeth renew their verbal fencing, Elizabeth sees that he is not the least interested in Miss de Bourgh and is increasingly attracted by herself. She develops a friendship with Colonel Fitzwilliam, who inadvertently reveals that Darcy is responsible for separating Jane and Bingley, having just rescued a close friend from an inappropriate marriage. Later that day, Elizabeth is alone at the parsonage, brooding over Jane, and is surprised by Darcy. Agitated, he blurts out his love for her and wish to marry her in spite of her family status and “sense of her inferiority” (189). Elizabeth becomes angry, rejects Darcy, and gives as her reasons his treatment of Jane, interference in Bingley’s affairs, ill-treatment of Wickham, and his high opinion of himself.

The following day Elizabeth receives a letter from Darcy. He explains that he did not perceive Jane to be as deeply in love with Bingley as he was with her, and that her family’s lack of propriety, apart from Jane and Elizabeth, created problems. Darcy admits that he may well be in error regarding the depth of Jane’s feelings for Bingley. He then explains at length that George Wickham is the son of a former trusted steward of the Darcy estate Pemberley in Derbyshire. In gratitude for his father’s help, Darcy’s father educated Wickham, settled a church living on the estate for him as Wickham intended to enter the church, and left him a legacy. Wickham turned out, however, to be unscrupulous and wasted the money. He had no intention of going into the church and asked Darcy for assistance which he refused. Further, Wickham had attempted to elope with Darcy’s 15-year-old sister, Georgina, but had been forestalled.

Initially, Elizabeth has doubts about Darcy’s explanation, but after reflection she becomes convinced of its truthfulness. She also begins to revise her own perceptions of him and feels that she may have been unnecessarily prejudiced. Her feelings toward Darcy are confused. The month of May has come, and Jane and Elizabeth return to Longbourn. Elizabeth tells Jane about Darcy’s proposal and Wickham, whose regiment is shortly leaving Meryton for Brighton. They decide, in retrospect unwisely, not to expose further Wickham’s character.

Lydia is invited to Brighton by Mrs. Forster, who has recently married the commander of Wickham’s militia regiment, Colonel Forster. Elizabeth tries to persuade her father that Lydia is too young and irresponsible to go to Brighton. Her father overrules her: “We shall have no peace at Longbourn if Lydia does not go” (232). Elizabeth’s summer tour with the Gardiners has to be curtailed, owing to Mr. Gardiner’s business affairs. They will be able to travel as far north as Derbyshire and find themselves near Pemberley. It is mid-July and Elizabeth agrees to a visit to the house and grounds after finding out that Darcy is not in residence.

Elizabeth and the Gardiners tour Pemberley and are shown around the house by Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, who has known Darcy since birth and reveals his generosity, responsibility, and warmheartedness. Seeing Darcy’s portrait in the picture gallery, Elizabeth feels even more drawn to him. Darcy arrives home unexpectedly, is very courteous to Elizabeth and the Gardiners, invites Mr. Gardiner to go fishing in the lake, then brings his sister and Bingley to visit them at their lodgings in the local inn. Elizabeth finds Georgina to be unassuming and pleasant, with no especial attachment to Bingley, who asks after Jane and her family.

They are invited to dinner at Pemberley, but before going Elizabeth receives two distressing letters from Jane. In the first, Jane reveals that Lydia and Wickham have eloped. The second letter reveals that they have not gone as expected, to Scotland, that Wickham has no intention of marrying Lydia, and that their present whereabouts are unknown. Darcy arrives and Elizabeth confides in him. Darcy listens in silence and offers some words of comfort and leaves. Elizabeth believes that she will not see him again and that “she could have loved him” (278).

The Gardiners and Elizabeth go to Longbourn to assist Mrs. Bennet and the family. Gardiner goes with Mr. Bennet to London to try to find Lydia and Wickham. Reports of Wickham’s debts and profligacy flow in. Mr. Collins sends a pompous letter of condolence, advising Mr. Bennet to renounce Lydia and pointing out that his other daughters will find it very difficult now to find husbands. Mr. Bennet returns from London without success. A letter is received from Mr. Gardiner to say that Lydia and Wickham have been found and a marriage arranged. It is assumed that Mr. Gardiner has bribed Wickham. Mrs. Bennet is now unconcerned, delighted at having one daughter married. Elizabeth reflects on her own ruined marital opportunities.

After the wedding, an unrepentant Lydia and Wickham visit Longbourn. Lydia reveals that Darcy was present at the wedding. Elizabeth finds out from her aunt Gardiner that Darcy tracked the couple down, paid off Wickham’s debts, and gave him a cash sum providing he marry Lydia. Mrs. Gardiner believes Darcy did it all for Elizabeth’s sake. Mr. Bingley and Darcy soon after return to Netherfield and visit the Bennets. Elizabeth is ashamed by her mother’s behavior to Darcy, but pleased by the renewal of the courtship of Bingley with Jane. Their engagement is announced and Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed at the prospect of having two daughters married.

Rumors circulate of an engagement between Darcy and Elizabeth. Lady Catherine de Bourgh arrives and confronts Elizabeth, insisting that she promise not to marry Darcy. Elizabeth refuses to give such an undertaking. Lady Catherine tells Darcy. This gives him fresh hope and he passionately, but without his previous pride, declares his love to Elizabeth. Elizabeth is no longer prejudiced against him, and accepts him. The news comes as a surprise to all the Bennets, and Mrs. Bennet rapidly changes her opinion of Darcy. Elizabeth and Darcy live at Pemberley and are especially close to the Gardiners, “the persons who, by bringing [Elizabeth] into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them” (388).

literary analysis of pride and prejudice essay

Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice/Pinterest


The book opens at the home of the Bennet family, the fictional Longbourn House in the village of Longbourn Hertforshire, now largely urban sprawl and a commuting corridor for north London and other parts of the capital city. In the late 18th century, it was rural, with country houses, estates, villages, and market towns. Mrs. Bennet, who has five daughters, hears that a nearby country estate has been “taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England.” The first chapter encapsulates Jane Austen’s style, themes, and modes of characterization. The opening sentence of 23 words contains ambiguities of its own. Beginning with a generalization, an assumption pertaining to a “truth” apparently “universally acknowledged” by whom specifically we are not told: probably to Jane Austen’s readers past, present, and future, from eclectic cultures and societies. The emphasis is on singularity, gender, male gender, marital state, and need. This need can be personal, imposed socially by others, by unstated social laws and mores, or a combination of both. Further, “possession” means ownership of property, land, and other commodities signifying wealth and station. These ingredients—an unmarried man who is financially and socially well connected—necessitate a wife. This need must be satisfied. The second paragraph indicates elements of a specific social situation by referring to “rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.” This is an ironic reference to the situation in which women found themselves after the passing into law of the Married Woman’s Property Act of 1753. Under this law, all their property became that of their husband, upon whom they were financially dependent. On marriage they owned nothing. A wealthy, landowning, propertyowning husband may well have been acquired for them. In effect, they subsequently owned nothing. They or their families did the catching in the contest for possession or acquisition of wealth; in reality following marriage, they owned nothing.

The second word of the first dialogue of the novel includes this application. The word “dear” may imply affection between Mr. Bennet and his wife. It also suggests something purchased at cost. We learn as the novel develops that Mr. Bennet has indeed paid dearly for his marriage: “his lady” conveys the sense of possession after marriage. Mr. Bennet owns Mrs. Bennet, financially. A lack of rapport between the two is indicated by Mr. Bennet’s refusal to reply to his wife’s information. When he does reply, the response is far from sympathetic and even on the caustic side. The “want,” the need is on his wife’s side not his; all he will do is listen. Acquiescence in hearing the information leads his wife into the longest sentence and speech of the novel so far. In it she imparts considerable useful information. As readers, we learn that according to a neighbor, Mrs. Long, the local large estate, Netherfield Park, the second specific mention of this property, has been rented: “taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England.”

So we are given his age, told the man is young, that he has wealth and geographically is not from the south or London, the capital city, but from the north, or, rather, north of Hertfordshire, where the Bennets live. Further, he inspected his new home on the first day of the week, a Monday. His mode of transport was “a chaise and four,” that is, an enclosed four-wheeled carriage drawn by four horses. Ownership of such a vehicle indicated considerable wealth. We are also told that he agreed to tenancy terms immediately. Interestingly, the author does not tell us why Netherfield is vacant, and who the real owner is. The unnamed young man “is to take possession before Michaelmas,” in other words, September 29, a quarter day, marking the beginning of a tenancy if payment is due in quarterly installments.

The paragraph is informative. A wealthy young man with servants has taken the tenancy of a local estate. Basic important information is conveyed briefly through clipped dialogue. First, a name must be assigned to the newcomer, and second, his marital status needs to be ascertained. Somewhat ironically and against expectation, it is Mr. Bennet who directly asks his wife the question, “Is he married or single?” To that we learn that the latter is the case. The reply reveals much: “Oh! single, my dear to be sure!” Again there are reverberations of the word “dear”: expensive, costly, affectionate closeness of relationship, and “to be sure.” This implies surety, guarantee, and positiveness like an insurance policy to be realized and collected. Three words that Mrs. Bennet frequently uses are “to be sure.” They also occur in Richard Brimsley Sheridan’s famous comedy The School for Scandal (1777) in the mouths of not one but several of the characters, especially when discussing others. So it is likely that Jane Austen is, in her use of the repetitive phraseology, drawing on a comic dramatic tradition known to some of her readers.

In the dialogue in this initial chapter and frequently throughout the novel, attributions such as “he said” or “she said” are omitted ([3]). In a letter to her sister, Cassandra, dated January 29, 1813, Jane Austen admits that “a ‘said he’ or a ‘said she’ would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear—but I do not write for such dull Elves As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves” ( Letters , 202). She expects her readers to display high intelligence and assumes that she is not writing for a stupid or dim-witted audience.

Not only does Mrs. Bennet tell her husband and readers that Mr. Bingley is young and single with a “large fortune” (4), she also has ascertained approximately how much that fortune may be. It is large indeed, among the largest of the admittedly not unwealthy diverse characters who parade through Jane Austen’s novels. Edward Copeland, in his excellent “Money” assessment in The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen , observes that “At two thousand pounds a year (the landed gentry income of Mr. Bennet . . . domestic economy must still hold a tight rein, especially in Pride and Prejudice where there are five daughters in need of dowries.” Further, “Incomes of four thousand pounds a year and above (Darcy’s, Bingley’s . . .) leave behind the cheese-paring cares of middle class income . . . to enter a realm of unlimited genteel comforts” (136– 137). Given such facts, it is natural that Mr. Bingley should be ensnared, captured by one of the Bennet daughters! “What a fine thing for our girls!” Again we have the relationship between aesthetic value and commercial value. A dress or a painting may well be “a fine thing” in aesthetic terms. Its value is also material, financial, and economic.

Of course, Mr. Bennet is toying, verbally dueling, deliberately annoying his wife by feigning ignorance of her intentions. These are clear. She is “thinking of his marrying one of” their daughters. Mr. Bennet’s response plays on an interesting, often-used 18th-century word associated with value and architectural planning—“design.” Today the word is rarely used in the sense of “intention.” The primary meaning in Mr. Bennet’s response “Is that his design in settling here?” is associated with planning, especially of gardens, landscape, and buildings. It may well have religious associations in terms of “grand design” or “cosmic design.” In this sense the metaphor has its genesis in the relationship between God as the designer, or architect of the universe, or its orderer in an ordered world that has a hierarchy based on class status. Mr. Bennet’s question is not as curious as it may appear. Clearly, if Mr. Bingley is ensnared by one of the Bennet daughters, then the status of the family increases in terms of how they are perceived by their neighbors and the society around them, Also, of course, the life of the daughter is transformed immeasurably in terms of living conditions, economic wealth, and status. The children of any marriage are more or less guaranteed a much more secure and prosperous future than otherwise.

Interestingly, it is Mrs. Bennet who first introduces into the novel the modern concept of “love.” The social acceptance of marriage for love is a product of 20th-century Western society. In other societies, “love,” in terms of the strong bond of affection between woman and man, does not play a prominent or even a significant role. Marital alliances were often dynastic, formed by parents and families, with the children merely pawns or objects in economic and social alliances with no say in the future relationship in which they are the chief players or protagonists. Mrs. Bennet concedes that alliances cannot be forced. The onus, the decision lies with the male rather than with the female. She tells her husband, “it is very likely,” more than possible, not probable—yet another example of which this book is full of Jane Austen’s exceedingly careful choice of language and words—“that he may fall in love with one of them” (Jane Austen’s emphasis).

For this to happen, contact and meetings must be formed. It is the function in this plan of Mr. Bennet to initiate this, as his wife tells him. He “must visit him as soon as he comes.” Mr. Bennet’s response teases his wife and also, somewhat sarcastically, flatters her. “You are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley might like you the best of the party.” The response exhibits a pandering to her vanity and conveys information. The reader learns why it is so important to find suitable husbands for the Bennet daughters.— There are five of them, and they are apparently “grown up” and of a marital age. In these circumstances, as Mrs. Bennet tells her husband, “When a woman has five grown up daughters she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”

Mr. Bennet continues the verbal sparring, responding in a short, clipped sentence representative of many of his sentences, which often are one-liners, clipped in contrast with his wife’s much more verbose observations. In his response to his wife, he tells her, “In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.” It is no coincidence, hardly a surprise, that Mr. Bennet should professionally be an attorney, although in the novel we do not see him actually practice his profession. He seemingly has to be persuaded by an overanxious Mrs. Bennet to promise to visit, to introduce himself and subsequently his family, his eligible daughters, to the new neighbors. Mrs. Bennet plays to what she perceives to be his weakness: “Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them,” in other words, what a splendid large home they would possess if one of the daughters managed to marry Bingley. She also appeals to his sense of propriety. Others will visit Bingley, a neighborly knight of the realm, Sir William and Lady Lucas, will do so. Mr. Bennet is a commoner; Sir William Lucas his neighbor has a title. We subsequently learn that he also has an unmarried daughter. So there is competition for the newcomer, who has a choice of unmarried daughters in the area into which he has moved.

In spite of social differences and rivalries, Mr. Bennet continues to play with his wife’s intentions to tease her, and lead her along. Rather than visiting, he will send his wife along with a letter of introduction in which he first gives his “hearty consent to his marrying which ever he chuses of the girls.” Notice that it is Bingley who makes the decision concerning marriage. The girls seem to have no role in the process whatsoever. They are chosen rather than choosing. Second he shows a preference for one of his daughters: “I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.” This is the first time the name, in this instance a nickname, of one of the daughters has been mentioned, and a parental preference expressed. Mrs. Bennet’s response demonstrates different preferences. Lizzie she perceives as “not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good humoured as Lydia.” Mrs. Bennet uses a word “handsome,” which subsequently is used of the male gender, or animals such as a horse rather than of a woman. The female is “beautiful” or “pretty,” as opposed to handsome.

These parental preferences presented early in the narrative change little during the novel. Mr. Bennet’s preference is for Lizzy, his wife’s somewhat for Jane and decidedly for Lydia, who, we are to learn, is exceedingly foolish and threatens the reputation of the family. Mr Bennet finds that “Lizzie has something more of quickness than her sisters,” in other words, she displays a quicker intelligence, although he has few illusions, unlike his wife, finding them “all silly and ignorant like other girls.” Mr. Bennet’s playful gender bias—his sexist remarks—are countered by his wife’s; “how can you abuse your own children in such a way?” In this context, “abuse” means verbal disparagement in the verbal sparring between husband and wife, rather than anything more sinister and physical in a modern sense. Mrs. Bennet is aware that her husband is teasing her. “You delight in vexing me,” she replies. “Vexing” has the implication of annoying. She adds, “You have no compassion on my poor nerves,” providing Mr. Bennet the opening for which he verbally has been waiting. He tells his wife: “I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.” This brilliant riposte conveys the information that they have been married for more than 20 years, and that the relationship between husband and wife is by no means a satisfactory one. Mrs. Bennet’s repy is her shortest in the opening chapter: “Ah! You do not know what I suffer.” The dialogue between them continues with Mr. Bennet teasing his wife twice that when there are other wealthy men in the area, he will visit them.

The chapter concludes not with short conversational dialogue but omniscient narration, with the author informing her readers of the characteristics of these two characters. Factually, we learn the Bennets have been married for 23 years and that they have little in common. His wife does not understand his character: “ Her mind was less difficult to develope” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). The word “develope” (2–5) is used in a sense rarely if ever used today, in the sense of “ ‘to unfold or unfurl,’ in this case suggesting that Mrs. Bennet’s thought processes are not difficult to discern” (Stafford, 312) or understand. Significantly, the author appears to agree with her male character: “She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper.” These negatives represent inherited characteristics and not those imposed on her by gender and society. In addition, Jane Austen tells the reader, “When she was disconcerted she fancied herself nervous,” the third reference to “nerves” pertaining to Mrs. Bennet in the first chapter. Yet nothing in the world of a Jane Austen novel is what it appears to be. Mrs. Bennet has a single preoccupation: “The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news” (5).

The opening chapter of Pride and Prejudice tells the reader much about character, plot, and motivation. The reader is told by the narrator at the opening of chapter 2 that “Mr. Bennet was among the earliest of those who waited on Mr. Bingley.” The ironic nature of his treatment of Mrs. Bennet, evident from the close of the first chapter, is reinforced in the first paragraph of this second chapter. Mr. Bennet’s intention to pay Mr. Bingley a visit is made evident, although he gave his wife opposite signals “to the last.” Mr. Bennet even withholds disclosure of the visit until the following evening, and even then, the information is accidentally disclosed in information to Lizzie, his favorite daughter. The disclosure is then indirect and activated by a passing remark on headgear, as Mr. Bennet observes her “employed in trimming a hat” (6). Such behavior was fashionable during the period. In June 1799, Jane Austen wrote to her sister, Cassandra, “Eliza has a bunch of Strawberries, and I have seen Grapes, Cherries, Plumbs, Apricots.” She also tells Cassandra somewhat amusingly, “I cannot help thinking that it is more natural to have flowers grow out of the head than fruit” (Letters, 42, 44).

Action by Elizabeth provides the main spring of the central dialogue of the second chapter, among father, wife, and daughter concerning behavior. In addition, the conversation conveys much information about what has taken place. Mr. Bennet’s actions and attitudes, as well as those of his wife and daughters, reinforce what we know of the relationship between husband and wife. The father hopes that Mr. Bingley will approve of Elizabeth’s fashion statement. His wife rises to her husband’s bait, responding “resentfully” by challenging what she perceives to be her husband’s assumption that they will be aware of Mr. Bingley’s likes and dislikes. Her daughter Elizabeth tries to reassure her that they will meet Bingley “at the assemblies” and that a neighbor, Mrs. Long, will introduce them. Her reminder of the assemblies is a reference to the presence in English provincial towns and cities of rooms especially built or adapted for public balls or dances so that people could meet, the ostensible reason for introductions being dances. Mrs. Bennet is forever aware that there is competition among mothers of unmarried daughters to introduce them first to eligible, preferably wealthy, bachelors. Mrs. Bennet tells her husband that she does not “believe Mrs. Long will do any such thing”—the reason being that “She has two nieces of her own.” Further “she is a selfish, hypocritical woman.” Mrs. Bennet then immediately contradicts herself, exhibiting just how prejudiced she is by adding, “I have no opinion of her.” Mr. Bennet assents to this observation, turning it into something of the nature of a compliment to his wife. He is “glad to find that you do not depend on her serving you.” Mrs. Bennet, unable to find a suitable reply, turns her frustration on her daughter Kitty by telling her to stop coughing and to “Have a little compassion on [her] nerves” as she “tears[s] them to pieces.” Her nervous system has become a piece of discarded clothing ready to be recycled. Mrs. Bennet’s remarks may well be perceived as a reflection of her own lack of self-esteem. She is perpetually a butt, an object of her husband’s sarcasm and remarks aimed at lowering her value. So in a real sense, she has become a piece of discarded clothing.

Mr. Bennet is not able to resist a rejoinder to his wife, responding, “Kitty has no discretion in her coughs . . . she times them ill.” To this the hapless Kitty replies that she does “not cough for her own amusement.” Her coughing may well be a psychosomatic reaction to the incessant conflict she is forced to sit through between husband and wife fought out verbally. In this conflict, the father is the superior contestant and his wife the inferior, who takes out her frustration on the weaker object, her daughter Kitty. In the first edition of the novel, Kitty is named in the reply, “When is your next ball to be, Kitty?” The reply (whomever it is attributed to—Kitty or Lizzy) in subsequent editions becomes “To-morrow fortnight” and provokes a response from Mrs. Bennet, revealing that she has been gathering information relating to her neighbor Mrs. Long’s activities and timetable. She “does not come back till the day before,” consequently “it will be impossible for her to introduce” Mr. Bingley, “for she will not know him herself.”

This provides Mr. Bennet with the opportunity further to annoy and frustrate his wife, an activity he appears to enjoy and use as an excuse for his own dissatisfaction with his marital situation. He replies with what must appear to his listeners to be the enigmatic “Then, my dear, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Mr. Bingley to her ”—the last word receiving emphasis typographically to indicate speech emphasis. As so often in a Jane Austen novel, one character has knowledge the others have not. In this instance, Mr. Bennet knows of his own visit to Bingley; the other members of his family do not. So this knowledge can be regarded as a situational irony. Mr. Bennet is aware of a situation, the others are not. There is in Mr. Bennet’s specific reply to his wife, in the manner in which he addressed her, a further irony. He addresses his wife, not for the first time or for the last time, as “my dear.” This, as has been indicated, draws attention to the nature of his perception of his relationship with his wife. On the one hand, they are close; on the other, the relationship is costly in economic and in psychological terms on a daily basis of interaction. Mrs. Bennet’s reply indicates that she is well aware that her husband is playing games with her—“how can you be so teasing?” she asks him. In his reply, her husband provides his wife with an implicit compliment as he praises or honours “her circumspection.” In other words, Mrs. Bennet’s scepticism for, as she has correctly said to him, what he has requested is “Impossible” since she is “not acquainted with” Mr. Bingley.

Mr. Bennet then embarks on one of his longer dialogues in the chapter. Instead of one or two sentences, he is given four. The last sentence contains subordinate clauses and follows three sentences, which are each sequentially longer than the last. The four-word “I honour your circumspection” is followed by the seven-word “A fortnight’s acquaintance is certainly very little”—emphasis placed on the final “little.” There is then a 14-word epigrammatic “One cannot know what a man really is by the end of a fortnight.” Underlying such a truism is the implicit critique of the system of values held by Mrs. Bennet that any eligible man is suitable for one of her daughters, provided he has money. For Mr. Bennet, there must also be knowledge of the man’s character, or “what a man really is,” and only time can reveal this. On the other hand, Mr. Bennet is a realist, aware of competition for wealthy, unmarried men among those who have daughters. He informs his wife and daughters, “But if we [this pronoun receiving typographical emphasis to indicate speech emphasis] do not venture [again, an example of Jane Austen’s marvelous choice of vocabulary with its implication of an expedition and capital advantage. The action may well lead to marriage, which can result in financial advantage: a daughter will be well provided for, and there will be one fewer to feed, clothe, and maintain at home] someone else will; and after all Mrs. Long and her nieces must stand their chance. [Mr. Bennet is aware of competition, luck, and opportunity in the marital stakes]; and therefore, as she will think it an act of kindness if you decline the offer, I will take it on myself.”

The response from the daughters is verbally one of silence. In terms of body language, they respond by staring “at their father.” Mrs. Bennet, incredulous as ever, replies with the repeated, “Nonsense, nonsense!.” This provokes her husband to convey information he has hitherto suppressed and to remind his family of the ground rules relating to etiquette. He has, as the father and head of the household, to pay a formal, official visit to Mr. Bingley and to introduce himself formally, before the rest of his family can do so. Before he imparts the information that he has visited Mr. Bingley, he addresses another daughter. In the way the reader’s reaction to the daughter, in this instance, Mary, is manipulated. Her father regards her as “a young lady of deep reflection [who] read[s] great books and make[s] extracts.” That is, she copies out passages from the books she reads. Mary’s thoughtful, bookish nature is conveyed through her inability to reply to her father, immediately providing him with the opportunity to return to the subject of Mr. Bingley. His wife’s frustrated explication that she is “sick of Mr. Bingley” provides the opening Mr. Bennet has been waiting for. Even when he at last reveals that he has actually visited Mr. Bingley, he tries to score points at the expense of his wife. He tells her that as he has “actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance now.” The response from the family and his wife is one of silence. Instead of dialogue between Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Bennet, the narrator takes over, telling the reader that “the astonishment of the ladies was just what he [Mr. Bennet] wished,” that of Mrs. Bennet “perhaps surpassing the rest” of the family. When the first tumult of joy was over, Mrs. Bennet “began to declare that it,” the visit, “was what she had expected all the while.” She begins by praising Mr. Bennet, the first compliment she has given him in the novel, yet turns the compliment to herself, saying that she was the negotiator and should gain the credit for his visit. She “knew [she] would persuade [him] at last.” She was “sure” that her husband “loved [his] girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance.” The word “love” here is used in the sense of caring for their future. She consequently praises her husband: “such a good joke, too, that you should have gone this morning, and never said a word about it till now.”

The final four paragraphs of chapter 2, the first, third, and fourth, consist of one sentence each. In the first, Mr. Bennet leaves the room “fatigued with the raptures of his wife” and daughters. We are left to speculate on the consequences of what he has done. The two daughters who are not to occupy the subsequent central stage now come into prominence early in the novel. As he leaves, Mr. Bennet tells Kitty that she “may cough as much as [she] chuse[s].” The second and lengthier of these paragraphs of the concluding four of the second chapter is the longest. It consists of Mrs. Bennet’s praise for her husband’s actions and appreciation of the personal difficulty involved in taking the action that he took: for Mrs. Bennet “At [her and Mr. Bennet’s] time of life, it is not so pleasant . . . to be making new acquaintance every day.” However “for [their] sakes,” their father and mother “would do anything.” She then exhibits preference for one daughter over the other, by reassuring Lydia, who is her “love,” that while she is “the youngest, [she] dare say[s] that Mr. Bingley will dance with [her] at the next ball.” To which Lydia “stoutly” replies, “I am not afraid; for though I am the youngest, I’m the tallest,” (Jane Austen’s emphasis), which suggests early physical maturity and this physical sense is implied by the narrator’s use of the adverb “stoutly” in Lydia’s reply. Physicality is, however, not the subject of the concluding sentence and paragraph, for “the rest of the evening was spent in conjecturing how soon he would return Mr. Bennet’s visit, and determining when they should ask him to dinner” (6–8). Interestingly, it is not Mr. Bennet who will invite Bingley to dinner but the invitation will be a collective one, with perhaps the implication that Mrs. Bennet will do the actual inviting.

So the opening two chapters set the scene, introduce the situation, and provide motivational explanation. To repeat, a family with daughters of a marriageable age has a necessity to consider the welfare of the daughters. Their future should be secured through finding them a suitable marriage. This can be greatly assisted if a wealthy, eligible, that is unmarried, man moves into the neighborhood.

The opening of the third chapter contains the lengthiest paragraphs so far encountered in the novel. From it further information is conveyed concerning perceptions of the new neighbor, Mr. Bingley. In spite of various stratagems from Mrs. Bennet and her five daughters, they are unable to obtain “any satisfactory description of Mr. Bingley.” This opening sentence of the third chapter is the first time the reader actually learns the number of daughters—five—in the Bennet family. The father’s isolation from them and from his wife is reinforced: “he eluded the skill of them all.” They are then “obliged to accept the second-hand intelligence of their neighbour Lady Lucas,” who, the reader learns, has a husband, “Sir William.” He tells his wife, the narrator reports, that Bingley is “quite young, wonderfully handsome, extremely agreeable.” Also, “he meant to be at the next assembly with a large party.” So the note of gregariousness is extended to the supposition that he is “fond of dancing,” which “was a certain step towards falling in love.” Consequently, expectations are aroused: “very lively hopes of Mr. Bingley’s heart were entertained.”

The paragraph concerned with the situation and speculation relating to the possibilities concerning the new neighbor, Mr. Bingley, has seven sentences. It is followed by a simple sentence-paragraph consisting largely of speech by Mrs. Bennet to her husband in which she reinforces—if reinforcement were necessary—her aspirations, not for herself but for her daughters. Again, there is irony in the fact that Mrs. Bennet’s aspirations appear to be not for herself but for her daughters. Her wish is for them to be married to wealthy husbands. However, her desire can be perceived as selfish. With her daughters married to wealthy, well-connected husbands, there will be less competition for attention at home and fewer mouths to feed. Marriage will lead to greater social connections and relationships for Mrs. Bennet as mother-in-law and increase her social stature among the neighbors and in the surrounding society in which she lives. Viewed from this perspective, then Mrs. Bennet’s wish to “see one of [her] daughters happily settled at Netherfield”—Bingley’s family home—is far from altruistic. She adds, “and all the others equally well married. [She] shall have nothing to wish for.” No doubt other wishes and desires will occur to her.

Jane Austen, as narrator, reports Bingley’s approximately 10-minute visit to the Bennets to return Mr. Bennet’s visit to him. There is no dialogue. Mr. Bingley “had entertained hopes of being admitted to a sight of the young ladies, of whose beauty he had heard much; but he saw only the father.” On the other hand, “The ladies were somewhat more fortunate, for they had the advantage of ascertaining from an upper window, that he wore a blue coat and rode a black horse” (9). In other words, he wore the latest fashion in colors—blue. In William Combe’s popular and socially indicative The Town of Dr. Syntax or Search of the Picturesque, published in 1812, there is a triplet: “One who was in full fashion drest / In coat of blue and corded vest / And seem’d superior to the rest” (canto xx). There is always in the world of Jane Austen’s novels, indicative as they are, of the world generally, somebody “superior” to someone else. The emphasis here is on “seem’d”: Appearance and reality are two different elements. This difference between the two, between appearance and reality, is an important undercurrent in the remainder of this third chapter and throughout the novel.

The chapter now focuses on the ball in the Assembly Rooms, where Mrs. Bennet and the other local mothers will meet their potential prey, the eligible Mr. Bingley, whom they hope to capture for one of their daughters. Even before the ball, rumors circulate “that Mr. Bingley was to bring twelve ladies and seven gentlemen with him to the assembly.” In other words, there would be too many ladies and too much competition for the attention of too few eligible men. This rumor is unfounded, for “when the party entered the assembly room, it consisted of only five altogether; Mr. Bingley, his two sisters, the husband of the eldest, and another young man.” The Bingley party’s appearance is conveyed not through dialogue or the perceptions of one of the characters such as Mr. or Mrs. Bennet, for instance, but through the narrative. The narrator reports to readers a brief (fewer than one-sentence) description of the physical appearance and manners of Mr. Bingley and his sisters. The former “was good looking and gentlemanlike.” In addition, “he had a pleasant countenance, and easy, unaffected manners.” The reader is then told that “the sisters were fine women, with an air of decided fashion.” The most extensive description in this paragraph is reserved for a character who has not yet entered the canvas of the novel but will play a central role within it—Bingley’s friend Darcy. This description follows a very brief one of Bingley’s brother-in-law Mr. Hurst, who “merely looked the gentleman;”—later in the novel, Mrs. Hurst, Bingley’s older sister, will play a significant role in the plot development. Darcy attracts “the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien.” Darcy’s physical appearance is not all that makes him the focal point of the attention. His appeal gains weight by the report “in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance” that he has “ten thousand a year”—he is an exceedingly wealthy man, possessing “a large estate in Derbyshire.” This wealth is not founded, unlike Bingley’s, on trade or merchandise, but on land in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. However, in this novel of contrasts, Darcy’s vast wealth built on land cannot save him from disfavor for “his manners gave a disgust . . . for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased.” “Disgust” in Jane Austen’s time had a less negative connotation than today, implying distaste.

Darcy’s behavior, his attitude, is contrasted with Mr. Bingley, who in today’s language has the qualities of a sales representative. He is “amiable,” in other words, “lively and unreserved, danced every dance, was angry that the ball closed so early, and talked of giving one himself at Netherfield” (10–11). Such qualities described as “amiable” are not always positive in the world of Jane Austen’s novels. Frank Churchill in Emma “may be very ‘amiable,’ have very good manners, and be very agreeable; but he can have no English delicacy towards the feelings of other people” (149). The note of ambiguity implied by the use of “amiable” is not dwelled upon at this point in Pride and Prejudice. The emphasis here is on the negative perceptions of Darcy provoked by his behavior. Mrs. Bennet in particular takes an intense dislike of Darcy. This reaction is described as “the most violent against him,” especially “by his having slighted one of her daughters.” Repeatedly in a Jane Austen novel, an overheard conversation serves as a plot device. Elizabeth overhears a conversation between Bingley and his friend Darcy, whose first words in the novel are negatives: “I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it,” that is, dancing. Darcy’s reasons for this are given “unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner.” These objections are about the social surroundings he is in and also to the specific company. Darcy, overheard by Elizabeth, says, “there is not another woman in the room, whom it would not be a punishment to me to stand up with.” The assumption is that Darcy is referring to Jane Bennet. Bingley then draws Darcy’s attention to Elizabeth, “sitting behind him.” Although the reader has been given no precise physical description of Elizabeth, or for that matter of any of the sisters, according to Darcy, Elizabeth is “not handsome enough to tempt [him].” Darcy is “in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” As a consequence, Elizabeth, the reader is told, “remained with no very cordial feelings towards” Darcy. We as readers also learn that Elizabeth “had a lively, playful disposition, which delighted in any thing ridiculous.”

The following paragraph contains a good deal of information conveyed in the past tense by the narrator. Much of it is seen through the eyes of Mrs. Bennet, whose impressions of the assembly room evening become the main focus of the narrative. Her eldest daughter, Jane, danced twice with Bingley and had been much admired by the party. “Elizabeth felt Jane’s pleasure”—having a special affinity with her sister. Mary had been praised as “accomplished,” the other sisters, “Catherine and Lydia,” found partners to dance with. Their immaturity is emphasized: for finding “partners . . . was all that they had yet learnt to care for at a ball.” Readers are also told that the Bennets are “the principal inhabitants” of the village of Longbourn, where they live. The narrative then moves in this paragraph from the general to the particular, from the macrocosm to the microcosm. Mr. Bennet awaits their return home. He is reading, for a book obliterates time for him. His expectations are that the ball and Bingley will disappoint his wife. His wife is gushing with enthusiasm, eager to relay the events of “a most excellent ball.” She goes into detail about whom Bingley danced with and which dances in particular were danced. Such detail irritates Mr. Bennet, especially when his wife focuses on the lace on the dresses, and he continues to interrupt her, so much so that she “related with much bitterness of spirit and some exaggeration, the shocking rudeness of Mr. Darcy.” The chapter ends with a short paragraph spoken by Mrs. Bennet in which she describes the “disagreeable, horrid man” Darcy. Her only regret is that her husband was absent and thus unable “to have given [Darcy] one of [his] set downs.” In short, Mrs. Bennet “quite detest[s] the man” (12–13).

Before moving onto the fourth chapter, it is worth pausing to look more closely at the way Jane Austen uses prose in the third chapter. Norman Page indicates in his The Language of Jane Austen (1972) that chapter 3 contains “Jane Austen’s mature narrative prose.” Page adds,

If we ignore one sentence of dialogue, the first four paragraphs of that chapter contain eighteen sentences, which range from five to ninety-one words in length, with an average of thirty words. A norm of moderate length, that is to say, is combined with a wide degree of variation. Since half the sentences contain between twenty and forty words, the norm is firmly enough established to give a stability to the prose which heightens by contrast the effect of the occasional wide departures from that norm. There are examples of both the simple sentence (‘Mrs. Bennet was quite disconcerted.’) and the double sentence (‘In a few days Mr. Bingley returned Mr. Bennet’s visit, and sat about ten minutes with him in his library.’). Most of the sentences are complex, however, and in the longer sentences a preference is shown for subordination over co-ordination. Even the longest sentence in the passage involves no loss of clarity, however, since the larger unit of ninety-one words is broken down into smaller units whose relation to each other is immediately apparent. This can be shown most clearly by taking some mild typographical liberties with the sentence in question:

A.1. The gentleman pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man,

A.2. the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and

A.3. he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening,

B. till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity;

C.1. for he was discovered to be proud,

C.2. to be above his company,

C.3. and above being pleased;

D.1. and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance,

D.2. and being unworthy to be compared with his friend. One sees very clearly here Jane Austen’s fondness for three-part structures.

A1.-3. record the initial reactions of the company assembled at Netherfield to Darcy, A.3. acting as a summary of the previous two clauses; all three are of approximately the same length. B. is only slightly longer but gains greater force from the two ‘strong’ nouns disgust and popularity, and acts as the pivot on which the sentence turns. C.1.-C.3. are parallel to A.1.-A.3., indicating the unanimous change of heart in response to Darcy’s ‘manners’, and suggesting by their greater brevity an offended and dismissive attitude. The greater length of D.1.-D.2. gives an air of finality to this social judgment; it also has internal patterning in the ironic antithesis of ‘large estate’ and ‘disagreeable countenance’ (the implication being that the two are not, as a general rule, closely correlated), and D.2. looks forward to the next sentence, the subject of which is ‘his friend.’ (103–104: Pride and Prejudice, 9–10)

These opening three chapters are indicative of Jane Austen’s style and technical devices in Pride and Prejudice . Dialogue is used to convey attitude and perceptions about other characters. The narrator sets up the dialogue, at times reports it, using the third-person narrative. Dialogue, in addition to commenting on the perceptions of one character concerning another, is also revealing about a character. For instance, Mrs. Bennet is garrulous; most concerned about the welfare of her daughters and herself; and has a complicated, not entirely satisfactory relationship with her husband. Dialogue also conveys information about others. Sometimes this is rumor, otherwise not. For instance, in the fourth chapter, Jane tells her sister Elizabeth that “Miss Bingley is to live with her brother and keep his house.” Inner thoughts and reflections are presented through authorial reportage rather than dialogue. In the fourth chapter, Elizabeth’s private reflections on the behavior of the Bingleys’ suitors give way to narrative relation of information that is subsequently important in assessing motive and action. The Bingleys “were in the habit [of] spending more than they ought.” In other words, they lived above their means. The exact amount of their income is provided in the narrative. In addition, they “had a fortune of twenty thousand pounds” (11–15). In other words, they probably had an annual income of approximately £1,000, or around U.S. $1,900. The Bingleys are relatively prosperous. “At this period, an agricultural labourer might earn around £45 per year, and a lawyer £450. After the death of her father in 1805, Austen lived with her mother and sister on an income of about £460” (Stafford, 314) or well under U.S. $1,000.

Austen conveys subtle class differences and distinctions in a variety of ways. Sometimes she uses dialogue. Sometimes she uses reportage. In chapter 4, Austen tells the readers that the Bingley fortune “had been acquired by trade.” The foundation of their wealth is impressed on their memories. Families whose wealth was acquired from “trade” (15) were frequently perceived as lower in the social hierarchy than the older landed families. Unlike Darcy’s inheritance, “Bingley’s wealth is relatively new; and the family does not yet possess the estate that would secure its position within the ranks of the landed classes” (Stafford, 314).

The fourth chapter conveys through the device of omniscient narration information about relationships outside the Bennet family. The reader is told about the Bingleys’ family and fortunes. We also learn that Mr. Bingley is somewhat impetuous and prone to making quick decisions. For instance, “he was tempted by an accidental recommendation to look at Netherfield house. He did look at it and into it for half an hour, was pleased with the situation and the principal rooms, satisfied with what the owner said in its praise, and took it immediately.” Jane Austen’s repetitions of “it” are effective in conveying the sense of impetuosity: the house being transformed into a possession, an “it.”

The next paragraph contrasts Bingley with Darcy and goes some way to explaining the nature of their friendship, “in spite of a great opposition of character.” Antithesis is one of the important building blocks in Jane Austen’s depiction of character and situation. “Bingley was endeared to Darcy by the easy, openness, ductility [an interesting choice of word, with its roots in chemistry, implying pliancy and flexibility].” The author adds that, “No disposition could offer a greater contrast to his own,” Darcy’s. This is in fact free indirect speech, the style indirect libre or erleble Rede . In other words, these could be Darcy’s thoughts as well as Jane Austen’s, the author. Bingley depends on Darcy for judgment and understanding. Jane Austen as omniscient narrator tells her readers that Bingley “was sure of being liked wherever he appeared, Darcy was continually giving offence.” Darcy is, “haughty, reserved, and fastidious, and his manners, though well bred, were not inviting.” Jane Austen in the two final paragraphs of chapter 4 conveys the reactions of Bingley and Darcy, Mrs. Hurst and her sister to the Meryton assembly. The attitudes of Bingley and Darcy are in antitheses: the former is positive; the latter, negative. Even Jane Bennet, whom Darcy “acknowledged to be pretty . . . smiled too much.” Mrs. Hurst and her sister also “pronounced her to be a sweet girl.” Consequently, the accommodating Bingley “felt authorised by such commendation to think of her as he chose,” (16–17) the implication being that with someone so influenced by others’ opinions, he could always have his mind changed. Chapter 5

is short and consists of an opening paragraph of four sentences of omniscient narration, a second and third paragraph of three short sentences and one sentence, and the dialogue with a concluding short sentence. The first paragraph conveys information about the Bennets’ neighbor Sir William Lucas. He has formerly been in trade in Meryton, the local town, and has become the knighted owner of Lucas Lodge, “where he could think with pleasure of his own importance, and unshackled by business, occupy himself solely in being civil to all the world.” Impressed by rank, unlike William Collins later in the novel, he is not “supercilious” and is “by nature inoffensive, friendly and obliging.” His wife, the reader is told in the second paragraph, is “a very good kind of woman, not too clever to be a valuable neighbor to Mrs. Bennet.” Her eldest daughter, Charlotte, “is a sensible, intelligent young woman, about twentyseven” and “Elizabeth’s intimate friend.” The use of the adjective “sensible” (18) to describe her is interesting. Mr. Collins, whom she marries, “was not a sensible man” (70). In other words, he was not reasonable, judicious, and wise.

The remainder of the chapter consists of short dialogue. Austen’s dialogue conveys much narrative information. Jane Austen’s text uses single quotation marks to indicate direct speech between Charlotte Lucas, Mrs. Bennet, Jane Bennet, Elizabeth, Mary, and a “young Lucas,” who speaks at the end of the chapter. Some of the dialogue turns on hearsay, who heard what and from whom about what someone may or may not have said—in this instance concerning whom Bingley considered the most attractive woman in the room. Information is also conveyed through direct speech about others. For instance, Darcy’s perceived nonresponse to the Bennets’ neighbor Mrs. Long is attributed to the fact that she “does not keep a carriage, and had come to the ball in a hack chaise,” indicating that she is of a lower social status than those who “keep a carriage.” The last section of the dialogue consists of reflections on the meaning of “pride”: Elizabeth Bennet can “forgive” Darcy’s if he had not “mortified” hers. Again, there is a balance and antithesis at work in the fabric of Jane Austen’s texture. In this instance, “pride” can be forgiven if it does not offend somebody else’s personal “pride.” However, there is, as the bookish Mary points out in a lengthy speech, a distinction between “vanity and pride.” She says, “A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” The conversation takes on a different tone when Mary’s pedantic distinction is swept aside with the assertion of one of the young Lucas boys, that if he had Darcy’s wealth, “I should not care how proud I was. I would keep a pack of foxhounds, and drink a bottle of wine everyday.” The chapter ends with the boy protesting that he would not drink too much, and Mrs. Bennet asserting that he would. His reference to foxhunting relates information about changes in country fashions, for in the later 18th century, foxhunting gradually replaced hare and stag hunting as the favourite pursuit of the well-off.

Jane Austen uses speech here, as in her work generally, to convey character difference. Mary is serious and pedantic, hence her sentiments on “pride.” Mrs. Bennet is easily sidetracked into irrelevancy; consequently, she is more preoccupied with the young Lucas’s potential overdrinking than with either Darcy or Bingley. Elizabeth is direct, yet capable of making fine distinctions. Charlotte Lucas shows her fondness for Elizabeth in expressing the wish that Darcy had danced with her. Jane exhibits a trusting nature in accepting at face value what Bingley’s sister tells her (18–20).

The sixth chapter contains a mixture of narration with dialogue and hurries the action. The focus is on Darcy’s reaction to Elizabeth, placed within a specific social context—a party at Sir William Lucas’s. Before the party, the Longbourn ladies pay a courtesy return visit to Netherfield. Elizabeth and her friend Charlotte discuss Jane and Bingley, and Darcy’s thoughts are expressed through free indirect speech. The opening paragraph conveys different perceptions of Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley. Jane sees their attention as a positive. Elizabeth, on the other hand, “saw superciliousness in their treatment of every body.” The fourth compound sentence of this paragraph interweaves free indirect speech with authorial direct narration, the separation between the two being the second semicolon dividing the two parts of the sentence. In the first part the reader enters into Elizabeth’s thoughts concerning Jane: “It was generally evident that whenever they met, that he did admire her; and to her it was equally evident that Jane was yielding to the preference which she had begun to entertain for him from the first, and was in a way to be very much in love” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). Then the author speaks more directly in her own voice, telling the reader “but she [Elizabeth] considered with pleasure that it was not likely to be discovered by the world in general,” the reason being “since Jane united with great strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform of cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her [Jane] from the suspicions of the impertinent.”

A similar narrative technique is at work elsewhere in the chapter when the narrator tells us about Darcy’s reactions to Elizabeth and then enters into his framework of thinking. On the one hand, Darcy “made it clear to himself and his friends that she [Elizabeth] had hardly a good feature in her face.” Simultaneously, “he began to find it [her face] rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes.” The word “clear” here in terms of clarifying and illuminating has a reverberating positive meaning in the sentiments that follow, as Darcy against his better judgment discovers other qualities. “To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying.” They are presented as antitheses. On the one hand, there is “more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form”; on the other, “he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing.” Again, although Elizabeth’s “manners were not those of the fashionable world,” on the other hand Darcy “was caught by their easy playfulness.” Jane Austen, stylistically in this paragraph, at her very best, moves the focus, the perspective, from Darcy to Elizabeth. Her prejudiced viewpoint concludes this paragraph of shifting stylistic devices: “to her [Elizabeth] he was only the man who made himself agreeable no where, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.” The remainder of the chapter continues the focus on Darcy’s reactions to Elizabeth. The setting is Sir William Lucas’s. The techniques used are dialogue between Sir William and Darcy, reactions to Elizabeth’s piano playing, and the performance of her sister Mary, Elizabeth’s refusal to dance with Darcy, and dialogue between Elizabeth and Sir William and Mrs. Bingley. The chapter ends with a prophetic dialogue between Miss Bingley and Darcy, Miss Bingley telling Darcy that he “will have a charming mother-in-law indeed, and of course she will be always at Pemberley with” him (21–27).

Austen uses this chapter to make contemporary allusions. The Bingley ladies, for instance, prefer to play “Vingt-un” to “Commerce.” They prefer one fashionable card game involving bartering and betting rather than another. Vingt-un is often called blackjack in America. Commerce, a somewhat more complicated game, is a form of poker. In it, the players buy individual cards from the dealer and barter for them with the other players. Shorter “Scotch and Irish airs,” songs and dances played on the keyboard, are preferred by the younger generation to what appears to be “a long concerto.” Darcy’s reply to Sir William’s comment that he considers dancing “as one of the first refinements of polished societies” is that dancing “has the advantage of also being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world—Every savage can dance” (23–25). This allusion echoes a passage from the Lectures in Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, 2 volumes (London 1783), written by Hugh Blair (1718–1800), the 18th-century Scottish political philosopher and literary critic. In his Lecture 38, “On the Origin and Progress of Poetry,” Blair observes that in the “savage state . . . from the very beginning of society, there were occasions on which they met together for feasts, sacrifices and Public Assemblies, and on all such occasions, it is well known, that music, song, and dance, made their principal entertainment” (ii, 314).

Underlying the world of polite manners and superficial appearances at Sir William Lucas’s, games played for the highest stakes are being enacted. The winner will gain the highest hand in the marital stakes. This serious search for a suitable partner to continue the ancestral line, the economic basis of society, is reinforced at the opening of chapter 7. The narrator reveals the real state of affairs at the Bennet household and why Mrs. Bennet’s quest to find suitable husbands for her daughters is not just a reflection of a scatterbrained, garrulous, unhappily married mother. The Bennet inheritance is restricted. The entailment stipulates that if Mr. Bennet has no son to continue the line, his property will pass to a male in another branch of the family: Longbourn will go to Mr. Bennet’s cousin, the unmarried clergyman William Collins. Hence the utmost necessity for his five daughters to marry well. Mr. Bennet’s income, “an estate of two thousand a year,” would generate in modern currency about U.S. $66,000 in 1988. So with five potential dowries to fund, he was on a very tight rein. Mrs. Bennet’s father, a lawyer, had left her “four thousand pounds,” which is not enough to make a substantial difference materially in their way of life, or in their daughters’ dowries. It would, of course, determine the quality of Mrs. Bennet’s life once she became a widow. Mr. Bennet, although apparently by profession a lawyer, has inherited land and a far from wealthy income. Mrs. Bennet, on the other hand, is from the professional middle class of lawyers and businessmen. Her sister is married “to a Mr. Phillips, who had been a clerk to their father, . . . succeeded him in the business, and a brother settled in London in a respectable line of trade.” Jane Austen precisely conveys the economic means and needs of her characters. Mrs. Phillips, for instance, is as anxious as her sister to marry the daughters off, and is only too ready to indulge the youngest Bennet girls, Catharine and Lydia, in their wish to meet members of the militia residing in the neighborhood.

The third paragraph of the seventh chapter moves skillfully from geographical location of residence, to shops in the local town, to hints of the wider world and potential conflicts. This is achieved through three references: to the precise distance of the village of Longbourn from the neighboring town; to a shop; and to the militia. Longbourn is “only one mile from Meryton,” walking distance in fine weather; poor weather conditions affecting travel will shortly have an impact on the plot. The two youngest daughters were “tempted thither three times a week, to pay their duty to their aunt,” whom the reader is told is as garrulous as their mother, and also to visit “a milliner’s shop just over the way.” These shops selling an assortment of fabrics, fancy materials, clothing, and various accessories and especially fashionable hats, were centers of gossip. Catharine and Lydia learned from their aunt Phillips of the “recent arrival of a militia regiment in the neighborhood; it was to remain the whole winter, and Meryton was the headquarters.”

In common with many young women of their generation depicted in opera, drama, and literature of the early 19th century, their heads were turned by the militia. “They could talk of nothing but officers; and Mr. Bingley’s large fortune, the mention of which gave animation to their mother, was worthless in their eyes when opposed to the regimentals of an ensign.” The militia, a military force, consisted of volunteers. Its main object during the Napoleonic Wars was to be ready in the first line of defense in case of a French invasion. This fear was a real concern during the last decade of the 18th century and the first two of the new century. The reference is a timely reminder that for most of Jane Austen’s life, England was at war with France. The south of the country was especially vulnerable to invasion, being the closest part of the country to France. Jane Austen’s brother Henry was a member of the Oxford militia in 1793, and when war erupted with France, he served for seven years as an officer. The reference to “an ensign” is a typical piece of Jane Austen irony as the “ensign” is contrasted with “Bingley’s large fortune.” An ensign was the officer of the lowest rank in the army with insufficient fortune or connections to buy his way into a higher rank. Someone with Bingley’s amount of money would have been able to purchase a far superior army ranking.

An important narrative device in a Jane Austen novel is the use of a letter as a means of communication. The first two letters of many in Pride and Prejudice occur in the seventh chapter. As has been noted, the novel originally was probably an epistolary novel in an earlier version. There are 44 letters in the novel, far more than in Northanger Abbey (nine instances), or Sense and Sensibility (21 instances). In Pride and Prejudice, they supply narrative information and detail, are a method of characterization, and provide an insight into the motives of the letter writer. They also give their writers and recipients the chance to reveal themselves and their motives. The first letter is from Caroline Bingley to Jane Bennet, asking Jane to dine with her and her older sister Louisa (Mrs. Hurst). The French “tête-à- tête” in the invitation reveals the writer’s social pretensions; it also has the meaning of an intimate conversation. The invitation becomes an important springboard for plot development. Mrs. Bennet ingeniously ensures that the only coach the family possesses is not available, as Mr. Bennet requires it to work on the farm. Jane is thereby forced “to go on horseback,” and because it rains, she has to stay overnight at Netherfield, the Bingley residence. The news that she has to spend more time away from home is conveyed in the second letter in the novel, again, a short, single-paragraph letter. This is from Jane to Elizabeth. The letter contains essential information. She got “wet through” and her “kind friends will not hear of [her] returning home till [she is] better,” and the apothecary, Mr. Jones, is being called to see her. Apothecaries in rural areas were regarded by many as the equivalent of doctors; they both prescribed and dispersed “draughts,” or medicines.

As a consequence, Elizabeth insists on visiting her sister and is forced to walk alone across the muddy fields three miles from Longbourn to Netherfield. “She was shewn into the breakfast-parlour.” Through such a detail Jane Austen is able to convey the size of the Netherfield establishment as breakfast is held in a special room only used for that purpose. Elizabeth’s act of walking three miles in difficult circumstances causes interesting reactions. “Elizabeth was convinced that” Mrs. Hurst and Miss Bingley “held her in contempt [as] her appearance created a great deal of surprise” as inappropriate behavior for a lady and exhibiting the Bennets’ lower social status. Darcy’s reactions are more complex, “divided between admiration of the brilliancy which exercise had given to her complexion, and doubt as to the occasion’s justifying her coming so far alone.” Elizabeth is also invited to stay at Netherfield to be with her sister. So the narrative focus in seven chapters has moved from Longbourn, to Assembly Rooms, to the home of the intended prey—Bingley (28–34).

Chapter 8 is one of the longest so far, consisting of paragraphs of omniscient narration and then dialogue. The initial paragraph reveals details of social status and habits. The Bingleys dine “at half past six,” a relatively late time but one kept in fashionable parts of London. Mr. Hurst, the narrator tells her readers, “was an indolent man, who lived only to eat, drink and play cards, who when he found her prefer a plain dish to a ragout, had nothing to say to” Elizabeth (35). Ragout was “a spicy meat and vegetable dish, imported from France in the late “17th century,” since when it had become something of a byword for foreign influence and affectation. . . . Mr. Hurst’s preference for a ragout is indicative of his interest in money and general ostentation” (Stafford, 317).

Another allusion in this chapter indicating character as well as social habits is that of a card game. In the evening, “on entering the drawing-room [Elizabeth] found the whole party [the Bingleys and Darcy] at loo, and was immediately invited to join them; but suspecting them to be playing high she declined it.” Loo, a card game in which various players could participate, offered an opportunity to place bets. It was fashionable for women to play such a game, and cards might well serve as a replacement for conversation or reading. Elizabeth’s negative attitude to the game, her resistance too, displays her candor, her intelligence, and her integrity.

Elizabeth’s reluctance to play leads Caroline Bingley into conversation with Darcy concerning the depth, range, and extent of the library at his country estate at Pemberly. The ensuing conversation between Caroline Bingley, the younger sister of Bingley, who has designs on Darcy, Darcy, and Elizabeth, works on several levels, as do most of the dialogues in Jane Austen’s novels. On one level, there is the surface meaning of what is said. In this instance, the “accomplishments” of young ladies are outlined. These extend from Bingley’s “they all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses.” These accomplishments reflect considerable free time, and wealth—the servants performing many of the household duties. Darcy objects to the generalization that this applies to all women, as he “cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of [his] acquaintance.” Miss Bingley and Darcy produce another list of accomplishments: “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word.” Further, “she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.” The listing is as unrealistic as Bingley’s was generalized. The words “greatly,” “thorough,” “certain something,” and “half” reinforce the idealistic nature of such demands. Further physical accomplishments such as the ability to walk in a certain manner are juxtaposed with intellectual ones, such as a knowledge of music and modern languages. Darcy wants “something more substantial, in the improvement of her [a woman’s] mind by extensive reading,” revealing very high standards, and that he is exceedingly difficult to please.

Other layers of meaning underlie the apparently witty surface of the dialogue. Darcy’s desire for “something more substantial” could be viewed as a reflection of his views concerning the perception of the superficiality of women’s education. He rebukes Caroline Bingley for using “all the arts which ladies sometimes condescend to employ for captivation.” This “cunning” he finds “despicable”—a strong word of condemnation in the vocabulary of Jane Austen’s novels. On the other hand, he is searching “for something more substantial.” So character competition, rivalry between characters, and as yet unrealized wishes are revealed through dialogue. Elizabeth by implication has provoked Darcy’s interest. She has implicitly challenged him in her riposte to him, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished woman.” This has resulted in his expansion of the qualities he is looking for. Of course, underlying such a dialogue is a narrowly subscribed rigid structure of courtship and the marriage, capturing the right husband, the right prey, is the only way in which Jane Austen’s heroines can land a secure existence. It is rare that disparities of class, income, and social status are bridged, in for instance a meeting of intellects.

Chapter 8 concludes on a note of fine social distinction. Initially, when Jane was taken ill, an apothecary was summoned. By the end of the chapter, the Bingleys are “convinced that no country advice could be of any service, recommended an express to town for one of the most eminent physicians” (37, 39–40). They do not regard a country apothecary as sufficiently competent to deal well with serious medical problems. This mirrors contemporary doubts concerning the status of apothecaries. In 1821, apothecaries formed an association to improve their station and education. Intense disputes in the medical world over status, competency, rights, and privileges in the provincial England of the 1829–31 prereform years are to find brilliant fictional depiction. George Eliot in Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life (1871–72), especially in the character of Lydgate, exposes a world of chicanery and deceit, his idealism crushed by the harsh realities of social existence.

Jane Austen’s narrative is hurried along in chapter 9. Mrs. Bennet, Lydia, and Kitty expose themselves as silly during a visit to Netherfield. Lydia reminds Bingley of his promise to give a ball. They demonstrate to Darcy the inferior social status to which Elizabeth Bennet belongs. The chapter contains some interesting observations. Darcy remarks that “In a country neighborhood you move in a very confined and unvarying society,” to which there is the riposte, “But people themselves alter so much, that there is something new to be observed in them for ever” (42–43). These sentiments resemble Jane Austen’s inevitable choice of the country for the canvas of her fiction. She writes on September 9, 1814, to her niece Anna, who is planning a novel, “You are now collecting your People delightfully, getting them exactly into such a spot as is the delight of my life;—3 or 4 families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on” ( Letters , 275).

Letter writing forms the subject of chapter 10. At the start of the chapter, Darcy’s attempts to write a letter to his sister are continually thwarted by Caroline Bingley’s overattentiveness. She constantly flatters Darcy to gain favor with him, complimenting him “on his hand-writing, on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter.” This results in a four-way conversation among Darcy, Caroline, her brother Charles, and Elizabeth. In the dialogue, Elizabeth’s sarcasm at Bingley’s expense produces a response from Darcy on the theme of pride and humility that pervades the book. Elizabeth tells Bingley that his “humility . . . must disarm reproof.” Darcy replies, “Nothing is more deceitful . . . than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” The result is a lengthy dialogue consisting largely of a verbal sparring match between Darcy and Elizabeth with occasional interruptions from Bingley on intentions, “friendship and affection.” At the conclusion, Elizabeth appears to have got the better of Darcy. She tells him that he “had much better finish his letter,” and “Mr. Darcy took her advice and did finish his letter.” Elizabeth becomes the object of Darcy’s gaze, while Mrs. Hurst and her sister sang. Darcy then asks her to dance and Elizabeth gives an elaborate negative, her response relating to assumptions she has made concerning his intentions: “You wanted me, I know, to say ‘Yes,’ that you might have the pleasure of despising my taste.” Elizabeth takes delight in “cheating a person of” [what she assumes to be] “their premeditated contempt.”

Elizabeth’s expectations are again proved to be formed incorrectly. She was “amazed at [Darcy’s] gallantry.” The narrator tells her readers “there was a mixture of sweetness and archness, in her manner which made it difficult for her to affront anybody.” The use of “archness” is ambiguous, implying adroit cleverness. Consequently, “Darcy had never been so bewitched by a woman as he was by her. He really believed, that were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he should be in some danger.” The awareness of Darcy’s attraction to Elizabeth results in Caroline Bingley’s jealousy. She will try to get “rid of Elizabeth” as quickly as possible. Caroline reminds Darcy of Elizabeth’s mother and silly sisters “to provoke” [him] into disliking her. At the end of the chapter, Elizabeth exhibits her knowledge of appropriate taste. She deflects Darcy’s attempt to apologize for the rudeness of Mrs. Hurst and Caroline Bingley with the observation, “You are charmingly group’d and appear to uncommon advantage. The picturesque would be spoilt by admitting a fourth” (67–53). The youthful Jane Austen was very fond of writers on the picturesque such as William Gilpin (1724–1804). For Gilpin, groups of three (a group of three cows is one of the examples given by Gilpin) are attractive because of their irregularity.

In chapter 11, the verbal dueling between Darcy and Elizabeth continues assisted by Caroline Bingley. Her brother is preoccupied with talking to Jane, who has recovered sufficiently to leave her room and spend some time downstairs. In describing the scene, Jane Austen draws upon her favorite poet, William Cowper. “Mr. Hurst had . . . nothing to do, but to stretch himself on one of the sofas and go to sleep” (54). Cowper at the opening of his poem The Task (1785) described the sofa “as a symbol of luxury and indolence” in his lines “Thus first necessity invented stools. / Convenience next suggested elbow chairs, / And luxury th’accomplished Sofa last” (i, 86–88). Against this background, Darcy and Elizabeth enact a contest of wills on “vanity and pride.” Their conversation elicits some of their most memorable lines in the book. Elizabeth tells Darcy, “I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.” (Jane Austen’s emphasis) This results in a defense from Darcy of pride, which “where there is a real superiority of mind . . . will be always under good regulation.” It also evokes a listing of his faults ranging from his “temper,” which “is I believe too little yielding.” He finds that he “cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself.” These are sentiments that will soon be tested when Wickham appears on the scene. At this point, as Darcy tells Elizabeth, she “is willfully to misunderstand” everybody and especially him. By the end of the chapter, there has been a subtle change in Darcy’s attitude to Elizabeth: “He began to feel the danger of paying Elizabeth too much attention” (54–58).

A shorter chapter consisting of seven brief paragraphs of omniscient narration follows chapter 11, where dialogue dominates. The focus is on Jane and Elizabeth’s departure from Netherfield and return to Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet does her best to forestall this without success. There is also attention to the impact of the stay, particularly on Darcy. In a passage o f erleble Rede (free indirect speech), the reader learns that Elizabeth “attracted him more than he liked—and Miss Bingley was uncivil to her, and more teasing than usual to himself.” Consequently, Darcy adopts a policy of disguise and deception: “he wisely resolved to be particularly careful that no sign of admiration should now escape him” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). The chapter concludes with Elizabeth and Jane’s return home. In the final paragraph, there is a pun. The sisters found their sister “Mary, as usual, deep in the study of thorough bass”: the study of musical harmonies and also the study of human sin, or baseness. In the last sentence, (59–60), folly and frivolity gain the upper hand, with rumor circulating concerning goings on in the militia. Within two chapters, serious dialogue underlying a contest of wills between Darcy and Elizabeth has been replaced by trivia.

A new character enters into the narrative in the next chapter through the device of an elaborate and character-revealing letter. He is introduced by a conversation between members of the Bennet family on the subject of Mr. Collins “who, when I [Mr. Bennet] am dead, may turn you all out of his house as soon as he pleases” (61). The reader is also told that there has been a long-standing family quarrel on the matter of inheriting Longbourn. Mr. Bennet reads his distant relative’s letter, which is wordy, elaborate, pompous, pedantic, and replete with cliché. The letter consists of one paragraph of five lengthy sentences with elaborate subclauses: “the average sentence-length in this letter is 71.4 words” (Page, 186). It contains formulaic expressions such as “trespass on your hospitality,” wellworn metaphors (“heal the breach,” “the offered olive branch”) superficial hollow phrases (“bounty and beneficence,” “promote and establish”). The letter also reveals Collins’s superciliousness and deference to his patron, “the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh.” Mr. Bennet seems to take Collins’s sentiments in the letter at their face value, as the reflection of “a most conscientious and polite young man.” Elizabeth, on the other hand, is more penetrating, aware of “his extraordinary deference for Lady Catherine.” She thinks that “he must be an oddity,” and finds his style to be “very pompous.” She has doubts about his being “a sensible man” (62–64).

The remainder of chapter 13 and all of chapter 14 are preoccupied with the Reverend Collins’s visit to Longbourn. The ostensible reason for the visit is an attempt at a rapprochement between him and the Bennet family regarding the entail issue. The real reason has to do with the advice of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Rosings in Kent. “She had even condescended to advise him to marry as soon as he could, provided he chose with discretion.” So his visit to Longbourn has another motive. He had received complimentary reports concerning the Bennet girls and wishes to marry one of them to please his patroness. Mr. Bennet concludes that “his cousin was as absurd as he had hoped” (66, 68), stupid, lacking tact, and full of his own self-importance.

Jane Austen concurs with her character’s judgment. She opens chapter 15 with the sentence, “Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been little assisted by education or society” (70): he lacked common sense, reasonableness, and wisdom. Mrs. Bennet, true to form, can only think of the prospects Collins offers as an eligible match for one of her daughters. Believing Jane to be spoken for, to Bingley, she thinks that Elizabeth will make an appropriate match for Collins.

There are several interesting allusions in these chapters. Collins in his letter in chapter 13 tells Mr. Bennet that Lady Catherine de Bourgh “has preferred me to the valuable rectory” (63). Subsequently, the narrator reveals that “A fortunate chance had recommended [Collins] to Lady Catherine de Bourgh when the living of Hunsford was vacant” (70). Lady Catherine has allowed Collins to live in a parish and the house that went with it, which she controls. Collins, as a clergyman, would benefit from the house, allied income, and property gained from the parishioners of, for instance, other land belonging to the church. He and any family he may have can live comfortably and in style provided he is appropriately deferential to the controlling authority—in this instance, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Collins is, of course, too deferential. In chapter 14 at Longbourn, Collins reads extracts from “Fordyce’s Sermons” (68) to Lydia. This is singularly ironic. James Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women (1766) had attacked modern fiction for the harmful effects it had on the imagination of the young. As will be revealed, Lydia in particular is especially foolish and headstrong. In Mr. Bennet’s library, Collins is attracted to “one of the largest folios in the collection.” In other words, Collins is attracted to appearances, a folio being the largest of book sizes, rather than to content and quality. Lady Catherine attracts him as she has great wealth, status, and influence.

During Collins’s Longbourn visit, other new characters are introduced into the story. Mr. Bennet retreats into his library; it is a place of escape, peace, and quiet. “In his library [Mr. Bennet] had been always sure of leisure and tranquillity; and though prepared, as he told Elizabeth, to meet with folly and conceit in every other room in the house, he was used to be free from them there.” Narratively, the retreat to the library is used as a device to get Collins away from the house at Longbourn and allow him to join the Bennet girls on a walk to Meryton. In Meryton, they encounter Mr. Denny, the militia officer about whom rumors had been circulating. Denny is accompanied by a “young man [who] wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming. His appearance was greatly in his favour.” The narrator adds, “he had all the best part of beauty, a fine countenance, a good figure and very pleasing address.” These tributes are all to external qualities. Nothing is said about his internal behavior, his character. Denny introduces Wickham to the Bennet party, and as he is doing so, a coincidence occurs (Jane Austen sometimes uses coincidence as a plot device). The significance of such a device is often not immediately apparent and is frequently revealed on revisiting the novel or subsequently (as in this instance) as the plot unfolds. As Wickham is being introduced, Bingley and Darcy are seen on horseback. Immediately they come to greet Jane and Elizabeth. The latter, “happening to see the countenance of both” Darcy and Wickham “as they looked at each other, was all astonishment at the effect of the meeting. Both changed colour, one looked white, the other red.” The effect of the chance encounter on each other and the discomfort it induced in both is appropriately viewed through Elizabeth’s eyes. Her misperception of Darcy’s actions and prejudice in Wickham’s favor is to have serious plot consequences. Jane Austen uses free indirect speech to convey the impact on Elizabeth: “Mr. Wickham, after a few moments, touched his hat—a salutation which Mr. Darcy just deigned to return. What could be the meaning of it?—It was impossible to imagine; it was impossible not to long to know” (71–73).

The answer to this question will be satisfactorily resolved only after much misunderstanding at the resolution of the novel. Through the use of a chance meeting, and the observance of it by one of the characters, who will be most affected by the history underlying the meeting, Jane Austen uses small fine detail that has the utmost significance. However, the narrative focuses directly not on this brief encounter; in fact, Darcy and Bingley ride on quietly. It moves to Mrs. Philips’s reaction to her nieces and reception of Mr. Collins. By the end of the chapter, Mrs. Philips has invited the Bennets to dinner the next evening. Pressured by Lydia and Kitty, she also agrees to invite the new officer, Wickham, too.

Their encounter with Wickham at the Philips’s Meryton home is the subject of chapter 16. While the others play whist, Wickham and Elizabeth are able to talk and she asks him about Darcy. Wickham tells her that Darcy’s father “was one of the best men that ever breathed, and the truest friend that [Wickham] ever had.” Elizabeth finds it “quite shocking” when informed by Wickham that his career has been destroyed by Darcy, who ignored the wishes of his late father and denied Wickham “the best living in his gift.” Elizabeth asks, “What can have induced [Darcy] to behave so cruelly?” According to Wickham, Darcy was jealous of him owing to “his father’s uncommon attachment to” him, and his “pride.” Wickham explains that he grew up with Darcy, they “were born in the same parish, within the same park, the greatest part of [their] youth was passed together.” His father was the “most intimate, confidential friend” of Darcy’s father. Wickham tells Elizabeth that “almost all [Darcy’s] actions may be traced to pride;—and pride has often been his best friend.” In the previous speech, somewhat ironically in the perspective of subsequent plot unraveling, Elizabeth refers to Darcy’s actions as “abominable” and “dishonest”: She has accepted what Wickham has told her at face value and without verification.

Wickham refers to Darcy’s brotherly concern and kindness. Darcy “has also brotherly pride, which with some brotherly affection, makes him a very kind and careful guardian of his sister” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). Again Jane Austen places a hint in the narrative, a cue that subsequently is to grow in her story. Wickham tells Elizabeth that Darcy’s “sister is nothing to [him] now,” the implication being that there was a relationship. In response to Elizabeth’s inquiry concerning the relationship between Bingley and Darcy, Wickham claims not to know Bingley, adding, “He is a sweet tempered, amiable, charming man. He cannot know what Mr. Darcy is.” This can be read at several levels: as an untruth in that Bingley has recognized Darcy’s strengths, Bingley has more to learn about Darcy’s strength of character, or a true account of the state of affairs between them. Wickham, when hearing the name of Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Collins, informs Elizabeth that she is Darcy’s aunt and wishes to combine her property with him. “Her daughter, Miss de Bourgh, will have a very large fortune, and it is believed that she and her cousin will unite the two estates” (78, 80–83). Elizabeth is impressed by Wickham; what he has told her reinforces her prejudices, her own sense of Darcy’s character.

In chapter 17, the omniscient narrator tells her readers that “Elizabeth felt herself completely taken in” by Wickham (87). The chapter opens with a discussion between Elizabeth and Jane on truth and deception. Jane makes excuses for Bingley, and he is included among those whom Darcy has mistreated. Jane is less certain than her sister, and is less inclined to rush to judgment. “One does not know what to think,” she tells Elizabeth, who immediately replies, “One knows exactly what to think.” Elizabeth finds it, ironically, difficult to believe “that Mr. Wickham should invent such a history as he gave me last night; names, facts, every thing mentioned without ceremony.” She adds, “If it be not so, let Mr. Darcy contradict it. Besides, there was truth in his looks.” At this stage in the novel, Elizabeth is taken in by appearances, by surface charm and glitter. The sisters’ discussion is interrupted by an invitation from “Mr. Bingley and his sisters” to “the long expected ball at Netherfield.” Preparations for the event, with whom Elizabeth in particular is to dance, preoccupy the remainder of the chapter, most of which is omniscient narration. There is a self-serving, slightly ridiculous speech from Collins in which he solicits the first two dances in advance from Elizabeth. She had been dreaming that Wickham would be her partner. Instead, she finds herself the subject of Collins’s increasing attention and chooses to ignore a “hint” from her mother that “the probability of their marriage was exceedingly agreeable to her,” (Jane Austen’s emphasis), that is, Elizabeth’s mother, not Elizabeth. The upcoming Netherfield ball makes even the usually unbearable weather, “such . . . succession of rain as prevented their walking to Meryton once . . . endurable to Kitty and Lydia,” the two youngest (85–86, 88).

The Netherfield ball, which takes place in chapter 18, is the important social happening so far in the novel. There have been many social events already: visits, meals, walks, and assemblies. The upcoming ball is important, for most of the key characters are present except one, who is most conspicuous by his absence—Wickham. The ball has been carefully prepared and demonstrates Bingley’s benevolence. He comes personally to Longbourn to deliver an invitation, and goes ahead with the plan for the ball in spite of his sister’s and Darcy’s objections to it. The ball also arouses expectations. At the event, Collins, Elizabeth, Jane, and Bingley hope to develop their relationships. Mrs. Bennet too expects that these courtships will be cemented in actual marital proposals. Elizabeth looks forward to seeing Wickham and gaining information that he is correct concerning Darcy. The actual ball does not prove to be a disappointment but ironically is not what the Bennets expected. Wickham is absent, the courtship of Bingley and Jane is not developed, Mr. Collins makes little if any headway with Elizabeth, and Elizabeth is unable to confront Darcy. She suspects that he is the reason why Wickham is absent but is unable to substantiate what remains a suspicion based on her prejudice against him. Darcy’s view that the Bennet sisters are unsuitable marital partners is confirmed by the behavior of Mrs. Bennet and Mary, who sings far too much when asked to perform.

Chapter 18, the description of Netherfield, is lengthy. It operates on many levels and has consequences that reemerge in the novel. For instance, in Darcy’s lengthy letter to Elizabeth after she has rejected his proposal of marriage, he refers to “the evening of the dance at Netherfield” (197). Through the advantage of hindsight, Elizabeth is in accord with Darcy’s view of what occurred. The immediate consequences are that Jane receives a letter from Caroline Bingley telling her that their “whole party have left Netherfield . . . and are on their way to town; and without any intention of” returning (116). Jane is also told that Caroline and Louisa, her sister, are optimistic that there will be a marriage between Bingley and Georgina, Darcy’s sister. Elizabeth attempts to reassure Jane that this is probably a mistake on Caroline Bingley’s part and that Bingley is “in love with” her (119). However, before this letter has been received, the day following the ball, Elizabeth herself has been the subject of a proposal from Mr. Collins.

Before examining this, we briefly analyze the structure of the Netherfield Ball chapter. It opens with Elizabeth’s disappointment at finding Wickham absent. There is then a dialogue between her and Darcy accompanying their dancing together. The subject of Wickham is raised by Elizabeth but they are interrupted by Sir William Lucas, who mentions the closeness of the relationship between Jane and Bingley and speculates that “a certain desirable event . . . shall take place.” This “seemed to strike [Darcy] forcibly.” There follows a conversation between Darcy and Elizabeth on the subject of reading, books, and prejudice during which there is a warning from Darcy to Elizabeth “not to sketch [his—Darcy’s] character at the present moment, as there is reason to fear that the performance would reflect no credit on either.” The actions of this chapter illustrate one of Jane Austen’s continuing preoccupations in her work, to demonstrate that appearances are deceptive. Caroline Bingley then tells Elizabeth, after she and Darcy have separated, that she should not believe what Wickham tells her: “George Wickham has treated Mr. Darcy in a most infamous manner.” Elizabeth is so prejudiced in Wickham’s favor and against Darcy that she refuses to believe Caroline. She is not even reassured by Jane’s report of Bingley informing her of his defense of Darcy. The rest of the chapter is taken up with Collins’s plan to introduce himself to Darcy, a relative of his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and elaborate prolix speeches by Collins to Elizabeth and others. Elizabeth is preoccupied with visions of the consequences of a marriage between Jane and Bingley. The reader is to learn later on that similar thoughts are engaging Darcy, hence his desire to separate the two, a reason being, the unsuitability of a marriage to someone with a mother such as Mrs. Bennet, who insists in making ridiculous observations overheard by Darcy. The family is further shown to disadvantage by Mary’s singing. She becomes the subject of “derision” among the Bingley sisters.

The chapter ends with an unhappy Elizabeth, lengthy speeches from Collins, “a manoeuver” from Mrs. Bennet to delay the Bennet family departure, and Mrs. Bennet’s certainty that “she should undoubtedly see her daughter settled at Netherfield, in the course of three or four months.” Mrs. Bennet’s irresponsible actions have partly contributed, as emerges, to the opposite taking place. The last paragraph also tells readers that “Elizabeth was the least dear to her [Mrs. Bennet] of all her children.” “Dear” here is a term of endearment, of affection. It also has financial implications. Mrs. Bennet does not mind Elizabeth marrying the less wealthy Mr. Collins, who is “quite good enough for her” (Jane Austen’s emphasis)—Elizabeth. Her “worth . . . was eclipsed by Mr. Bingley and Netherfield” (92, 94, 100, 102–103).

The next five chapters focus not on Jane and Bingley, on Darcy or Wickham, but on Collins and his attention toward Elizabeth. Mr. Collins’s proposal to Elizabeth is comic. The source of its being comedy is its incongruity. Collins proposes in a pedantic manner, as if he is delivering a Sunday sermon. He tells Elizabeth at some length his “reason for marrying,” his home is “a humble abode,” “music an innocent diversion,” death a “melancholy event.” He even informs Elizabeth that he “should hope to lead [her] to the alter ere long.” His proposal is full of condescension and acute awareness of social rank. He is proposing because his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, has instructed him to do so. Collins is also actively aware of money and Elizabeth Bennet’s financial state. He tells her on that matter he “shall be uniformly silent” after she has been made aware how perilous her financial situation is, “that one thousand pounds in the 4 per cents . . . will not be [hers] till after [her] mother’s decease, is all that [she] may ever be entitled to.” This will only generate an annual income of £40, which, compared to Mr. Bennet’s present income of £2,000 annually and Collins’s of a few hundred pounds, is not enough to live on. In any case, on Elizabeth’s marriage the meager income will pass as capital to her husband. Elizabeth’s money will become one of the sources of the income by which Collins’s status is judged. In Collins’s case, his status depends on his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s good graces.

Chapters 20 and 21 deal with the consequences of Elizabeth’s rejection of Collins’s offer. Mrs. Bennet naturally is mortified to hear that what she considers to be such a suitable marital proposal has been rejected. She turns to Mr. Bennet to support her and persuade Elizabeth to reconsider. Elizabeth is “summoned” to her father’s sanctum, his retreat from his wife and other domestic inconveniences, the library. His response is ironic and in some respects egocentric. Mr. Bennet tells Elizabeth, “Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). He tells his wife to “allow [him] the free use of [his] understanding on the present occasion,” in other words, that his wishes should be preeminent. Further, that he “shall be glad to have the library to [himself] as soon as may be.” In other words, for selfish reasons he takes his daughter’s part and wishes to be left alone. His short, antithetically based sentences, his wit is used as a defensive mechanism.

Mrs. Bennet too retreats, not to the library, but to berating her daughters and Charlotte Lucas, who is visiting about her “nervous complaints” (105–106, 112–113).

In the meantime, Jane relates in chapter 21 the contents of a letter she has received from Caroline Bingley. The rest of the chapter is taken up with Elizabeth and Jane’s reactions to the letter as Jane reads passages from it to her sister. Elizabeth is concerned to reinforce Bingley’s strength of genuine attachment to Jane in spite of what Caroline Bingley tells her. Jane is much less disposed to think negative thoughts or motives of anyone. She tells Elizabeth, “Caroline is incapable of wilfully deceiving any one; and all that I can hope in this case, is that she is deceived herself” (114). The reader, however, is largely presented with Elizabeth’s perception of what has occurred.

The final two chapters of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice concern a marriage not anticipated earlier in its narrative. The opening paragraphs of chapter 22 are sufficient to report Collins’s proposal to Charlotte Lucas and her acceptance, “solely from the pure and disinterested desire of an establishment, [she] cared not how soon that establishment were gained.” As Charlotte explains to Elizabeth, who has expressed incredulity at the engagement, she is “not romantic you know. I never was. I ask only a comfortable home.” She is a realist, as she tells Elizabeth, “considering Mr. Collins’ character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state.” Charlotte has no illusions, her “opinion of matrimony was not exactly” Elizabeth’s, who would not “have sacrificed every better feeling to worldly advantage.” Elizabeth perceives that her friend has disgraced herself. She, Charlotte, has lowered herself in “her esteem” and Elizabeth is convinced “that it was impossible for that friend to be tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen.” Once again, subsequent events in the narrative are to demonstrate that Elizabeth’s prejudgment of the situation is incorrect. Charlotte, who has realistically married for pragmatic reasons, is able to be “tolerably happy in the lot she had chosen.” Charlotte’s choice is a realistic reflection of the marriage market. It is a logical and a reasonable choice based not on desire and love but upon practicality.

The last chapter of the first volume focuses on anxiety in the Bennet family. Mrs. Bennet, practical as ever, is “in a most pitiable state.” She fears that the marriage between Charlotte and Collins, heir to the Longbourn estate, will have practical adverse consequences upon the Bennets: that Collins was “resolving to turn herself and her daughters out of the house, as soon as Mr. Bennet were dead.” Mrs. Bennet’s temper is not improved by a visit from her friend and neighbor Lady Lucas, who has “the comfort of having a daughter well married” before Mrs. Bennet has achieved such a desired goal. Further, neither Jane nor Elizabeth has heard any news of Bingley’s whereabouts or of his return to Netherfield. In short, the first volume concludes on a downbeat note for the Bennet family with none of their expectations fulfilled (122, 125, 130, 127).

Volume 2, Chapter 1

(Chapter 24)

The second book opens with the summary of a letter Caroline Bingley has written to Jane. The contents of the letter are not relayed as on a previous occasion by Jane but by the author. They are then conveyed through each characters’ reactions to the contents: in this instance, Jane’s and primarily Elizabeth’s. The latter’s reactions are conveyed in erlebte Rede , or the indirect speech mode. Jane Austen subsequently uses dialogue between the sisters and then between Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth to convey reaction to the letter. The chapter concludes with a “dispelling [of] gloom, which the late perverse occurrences had thrown on many of the Longbourn family” by the regular presence of Wickham at Longbourn. Jane is left as the only person refusing to think ill of the Bingleys. She is the only one who has refused to condemn Darcy “as the worst of men.” Caroline’s letter confirmed that Bingley will spend the winter in London, and she suggests an attachment between Bingley and Georgiana Darcy. Elizabeth distrusts Caroline’s motives, attributing them to an attempt to make Jane believe falsely that she was misled in her impression of Bingley’s strength of feeling toward her. Subsequently in the narrative, Elizabeth’s insight into Caroline’s motivation will be verified, and Jane shown to be too trusting but correct about Darcy.

Volume 2, Chapter 2 (Chapter 25)

New characters, the Gardiners, are introduced into the narrative. Gardiner, Mrs. Bennet’s brother, is “a sensible, gentleman-like man, greatly superior to his sister as well by nature and education.” He is successful in trade and his warehouse. He and his wife live in Gracechurch Street, London, in a part of the city associated with trade and money but socially acceptable. Mrs. Bennet’s welcome for Mrs. Gardiner allows Jane Austen, through the use of a casual remark made in dialogue by Mrs. Bennet, to comment on the very latest fashion controversies. Mrs. Bennet is “very glad to hear what you [Mrs. Gardiner] tell us, of long sleeves” (138–140). In a letter to her sister, Cassandra, of March 9, 1814, Jane Austen writes, “I wear my gauze gown today, long sleeves & all; I shall see how they succeed, but as yet I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable . . . Mrs. Tilson had long sleeves, too & she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many” (Letters, 261–262). This is just one small example of the way in which a Jane Austen narrative is littered with allusions to contemporary fashion and behavior.

On hearing of Jane’s disappointment from Elizabeth, Mrs. Gardiner invites Jane to stay with her in London. The reader is informed that Mrs. Gardiner, too, before her marriage “spent a considerable time” where both Wickham and Darcy grew up, and her memory seems to confirm the prejudice against Darcy. Volume 2, Chapter 3 (Chapter 26) Mrs. Gardiner warns Elizabeth to be cautious about Wickham. Her caution is a practical one. In this respect, she is not dissimilar to Charlotte Lucas. Mrs. Gardiner tells Elizabeth, “if he had the fortune he ought to have, I should think you could not do better.” But Elizabeth’s “sense,” her common sense, sensibleness should take priority over her “fancy,” her selfish, impractical desires. Elizabeth promises not to rush into anything or to disappoint either her aunt or her father, but she believes that the days for making marriages based solely on financial or practical considerations are over: “young people are seldom withheld by immediate want of fortune, from entering into engagements with each other.” Ironically, this indeed is the case in Pride and Prejudice and contrary to Elizabeth’s expectations.

Charlotte is married and extracts a promise from Elizabeth to visit her and her new home at Hunsford in Kent. Charlotte’s letters to Elizabeth are full of praise for “the house, furniture, neighbourhood and roads.” Jane meanwhile has gone to London to stay with her aunt Gardiner; she sees Caroline Bingley briefly and then writes a lengthy letter to Elizabeth, which is quoted in full. Jane admits to having been duped by Caroline, and she and Elizabeth believe that “all expectation from” Bingley “was now absolutely over.” Elizabeth has a disappointment of her own to contend with. Wickham has turned his attentions toward a Miss King, who has acquired an inheritance of 10,000 pounds, a sum much more than the amount Elizabeth can hope to inherit or bring to a marriage. She is still sympathetically disposed or prejudiced in Wickham’s favor, telling her aunt that her sisters “Kitty and Lydia take his defection much more to heart” than she does. In this way, Jane Austen once again is placing hints in the narrative of what is to come. Elizabeth adds to her aunt that her sisters “are young in the ways of the world.” Elizabeth, after her experience with Charlotte’s actions, realizes that “handsome young men must have something to live on, as well as the plain.”

Volume 2, Chapter 4 (Chapter 27)

In March, Elizabeth accompanies Sir William Lucas and his second daughter, Maria, on a visit to Charlotte Lucas at Hunsford in Kent. They interrupt the journey with a visit to the Gardiners at Gracechurch Street and to Jane. They also spend their time in London during “the morning in bustle and shopping, and the evening at one of the theatres.” Before leaving her Aunt Gardiner’s, Elizabeth agrees to accompany them on a tour of Derbyshire and the Lake District—a popular venue for scenic travel. Further, Elizabeth in a dialogue with her aunt over Wickham’s transfer of affection to Miss King, an heiress, is ready to accept his “mercenary” behavior as appropriate to “a man in distressed circumstances.” Elizabeth is “sick of them all”—that is, men. The chapter ends on an optimistic note: “Adieu to disappointment and spleen” (142, 144– 146, 149, 150, 152–153).

Volume 2, Chapter 5 (Chapter 28)

Collins greets his visitors to Hunsford Parsonage with a “formal civility.” Elizabeth is impressed by how comfortable her friend Charlotte is and by her “evident enjoyment” of her new surroundings. She also notices how adroitly Charlotte manages her husband, encouraging, for instance, his gardening, which he enjoys and which also gets him out of the Parsonage. The Parsonage is situated near the boundary of Rosings Park, and Rosings House is within walking distance. The day following their arrival they have visitors. Humorously, Elizabeth mistakes Mrs. Jenkinson, Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s companion, for the patroness herself. She “expected at least that the pigs were got into the garden, and here is nothing but Lady Catherine and her daughter!” Elizabeth is pleased that the daughter “looks sickly and cross” and hence will be a suitable match for Darcy (155, 157–158).

Volume 2, Chapter 6 (Chapter 29)

The next day, they visit Rosings and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Collins shows his visitors Rosings Park. In spite of his superciliousness and exceeding deference to his patroness, Collins is practical and impressed by possessions. For instance, he enumerates the cost of the glazing at Rosings Park. Windows and glazing were very expensive as windows had been subject to tax since 1696, with additional taxes relating to the weight of glass being subsequently introduced. The amount and size of windows in a new property indicated the owner’s wealth, and windows in general were a status symbol. Sir William Lucas and his daughter Maria are overwhelmed by the “grandeur surrounding” them. Lady Catherine, through her manner of receiving her visitors, does not hesitate to make them feel that they are of “inferior rank” to her. Elizabeth remains aloof from being overawed by either Lady Catherine, her rank, her money, or her surroundings or from being reminded that her “father’s estate is entailed to Mr. Collins.” She is not phased by Lady Catherine’s shock at learning that she, Elizabeth, did not have a governess. The reader learns through Lady Catherine’s interrogation of Elizabeth that the latter is not yet “one and twenty.” Elizabeth shocks Lady Catherine by speaking forthrightly to her and refusing to be overawed (162, 164, 166).

Volume 2, Chapter 7 (Chapter 30)

Sir William’s Hunsford visit is only for a week. Elizabeth is left with Charlotte, who she discovers has found a way to accommodate her husband without too much interference from him. Charlotte even has arranged the Parsonage so that she and her husband have their own separate space. Lady Catherine manages even “the minutest concerns” of the parishioners who live nearby, being regularly informed of local developments by Mr. Collins. Lady Catherine is visited at Easter by her two nephews, Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam. The latter is Darcy’s cousin and with Darcy guardian of Georgiana Darcy. The two soon call at the Parsonage. The meeting between Darcy and Elizabeth is a very brief one in the seventh chapter of the second volume. Most of the chapter is omniscient narration, with occasional interweaving into Elizabeth’s perspective. Two instances of dialogue occur. Collins perceives that Darcy would not have visited the Parsonage so soon if Elizabeth had not been present. Elizabeth asks Darcy whether he happened to see Jane in town: the answer is not given.

Volume 2, Chapter 8 (Chapter 31)

The Lucases and Elizabeth are invited to Rosings after church on Easter evening. The focal point of chapter 8 is Elizabeth’s performance at the piano during the visit, the responses this produces especially in Darcy, his attentiveness to her, and his embarrassment at “his aunt’s ill breeding.” Two key moments are evident in the encounter. Elizabeth tells Colonel Fitzwilliam when responding to his request to tell him “what [she has] to accuse [Darcy] of” (169, 173–174), that at his first ball, he danced only four times, in spite of the scarcity of gentleman. This may be perceived as the reason for Elizabeth’s initial prejudice against Darcy. The second key moment occurs when Elizabeth uses her piano performance to provide a counterpoint to Darcy’s evident shyness and lack of social skills. In this chapter Darcy shows yet again that he is incapable of small talk. Jane Austen uses Elizabeth’s apparently superficial conversation during her piano playing to reveal deep emotion and feelings. She has much to teach Darcy, who ironically appears not to hear the real import or context of what she is saying to him. If he had listened to her, he would not have immediately proposed and would have saved himself anguish. Elizabeth also learns in the chapter that Darcy apparently has no interest in developing a relationship with the sickly-looking Anne de Bourgh, the only daughter of Lady Catherine and heiress to the Rosings estate and properties.

Volume 2, Chapter 9 (Chapter 32)

Darcy’s difficulty in expressing himself is further illustrated in chapter 9 when he visits the Parsonage and finds Elizabeth alone. Tongue-tied, he responds in brief sentences to Elizabeth’s questions concerning Bingley and the possibility of his returning to Netherfield. He presents a more benevolent side of Lady Catherine than has surfaced previously by telling Elizabeth that she enlarged the Parsonage when Mr. Collins first appeared at Hunsford. Darcy seems genuinely concerned with the happiness of Charlotte, Elizabeth’s friend. In the course of their conversation, Darcy “drew a chair a little towards her,” revealing emotion and affection but his tone changes and they are interrupted. The chapter concludes with Elizabeth and Charlotte speculating as to “why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage” and why Colonel Fitzwilliam also appears so much. Elizabeth is aware of Darcy’s “earnest, steadfast gaze” but dismisses Charlotte’s suggestion of “the possibility of his being partial to her.” In the last paragraph of the chapter, the indirect speech pattern focuses on Charlotte’s thoughts rather than Elizabeth’s. The attention is on Colonel Fitzwilliam’s many positive attributes. But, as ever in a Jane Austen novel, there is a “counter balance” to his “advantages.” These are, as is so often the case, practical and material: “Darcy had considerable patronage, in the church and his cousin could have none at all” (174, 180–181). In other words, Darcy had the real wealth, connections, and status, Fitzwilliam had none.

Volume 2, Chapter 10 (Chapter 33)

Chapter 10 of the second volume is well placed structurally to occur before Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth. It explains why she is so hostile toward him and plants signposts indicating that his proposal should not be a total surprise to the reader or even to Elizabeth, if she had read the signs correctly. Darcy finds every possible reason to meet her in the grounds of Rosings, on walks, to ask her questions about the happiness of the Collinses and her opinion of Rosings: “he seemed to expect that whenever she came into Kent again she would be staying there too.” In terms of the perspective of the unfolding of the narrative, this turns out to be true. Elizabeth talks with Colonel Fitzwilliam, indicating to him the sense that Darcy enjoys “the power of doing what he likes.” She also discovers that Darcy is exceedingly wealthy and that younger sons such as Colonel Fitzwilliam “cannot marry where they like.” Estates were handed down from father to eldest son, and younger sons often went into the church or armed forces unless they married an heiress.

Fitzwilliam also explains to Elizabeth that he and Darcy have joint guardianship for Georgiana Darcy, Darcy’s 16-year-old sister. There is a hint in Fitzwilliam’s asking Elizabeth “why she supposed Miss Darcy likely to give them any uneasiness,” that “she had somehow or other got pretty near the truth.” This is not developed at this point in the novel. Fitzwilliam inadvertently reveals that recently Darcy has “saved a friend from the inconveniences of a most imprudent marriage, but without mentioning names or any other particulars.” Elizabeth believes that this is a reference to Jane, and that Darcy has been “the cause of all that Jane has suffered, and shall continue to suffer.” Moreover, Darcy “had ruined for a while every hope of happiness for the most affectionate, generous heart in the world.” Elizabeth brooding upon this suffers a headache. Unwilling to see Darcy, she remains at the Parsonage as the Collinses go to Rosings. The chapter ends on a slight note of wry humor. Mr. Collins is not concerned with Elizabeth’s health but with incurring Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s displeasure “by her staying at home” (182–187).

Volume 2, Chapter 11 (Chapter 34)

Chapter 11 of the second volume has been regarded as the focal structural point of the novel. “Irony in Pride and Prejudice is more totally verbal in the first half of the novel than in the second . . . the verbal irony is necessary to the ambiguity that enables Darcy and Elizabeth so completely to misunderstand each other.” Joseph Wiesenfarth, in The Errand of Form: An Assay of Jane Austen’s Art (1967), argues that the plot of the novel “builds to a statement of problems that arise through verbal ambiguity. Darcy comes to think that Elizabeth loves him whereas” (63) she is very hostile to him, owing to the way she perceives he has treated Jane and Wickham. She is brooding on this treatment when Darcy appears at Hunsford and is most agitated. He confesses his love for her and requests her hand in marriage. Taken by surprise and shaken, she is unable to respond sufficiently. Constructing this as a positive, Darcy explains his own struggle against his pride, “his sense of her inferiority . . . of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination” (189). Elizabeth rejects him and asks him to resolve, in Wiesenfarth’s words, the “four problems that keep them apart: the problems of Bingley’s separation from Jane, of Darcy’s relation to Wickham, of the Bennet family’s impropriety, and of Darcy’s ungentlemanly manners.” These problems are resolved in the second half of the novel (Weinsheimer, 51). Darcy’s response to what is from his perspective a surprising rejection is that of total honesty, telling Elizabeth that “these offences might have been overlooked, had not your [Elizabeth’s] pride been hurt by my honest confession of the scruples that had long prevented my forming any serious design.” The chapter concludes with Elizabeth reflecting on Darcy’s “abominable pride” and his refusal to explain his actions satisfactorily. Unable to face company, even Charlotte, somewhat in the manner of her father, who retreats to his library, she “hurried . . . away to her room” (192–194).

Volume 2, Chapter 12 (Chapter 35)

The following chapter focuses on the consequences of what has taken place. The next morning, Elizabeth goes on a different route to avoid meeting Darcy during the walk. However, he has anticipated her, meets her, and asks her to read a letter, the text of which takes up the rest of the chapter. Darcy dated it “from Rosings at eight o’clock in the morning” (192). He has adhered to social convention by delivering it “privately to avoid comprising Elizabeth’s reputation,” for the “letter breaks contemporary social convention since correspondence between” a man and a woman “was only acceptable if the couple were engaged” (Stafford, 325). The letter outlines in some detail the part Darcy has played in Bingley’s separation from Jane, and it also explains Darcy’s relationship with Wickham. Darcy tells Elizabeth that he perceived that at Netherfield, Jane’s “look and manner were open, cheerful and engaging, as ever, but without any symptom of pecular regard” for his friend Bingley. Darcy “was desirous of believing her indifferent.” Further, Darcy was in danger of connecting himself with a family who behaved with a “total want of propriety” not, as Elizabeth perceived, that they lacked suitable connections. He specifically refers to the conduct of Mrs. Bennett and to the “three younger sisters,” not to either Jane or Elizabeth.

Most of the lengthy two-paragraph letter is taken up with Wickham’s family history, conduct toward Darcy, and his sister Georgiana. Colonel Fitzwilliam is offered as collaborating witness to what Darcy relates about Wickham. Elizabeth is told that Wickham is the son of a most respected steward who served long and honorably in the family on the Darcy Pemberley estate in Derbyshire. Wickham was educated as a gentleman and promised a church living on the Pemberley estate if he stuck to his promise to become a clergyman. On the death five years previously of Darcy’s father, Wickham was left a not inconsiderably legacy of £1000. However, Wickham had serious character defects. He gave up a career in the church for that of the law, but “his studying the law was a mere pretence,” and in London, “being now free from all restraint, his life was a life of idleness and dissipation.” When he had spent his legacy he asked for the Pemberley living, but Darcy refused. Wickham turned his attentions to Darcy’s young sister Georgiana, who “was then but fifteen.” Wickham’s attempt to elope with her, his “chief object was unquestionably my sister’s fortunes, which is thirty thousand pounds . . . [and] . . . the hope of revenging himself on me,” was foiled at the very last minute. At the end of the letter, Darcy asks “God [to] bless” Elizabeth and reveals his aristocratic Christian name “Fitzwilliam”—his mother being Lady Anne Fitzwilliam, the aunt of Colonel Fitzwilliam (197–198, 201–203).

Volume 2, Chapter 13 (Chapter 36)

The following chapter is preoccupied with Elizabeth’s conflicting reactions to Darcy’s letter, with the “contrariety of emotion” it “excited.” She finds his explanation of the Jane-Bingley separation unsympathetic: “his style was not penitent, but haughty. It was all pride and insolence.” However, assessing the evidence presented regarding Wickham, using her memory, she believes that she has been erroneous in her attitude toward Darcy. “She grew absolutely ashamed of herself—Of neither Darcy nor Wickham could she think, without feeling that she had been blind, partial, prejudiced, absurd.” So much so that she revises her reaction to Darcy’s explanation of the Jane-Bingley relationship: “She felt that Jane’s feelings, though fervent, were little displayed, and that there was a constant compliancy in her air and manner.” Elizabeth admits that “vanity, not love, has been my [her] folly” and is in accord with Darcy’s judgment of her family’s behavior. Two issues then remain to be resolved: the conduct of the Bennet family and Darcy’s manner, his pride, his behavior (204, 208).

Volume 2, Chapter 14 (Chapter 37)

Elizabeth misses the farewell call from Fitzwilliam and Darcy to the Parsonage. Both leave Rosings. The Collinses and Elizabeth then visit Rosings. Lady Catherine, observing “that Miss Bennet seemed out of spirits,” urges her to stay on at Hunsford Parsonage, telling Elizabeth, “you will have been here only six weeks. I expected you to stay for two months.” Lady Catherine is most solicitous as to how women travel, for “Young women should always be properly guarded and attended, according to their station in life.” She points out that the summer before last, when her “niece Georgiana went to Ramsgate . . . [she] made a point of her having two men servants go with her,” a small detail the irony of which is not lost on Elizabeth in view of what Darcy has just revealed in his letter about Wickham’s attempted seduction. This chapter following Darcy’s letter then turns to Elizabeth’s solitary reflections on it. She is unable to find a solution: Her sisters and mother and her “own past behaviour . . . were hopeless of remedy”; furthermore “Jane had been deprived by the folly and indecorum of her own family!” In short, Elizabeth leaves Rosings in a depressed state (211–213).

Volume 2, Chapter 15 (Chapter 38)

Chapter 15 of the second volume opens with Mr. Collins “paying [Elizabeth] the parting civilities which he deemed indispensably necessary.” These are lengthy: “words were insufficient for the elevation of his feelings . . . Elizabeth tried to unite civility and truth in a few short sentences.” She regrets leaving Charlotte in such a situation but recognizes her independence of spirit and spirit of self-reliance. She travels with Maria Lucas, who, no longer intimidated into silence by Lady Catherine and Rosings, exclaims “it seems but a day or two since we first came!—and yet how many things have happened!” She sums them up: “We have dined nine times at Rosings, besides drinking tea there twice!” adding “that much I shall have to tell!” Elizabeth to herself adds that she will have a good deal “to conceal.” Elizabeth is in a “state of indecision” as to what she should reveal to Jane. There is the fear of grieving Jane, of “exceedingly astonish[ing] Jane,” and there is little of Elizabeth’s own vanity left (215–218).

Volume 2, Chapter 16 (Chapter 39)

Elizabeth, Jane, and Maria Lucas return to Hertfordshire in the second week of May. Immediately, the two older sisters are confronted by the adolescent behavior of their younger sisters Kitty and Lydia. Lydia has purchased a bonnet, a very fashionable adornment especially when taken home, as Lydia intends, to “pull it to pieces.” Lydia relays the latest gossip to her sisters. This concerns the militia, who “are going to be encamped near Brighton,” a fashionable seaside resort on the south English coast, 50 miles or so south of London. Brighton had a disreputable reputation, the prince regent having transformed his house at the resort into something much grander for his mistress Mrs. Fitzherbert. Lydia reveals that “there is no danger of Wickham’s marrying Mary King,” the heiress, as she has gone out of harm’s way to Liverpool, a commercial center on the northwest coast. Lydia’s questions to her sisters concerning what happened to them during their stay in London and Kent reveal that Jane “is almost three and twenty,” with the implication that she “will be quite an old maid soon.” Lydia confesses that she would be “ashamed” if she were not married before such an age, and that Aunt Philips “says Lizzy had better have taken Mr. Collins.” She adds, however, that she does “not think there would have been any fun in it.” Lydia’s ambitions are to be married first. The chapter is preoccupied with Elizabeth and Jane’s reception at Longbourn, Lydia’s self-obsession and continued reference to Wickham, and attempts to go to Brighton to be with the officers (219–221).

Volume 2, Chapter 17 (Chapter 40)

Alone with Jane, Elizabeth is able to tell her of Darcy’s proposal, her reaction, and George Wickham’s perfidy. This has a serious effect on Jane, who is always trying to see the positive side of other people. She “would willingly have gone through the world without believing that so much wickedness existed in the whole race of mankind, as were here collected in one individual.” She finds it difficult to make a choice between Darcy and Wickham. The two sisters both consider the implications of appearance and character. Elizabeth confesses her mistaken prejudice against Darcy to Jane, and they resolve to keep quiet about Wickham’s character, especially as “the general prejudice against Mr. Darcy is so violent, that it would be the death of half the good people in Meryton, to attempt to place him in an amiable light.” Although Elizabeth has told Jane about Darcy’s proposal, her reaction to it, and Wickham, she has not told Jane about Darcy’s attitude to her family or role in the separation of Bingley and Jane. The latter “was not happy” and “still cherished a very tender affection for Bingley.” The chapter concludes with Mrs. Bennet constantly reminding Elizabeth that Charlotte and Mr. Collins “will never be distressed for money” and that on the death of Mr. Bennet, they will occupy Longbourn.

Volume 2, Chapter 18 (Chapter 41)

The 18th chapter of the second volume consists of lengthy conversations between Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth and Wickham prefaced by quips from mainly Lydia and Mrs. Bennet, and concludes with accounts of Lydia’s excitement at leaving for Brighton. Lydia believes that “A little sea-bathing would set [her] up for ever.” Jane Austen probably agrees with her (229). She enjoyed her sea bathing at Lyme, writing to her sister Cassandra on September 14, 1804, “The Bathing was so delightful this morning . . . that I believe I staid in rather too long” (Letters, 95). Lydia receives “an invitation from Mrs. Forster, the wife of the Colonel of the regiment, to accompany her to Brighton.” Kitty, of course, is jealous. Elizabeth tries to prevent the visit, making her father aware of “all the improprieties of Lydia’s general behaviour.” Further, “she will, at sixteen, be the most determined flirt that ever made herself and her family ridiculous.” Mr. Bennet agrees with Elizabeth but will not stop the visit, telling Elizabeth, “We shall have no peace at Longbourn if Lydia does not go to Brighton.” He believes that Colonel and Mrs. Forster “will keep her out of any real mischief.”

The author tells us, “In Lydia’s imagination, a visit to Brighton comprised every possibility of earthly happiness.” As the narration unfolds, the very opposite of this occurs. Before Lydia leaves for Brighton, Wickham does too. Elizabeth and Wickham meet and she tries to confront him with revealing the truth of his relationship with Darcy. Wickham, however, bluffs his way through the conversation, insisting, ironically, that Darcy “is wise enough to assume ever the appearance of what is right” (Jane Austen’s emphasis), and pointing out that Darcy’s “pride” might well in future “deter him [Darcy] from such foul misconduct” as Wickham asserts he has experienced at Darcy’s hands. There has been already a reversal in the plot. Elizabeth, earlier all too prepared to accept what Wickham said, is now no longer prepared to do so. At the end of the evening, “they parted at last with mutual civility, and possibly in mutual desire of never meeting again”—the word “possibly” having ironic implications. The penultimate chapter of volume 2 concludes with Lydia and her departure once again the focus of proceedings (230–235).

Volume 2, Chapter 19 (Chapter 42)

The final chapter (19) of the second volume serves something of a reviewing function from Elizabeth’s perspective of what has taken place previously and also presages what is to happen. It opens with her assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of her father’s character. She “had never been blind to the impropriety of her father’s behaviour as a husband” and especially to his habit of “exposing his wife to the contempt of her own children.” In view of the family situation, she looks forward to her upcoming “tour to the Lakes,” and she wishes, too, that Jane could accompany her. Lydia promised before she left for Brighton to write home regularly, but her letters are late in coming and short. The arrival of summer meant that “Everything wore a happier aspect” in Longbourn and Meryton. However, a change in the Gardiner business plans means that they will be unable to travel as far north as planned, will have less time, and will “go no farther northward than Derbyshire.” Elizabeth is very disappointed. The Gardiners arrive at Longbourn and leave their children, “two girls of six and eight years old and two younger boys . . . under the particular care of their cousin Jane” (236–239). Their destination is Lambton, a fictitious Derbyshire town where Mrs. Gardiner had once lived and “not more than a mile or two” away from Pemberley. The second volume concludes with Elizabeth about to visit Pemberly with the Gardiners. She agrees to do so after she has established that Darcy and his family will be away for the summer.

Volume 3, Chapter 1

( Chapter 43)

In the lengthy first chapter of the third volume, topography is used as a clear reflection of character. Pemberley and its grounds are largely perceived through Elizabeth’s eyes. All is harmony, order, and propriety on the estate, with none of the ostentation of Rosings Park and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Elizabeth’s first impression of Pemberley’s environs is so positive that “she felt, that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” (245). She has “come to recognize not merely the money and status of Pemberley, but its value in the setting of a traditional social and ethical orientation, its possibilities” (Gray, 311–312). Inside Pemberley, “Elizabeth saw, with admiration of his [Darcy’s] taste, that it was neither gaudy nor uselessly fine; with less of splendor, and more real elegance, than the furniture at Rosings.” She reflects that she “might have been mistress” of the place. In this setting, her objection to Darcy’s manners disappears. She and the Gardiners are shown around the house by Mrs. Reynolds, the housekeeper, who has known Darcy “since he was four years old.” They learn that Wickham “has turned out very wild” and Mrs. Reynolds observation on Darcy’s generosity of spirit, charitableness, even-tempered nature, and kindness run counter to Elizabeth’s perceptions of Darcy. Mr. Gardiner is “highly amused by the kind of family prejudice, to which he attributed [Mrs. Reynolds’s] excessive commendation of her master,” who is also “the best landlord and the best master . . . that ever lived.” Elizabeth’s reactions to Mrs. Reynolds’s praise of Darcy are conveyed in erlebte Rede, indirect speech. She asks herself the question, “What praise is more valuable than the praise of an intelligent servant?” The servant’s whole being, whole existence, depends on the person served.

As the Gardiners and Elizabeth are departing from Pemberley House and its immediate surroundings, Darcy appears unexpectedly. “Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of each were overspread with the deepest blush,” and this reveals the depth of feeling between the two. Elizabeth is overcome by the “impropriety” (a sense of behavior she has become aware of from Darcy) of her being at Pemberley. Darcy also finds the meeting difficult and “at length, every idea seemed to fail him.” He becomes speechless. Elizabeth is “overpowered by shame and vexation, . . . Never in her life had she seen his manners so little dignified, never had he spoken with such gentleness as on this unexpected meeting.” Elizabeth’s thoughts are now totally focused on what Darcy is thinking rather than on the beauties of the Pemberley grounds or even her companions, her aunt and uncle. In the grounds they encounter once again Darcy, who waits to be introduced to the Gardiners, with whom he strikes up an immediate rapport. Darcy invites Mr. Gardiner to fish in the grounds “as often he chose” and offers him fishing tackle and indicates the best “parts of the stream” where to fish. They learn that Darcy has come ahead of “Mr. Bingley and his sisters” to see that all was prepared for their visit. He wishes them to meet his own sister. Darcy and Elizabeth walk together. In the carriage going to their lodgings, she and the Gardiners discuss her meeting with Darcy. Mrs. Gardiner is skeptical that Darcy “could have behaved in so cruel a way by any body, as he has done by poor Wickham.” On the contrary, Darcy has “dignity in his countenance.” The chapter ends with Mrs. Gardiner’s renewing a former friendship in the Pemberley area and Elizabeth doing “nothing but think, and think with wonder, of Mr. Darcy’s civility, and above all, of his wishing her to be acquainted with his sister” (246–259). Volume 3, Chapter 2 (Chapter 44)

Darcy brings his shy sister “little more than sixteen, her figure was formed, and her appearance womanly and graceful” to visit Elizabeth and the Gardiners. They are followed shortly after by Bingley. It is evident to the Gardiners “that [Darcy] was very much in love with” Elizabeth; however, “of the lady’s [Elizabeth’s] sensations they remained a little in doubt.” Elizabeth has noted the remarkable “improvement of manners” on Darcy’s part, and she had not previously “seen [Darcy] so desirous to please, so free from self- consequence, or unbending reserve.” There is even verification from mutual acquaintances of what Darcy said of Wickham, and they learn that Darcy had discharged Wickham’s debts. Elizabeth reflects, “Such a change in a man of so much pride excited not only astonishment but gratitude—for to love, ardent love, it must be attributed” (261–266). Volume 3, Chapter 3 (Chapter 45)

The Gardiners and Elizabeth revisit Pemberley, where Georgiana Darcy, Mrs. Hurst, Caroline Bingley, and Mrs. Annesley, with whom the latter lives in London, receive them. Darcy has been with Gardiner and some others fishing on the estate. He joins them, and Caroline Bingley’s attempts to speak ill of Elizabeth before Darcy, and to introduce by implication the name of Wickham, only produce Darcy’s compliments concerning Elizabeth: “I have considered her as one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance” (271).

Volume 3, Chapter 4 (Chapter 46)

Volume 3, chapter 4 is concerned with the two letters Elizabeth receives from Jane and Elizabeth’s confession of their content to Darcy. In the first of the letters, Jane tells Elizabeth that Wickham and Lydia have eloped, apparently to Scotland. In the second, Jane reveals that they have gone to London and that it is doubtful whether Wickham will marry Lydia. In short, their uncle Gardiner’s advice is urgently needed. Just as Elizabeth is on her way to find her uncle, she encounters Darcy. In her obvious distress Elizabeth tells Darcy what has happened, observing, “You know him too well to doubt the rest. She has no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to—she is lost forever.” She confesses to Darcy that she should have acted differently when her “eyes were opened to [Wickham’s] real character.” Darcy says little in response and Elizabeth feels a deep sense of shame: “her power was sinking; every thing must sink under such a proof of family weakness, such an assurance of the deepest disgrace” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). She believes that she will not see Darcy again, and the rest of the chapter is taken up with her rumination on her feelings toward Darcy, Wickham and Lydia’s actions, and concern for Jane to deal with “a family so deranged; a father absent, a mother incapable of exertions and requiring constant attendance” (277–278, 280). Accounts are quickly settled at the inn, and the Gardiners with Elizabeth return to London.

Volume 3, Chapter 5 (Chapter 47)

Discussion of Lydia’s elopement between Elizabeth and the Gardiners forms the basis for the first part of the next chapter. Elizabeth reflects on the folly of her father’s behavior, his lack of example, “indolence,” and lack of attention to his family. She confesses to the Gardiners as they journey toward Longbourn, that she, too, “was ignorant of the truth” herself until she saw Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam at Rosings. Even then, “that she ,” her sister Lydia, “could be in any danger from deception never entered [Elizabeth’s] head” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). They return to a distraught Longbourn. Mrs. Bennet overreacts and believes that her husband will be killed in a duel with Wickham and “the Collinses will turn [them] out” of their house “before he is cold in the grave.” Mary remarks to Elizabeth “that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable—that one false step involves her in endless ruin—that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful—and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex” (283–285, 287, 289). Meanwhile, Mr. Gardiner has gone to London to help Mr. Bennet in his search for Lydia and Wickham. Colonel Foster has reported that his wife, Harriet, received an irresponsible note form Lydia saying that they are going to Gretna Green, a town on the EnglishScottish border well known for marriages of couples who have eloped. The chapter concludes with Jane’s account of her father’s attempts to locate the runaway couple.

Volume 3, Chapter 6 (Chapter 48)

The attitude to Wickham in Meryton has been rapidly transformed: “all seemed striving to blacken the man, who, but three months before, had been almost an angel of light.” Notes of debt, intrigues, and attempted seduction emerge. Mrs. Gardiner receives a letter from her husband recounting what has occurred and wondering whether Elizabeth knows if Wickham has any relatives: “Elizabeth was at no loss to understand from whence this deference for authority proceeded.” Perhaps this is a hint that Mr. Gardiner is aware that she has contact with Darcy, who, it emerges subsequently, is involved in the case. Anxiously awaiting news by letter, they receive a letter not from Mr. Gardiner but from Mr. Collins addressed to Mr. Bennet. Seemingly a letter of condolence, he advises Mr. Bennet “to throw off [his] unworthy child from [his] affection for ever,” and tells Bennet that Lydia’s action have damaged the marital prospects of his other daughters. Intelligence from Colonel Forster in Brighton is reported in a letter from Mr. Gardiner. Wickham has run up enormous debts in Brighton and has been involved in gambling. On hearing of Mr. Bennet’s impending return home, Mrs. Bennet, contrary to her earlier sentiments on her husband’s welfare and worry about his death in a duel, now asks, “Who is to fight Wickham, and make him marry her, if he comes away?” Elizabeth reflects that if “she had known nothing of Darcy, she could have borne the dread of Lydia’s infamy somewhat better.” Mr. Bennet returns home, regretting his decision to allow Lydia to go to Brighton, but again displays a lack of direction and adroitness in dealing with his daughters, joking with Kitty that if she behaves “for the next ten years,” he shall review a prohibition he has imposed on balls and army officers (294–300).

Volume 3, Chapter 7 (Chapter 49)

Jane and Elizabeth are walking together “in the shrubbery behind the house” when the housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, tells them that Mr. Bennet has received an express letter from Mr. Gardiner. He writes to say that Lydia and Wickham have been found and that a marriage between them has been arranged. The terms of the marriage he outlines at some length. The rest of the chapter presents differing viewpoints to news of the proposed marriage. Mr. Bennet reluctantly agrees to the terms, observing that “Wickham’s a fool, if he takes [Lydia] with a farthing less than ten thousand pounds.” Elizabeth assumes that the settlement, a bribe, has come from Mr. Gardiner. Jane is concerned to put a positive light on the affair, arguing that Wickham’s “consenting to marry [Lydia] is a proof . . . that he is come to a right way of thinking.” Elizabeth believes their conduct to be reprehensible. Mrs. Bennet, on hearing the news, is ecstatic: “She will be married at sixteen!” She is “in such a flutter,” she tells Jane that she is unable to write, and goes to Meryton to “tell the good, good news.” Elizabeth, on the other hand, “sick of this folly, took refuge in her own room.” She reflects that Lydia’s marriage will bring “neither rational happiness nor worldly prosperity” although she sees “all the advantages of what they had gained” (301, 304–307).

Volume 3, Chapter 8 (Chapter 50)

In the next chapter, the eighth of the third volume, Mr. Bennet wishes that he had been more sensible in portioning his income and “laid by an annual sum, for the better provision of his children and his wife.” He agrees to the Wickham-Lydia marriage settlement and then returns, the omniscient narrator relates, “to all his former indolence” after asking the Gardiners for the particulars of the settlement. Mrs. Bennet is preoccupied with wedding trivia. Mr. Bennet forbids Lydia from entering Longbourn and refuses to “advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter.” Elizabeth’s thoughts are on Darcy, and she regrets telling him what has happened; “She was convinced that she could have been happy with him; when it was no longer likely they should meet.” Mr. Gardiner writes again to Mr. Bennet, pointing out that Wickham has the possibility of a commission in the regular army as opposed to the militia. He will be stationed at Newcastle in the north of the country. Jane and Elizabeth prevail on Mr. Bennet to receive Lydia and Wickham after the marriage and before they depart for Newcastle (308–311).

Volume 3, Chapter 9 (Chapter 51)

Following the wedding, the couple is received coolly by Mr. Bennet at Longbourn. “Elizabeth was disgusted . . . Lydia was Lydia still; untamed, unabashed, wild, noisy, and fearless.” Wickham, too, behaves as if nothing amiss has taken place. Elizabeth is also so distressed by Lydia’s behavior that “she got up, and ran out of the room” (315, 317). Lydia describes the wedding and reveals a secret that Darcy attended. Elizabeth immediately writes to her aunt Gardiner for more information.

Volume 3, Chapter 10 (Chapter 52)

Most of the following chapter is taken up with Mrs. Gardiner’s detailed explanation of events leading to the wedding and Darcy’s role in it. He had found Wickham, whom he persuaded to marry Lydia. Wickham’s considerable “debts are to be paid . . . another thousand in addition to her own settled upon her [Lydia], and his commission purchased.” All of this is Darcy’s work, for Darcy considered it “his duty to step forward, and endeavor to remedy an evil, which had been brought on by himself” owing, Darcy says, “to his mistaken pride.” Darcy and Mr. Gardiner had jointly arranged the wedding. Mrs. Gardiner concludes her letter by saying how much she likes Mr. Darcy, who “wants nothing but a little more liveliness, and that, if he marry prudently, his wife may teach him” (324, 322, 324–325).

The rest of chapter 10 is taken up with Elizabeth’s reaction to the letter and an encounter with Wickham. A lengthy passage of indirect speech conveys Elizabeth’s reactions. “Her heart did whisper, that he had done it for her,” but Darcy as “Brother-in-law of Wickham! Every kind of pride must revolt from the connection.” Elizabeth personally was “humbled, but she was proud of” Darcy. She then encounters Wickham, who speaks to her openly about Darcy and his family. Elizabeth lets Wickham know clearly that she no longer believes his account of past affairs and relationships, yet as she and he “are brother and sister,” she parts with him on not unfriendly terms (326, 329).

Volume 3, Chapter 11 (Chapter 53)

At the start of the next chapter, Elizabeth “was pleased to find that she had said enough to keep [Wickham] quiet.” Mr. Bennet is no longer unfavorably disposed toward Wickham. “He simpers, and smirks, and makes love to us all.” Mr. Bennet adds that he defies “even Sir William Lucas himself, to produce a more valuable son-in-law,” words that will prove to be ironically incorrect by the end of the novel, when the extremely wealthy Mr. Darcy becomes a son-in-law. News reaches Longbourn that Bingley is to return to Netherfield. This time, unlike at the start of the novel, Mr. Bennet refuses to call on him. Three days after his arrival at Netherfield, Bingley and Darcy call on the Bennets at Longbourn. Elizabeth had concealed from Jane Darcy’s role in Lydia’s marriage “or to relate her own change of sentiment towards him.” Darcy is largely silent during the visit, and Elizabeth “in such misery of shame” has to listen to her mother reveling in the news of the marriage of Lydia and Wickham. Elizabeth’s “misery, for which years of happiness were to offer no compensation, received soon afterwards material relief, from observing how much the beauty of her sister re-kindled the admiration of her former lover” (330, 334, 337).

Volume 3, Chapter 12 (Chapter 54)

Volume 3, chapter 12, focuses on the fortunes of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet at “a large party assembled at Longbourn” (340). Jane spends the evening singled out by Bingley for his special attention. Elizabeth and Darcy are able to spend but brief moments together.

Volume 3, Chapter 13 (Chapter 55)

In the following chapter, Darcy leaves for 10 days in London, and Bingley continually calls on Jane at Longbourn. Elizabeth “smiled at the rapidity and ease with which an affair was finally settled, that had given them so many precious months of suspense and vexation.” The engagement is announced and Elizabeth is careful not to mention to Jane the role of Darcy in parting her and Bingley previously, “for, though Jane had the most generous and forgiving heart in the world, [Elizabeth] knew it was a circumstance which must prejudice [Jane] against him [Darcy].” The chapter ends with a paragraph remarking upon the remarkable reversal of “misfortune” that had occurred to the Bennet family within a few weeks of Lydia’s elopement (347, 350).

Volume 3, Chapter 14 (Chapter 56)

In the next chapter, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, responding to “a report of a most alarming nature,” visits Longbourn to insist that Elizabeth make a promise not to marry Darcy. The two walk outside the house, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh confronts Elizabeth, who refuses at first to respond to the questions concerning a marriage between herself and Darcy. Lady Catherine asserts that Darcy “is engaged to my daughter ” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). She follows this dogmatic assertion with a lengthy catalogue of reasons why Elizabeth should not marry Darcy and why her daughter should. These range from the gratitude due to her for entertaining Elizabeth, her own “determined resolution,” Lady Catherine’s sense that her daughter and Darcy “are formed for each other.” She then tells Elizabeth that her life as Darcy’s wife will be miserable: “honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest [in the financial as well as the emotional sense] forbid it,” in short, the “alliance will be a disgrace,” and will “ruin [Darcy] in the opinion of all his friends, and make him the contempt of the world.” Elizabeth responds in a spirited manner to these insults and arguments. She counters them. Lady Catherine has no right to concern herself with Elizabeth’s affairs; Elizabeth is socially equal to Darcy, the world will have “too much sense” to be outraged by the marriage. Elizabeth is “only resolved to act in that manner, which will in my [her] opinion, constitute my [her] happiness.” Lady Catherine leaves Longbourn without sending “compliments” (353–356, 358) to Mrs. Bennet. To the very end, she is insulting.

Volume 3, Chapter 15 (Chapter 57)

Chapter 15 opens with Elizabeth’s private reaction to the visit. She feels that Darcy’s “notions of dignity” would probably outweigh other considerations and that she will not see him again. The family are surprised at Lady Catherine’s visit. Mr. Bennet tells Elizabeth that he has received a letter from Mr. Collins congratulating him on Elizabeth’s marriage, too. Mr. Bennet offends Elizabeth with his comments concerning a “Mr. Darcy, who never looks at any woman but to see a blemish, and who probably never looked at you in his life!” (Jane Austen’s emphasis). Collins proceeds to tell Mr. Bennet how he would have dealt with Lydia, commends his Christian sense of “forgiveness,” and adds that Charlotte, his wife, is pregnant: a male heir would eventually inherit Longbourn on Mr. Bennet’s death. At the end of the chapter, however, in spite of what he considers to be his wit, Mr. Bennet “had most cruelly mortified [Elizabeth] by what he had said of Mr. Darcy’s indifference, and she could do nothing but wonder at such a want of penetration” (361, 363–364).

Volume 3, Chapter 16 (Chapter 58)

Darcy appears with Bingley at Longbourn. The family go for a walk and Darcy and Elizabeth are together, and Elizabeth thanks him for his “unexampled kindness to [her] poor sister” Lydia. Darcy explains that his actions were taken out of consideration for her, Elizabeth, alone. Elizabeth tells Darcy that “her sentiments” have utterly transformed toward him. Darcy tells her that Lady Catherine told him of her visit to Elizabeth. This has the opposite effect of what Lady Catherine intended, as it provides Darcy with hope, for, if Elizabeth had “irrevocably decided against [Darcy, she] would have acknowledged it to Lady Catherine, frankly and openly.” Darcy recollects their past misunderstandings and tells Elizabeth of his objects and motives for his actions. Both of them review the relationship of Bingley and Jane. She, Elizabeth, has told Darcy that “all her former prejudices [against him] had been removed” (365–366, 368).

Volume 3, Chapter 17 (Chapter 59)

Elizabeth tells an incredulous Jane that she and Darcy are engaged and she tells Jane of Darcy’s “share in Lydia’s marriage.” Darcy and Elizabeth agree that he shall ask for Mr. Bennet’s consent, although they are unsure how Mrs. Bennet will take the news. After Darcy has spoken to Mr. Bennet, her father asks Elizabeth, “what are you doing? Are you out of your senses, to be accepting this man? Have not you always hated him?” Her father’s real concern is with Elizabeth’s happiness. She confesses, “I love him.” On hearing this, Mr. Bennet gives his consent. He says that he knows she “could be neither happy nor respectable, unless you truly esteemed your husband.” Elizabeth reassures him and tells him “what Mr. Darcy had voluntarily done for Lydia.” Her mother, on hearing the news from Elizabeth, reacts unlike her usual self. She “sat quite still, and [was] unable to utter a syllable.” Mrs. Bennet quickly changes her opinion of Darcy and “stood in such awe of her intended son-in-law, that she ventured not to speak to him.” Mr. Bennet regards Wickham as “perhaps” his “favourite” son-in-law but tells Elizabeth that he “shall like your husband quite as well as Jane’s” (Jane Austen’s emphasis) (374, 376–379).

Volume 3, Chapter 18 (Chapter 60)

The final two chapters tie up the loose ends. Elizabeth gets “Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her.” Darcy explains that “Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate [them] were the means of removing all [his] doubts.” Elizabeth sends her aunt Gardiner a letter inviting her and her family to spend Christmas at Pemberley. Darcy informs Lady Catherine of the upcoming marriage, and Mr. Bennet does likewise to Mr. Collins. Charlotte arrives back at Lucas lodge “to get away till the storm was blown over.” Elizabeth “looks forward with delight to the time when” she and Darcy can be at Pemberley (380–381, 383).

Volume 3, Chapter 19 (Chapter 61)

In the final chapter, the author tells her readers that Bingley purchased an estate “within thirty miles of” Pemberley. Kitty spent most of her time with Jane or Elizabeth and “Mary was the only daughter who remained at home.” Lydia and Wickham live “unsettled,” unhappy lives. Georgiana Darcy and Elizabeth drew closer to each other. Lady Catherine “condescended to wait on them at Pemberley” and with the Gardiners who “had been the means of uniting” Darcy and Elizabeth, they were always “on the most intimate terms” (385–388).


Immediate reactions of readers to Pride and Prejudice echo subsequent ones pointing to the novel’s enduring qualities and critical heritage. Carey and Lea’s 1832 American edition was noticed by the National Gazette and Literary Register, published in Philadelphia. The journal concludes its observations by noting, “If the American world will read novels, let us have those of which the moral is good, the text pure, and the instructiveness practical and domestic; entertaining and ingenious, but free from all poison.” In 1815, the editor of John Murray’s journal, the Quarterly Review, William Gifford, notes similar qualities on the other side of the Atlantic. He too thought that the novel would not corrupt morals and lacked the melodramatic qualities evident in gothic novels by Mrs. Radcliffe and others parodied by Jane Austen in her posthumously published Northanger Abbey (1817). Gifford wrote to John Murray, “I have for the first time looked into ‘Pride and Prejudice’; and it is really a very pretty thing. No dark passages; no secret passages; no wind-howlings in long galleries; no drops of blood upon a rusty dagger-things that now should be left to ladies’ maids and sentimental washer women,” in other words, the ingredients of the gothic novel written by Mrs. Radcliffe and others. The dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan advised a Mrs. Sherriff, whom he met at a dinner party around the time of the first publication of Pride and Prejudice , “to buy it immediately, for it was one of the cleverest things he ever read.”

In the preface to the Memoir of his sister Jane, Henry Austen writes that when the novel was first published, “a gentleman, celebrated for his literary attainments, advised a friend of the authoress to read it, adding, with more point than gallantry, ‘I should like to know who is the author, for it is much too clever to have been written by a woman.’ ” Other contemporary readers were drawn to the characterization. John William Ward, the first Earl of Dudley (1781–1833), drew the attention of the wife of the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart (1753–1828) to Mr. Collins: “There is a parson,” he wrote “quite admirable.” Anne Isabella Milbanke, who was to marry Lord Byron, in 1813 described Pride and Prejudice as “at present the fashionable novel. It . . . contains more strength of character than other productions of this kind.” But not all were pleased. Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829), the distinguished chemist, wrote, “ ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I do not very much like. Want of interest is the fault I can least excuse in works of mere amusement, and however natural the picture of vulgar minds and manners is there given, it is unrelieved by the agreeable contrast of more dignified and refined characters occasionally captivating attention. Some power of new character is, however, ably displayed, and Mr. Bennett’s [sic] indifference is in truth not exaggeration.” Davy had literary interests and was acquainted with Wordsworth and Coleridge. However, he is not remembered today for his literary criticism but as a distinguished chemist and inventor primarily of laughing gas and a safety lamp for use in coal mines (Gilson, 104, 27, 26, 25, 26).

Jane Austen was critical of Pride and Prejudice, writing in a letter to her sister, Cassandra, on February 4, 1813, that it “is rather too light & sparkling;—it wants shade” ( Letters , 203). However, critics and general readers have looked most favorably on the novel since its initial publication. After outlining the plot of a “very agreeable novel” in an unsigned review in the journal Critical Review shortly following its publication, the reviewer observes

The above is merely the brief outline of this very agreeable novel. An excellent lesson may be learned from the elopement of Lydia:—the work also shows the folly of letting young girls have their own way, and the danger which they incur in associating with the officers, who may be quartered in or near their residence. The character of Wickham is very well pourtrayed;—we fancy, that our authoress had Joseph Surface [a character in Sheridan’s play The School for Scandal who seems to be charming and upright but in fact is a thorough going villain] before her eyes when she sketched it; as well as the lively Beatrice, when she drew the portrait of Elizabeth. Many such silly women as Mrs. Bennet may be found; and numerous parsons like Mr. Collins, who are every thing to every body; and servile in the extreme to their superiors. Mr. Collins is indeed a notable object.

The sentiments, which are dispersed over the work, do great credit to the sense and sensibility of the authoress. The line she draws between the prudent and the mercenary in matrimonial concerns, may be useful to our fair readers. . . . We cannot conclude, without repeating our approbation of this performance, which rises very superior to any novel we have lately met with in the delineation of domestic scenes. Nor is there one character which appears flat, or obtrudes itself upon the notice of the reader with troublesome impertinence. There is not one person in the drama with whom we could readily dispense;—they have all their proper places; and fill their several stations, with great credit to themselves, and much satisfaction to the reader (Southam, I: 46–47).

Sir Walter Scott, a most astute critic, wrote in his journal on March 14, 1826, that he reread

for the third time at least, Miss Austen’s very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice . That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements, and feelings, and characters of ordinary life, which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with. The Big Bow-wow strain I can do myself like any now going; but the exquisite touch, which renders ordinary commonplace things and characters interesting, from the truth of the description and the sentiment, is denied to me. Scott adds, “What a pity such a gifted creature died so early!” (Gilson, 475).

Charlotte Brontë also recognizes Jane Austen’s ability to convey the realities of everyday life. However, in a letter to the critic George Henry Lewes (1817–79), she asks him why he “like[s]” Jane Austen “so very much” and expresses reservations about Lewes’s suggestion that Pride and Prejudice should be regarded as a model for her own writing. For Charlotte Brontë, the novel gives “an accurate, daguerreotyped portrait of a commonplace face! a carefully-fenced, highly-cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers.” Regrettably, there is “no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck. I should hardly like,” she writes to Lewes on January 12, 1848, “to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses” (Southam, I: 126–128).

Lewes, in an essay, “The Novels of Jane Austen,” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1859, compares Jane Austen to Shakespeare. For Lewes, Jane Austen “makes her very noodles [comic characters such as Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs. Bennet, and others] inexhaustible amusing, yet accurately real. We never tire of her characters.” He praises, as does Scott, her realism and ability to depict everyday life (Kaminsky, 91–92). In a review of Jane Eyre written 12 years earlier, Lewes refers to “the greatness of Miss Austen,” to “her marvellous dramatic power” (Ashton, 82). Another Victorian admirer of Jane Austen, herself a fine novelist, Margaret Oliphant, observes in “Miss Austen and Miss Mitford,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (March 1870), that “Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the housekeeper at Pemberley—conventional types of the heaven above and the abyss below—are the only breaks which Miss Austen ever permits herself upon the level of her squirearchy.” For Mrs. Oliphant, “Nothing could be more lifelike, more utterly real” than the Bennet family. She particularly admires the portrait of Mr. Collins who “stands before us tall and grave and pompous, wrapt in a cloud of solemn vanity, servility, stupidity and spitefulness, but without the faintest gleam of self-consciousness or suspicion of the ridiculous figure he cuts.” Yet Mrs. Oliphant wonders “whether our author is in reality the gentle cynic she has concluded her to be, or if she has produced all these marvels of selfish folly unawares, without knowing what she was doing, or meaning anything by it” (Southam, I: 215, 219, 221). I

n a lecture “The Lesson of Balzac” given in 1905, Henry James notes Jane Austen’s “little touches of human truth, little glimpses of steady vision, little master-strokes of imagination.” These elements of artistry have been ignored in the “beguiled infatuation, a sentimentalized vision” embodied in the popular view of “our dear, everybody’s dear Jane” (Southam, I: 32). Virginia Woolf, writing in the Common Reader, also draws attention, like Henry James, to Jane Austen as “mistress of a much deeper emotion than appears on the surface” (142). The serious nature of Jane Austen’s art and in particular its exemplification in Pride and Prejudice is fully explored in Mary Lascelles’s Jane Austen and Her Art (1939). With Lascelles’s work, “the day of the ‘amateur’ essayist addressing ‘the common reader’ was now past. Henceforth, criticism was seen to be a serious activity” (Grey, 108). Lascelles stresses Jane Austen’s narrative art and form based on “the symmetry of correspondence and antithesis. . . . This pattern is formed by diverging and converging lines, by the movement of two people who are impelled apart until they reach a climax of mutual hostility, and thereafter blend their courses towards mutual understanding and amity” (Lascelles, 160).

D. W. Harding’s “Regulated Hatred: An Aspect of the Work of Jane Austen” was originally presented as a lecture to the Literary Society of Manchester University on March 1939. Published in Scrutiny 8 (1940), it emphasizes the satirical element in her work. Jane Austen uses “caricature” in, for instance, her depiction of characters such as Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. “The implications of her caricatures as criticism of real people in real society,” he writes, “is brought out in the way they dovetail into their social setting.” Charlotte, who is “decent, stodgy . . . puts up cheerfully with Mr. Collins as a husband; and Elizabeth can never quite become reconciled to the idea that her friend is the wife of her comic monster” (Harding, 13–14). Harding’s focus on the satirical and ironic elements of Austen’s art becomes a framework for much subsequent criticism, especially in the period of close reading, of attention to the words on the page, which lasted from the 1930s to the middle 1970s. For instance, Dorothy Van Ghent in her The English Novel: Form and Function (1953) isolates in the opening chapter of Pride and Prejudice the use of the words “property,” and “fortune,” “possession,” “establishment,” and “business.” These words have, she writes, “consistently been setting up the impulsion of economic interest against those nonutilitarian interests implied by the words ‘feelings’ and ‘love’ ” (Grey, 302).

Irony and its implications is the focus of Marvin Mudrick’s Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery (1952). In his chapter on Pride and Prejudice, as in her other work, Jane Austen “deals with the distinction between false moral values and true,” but she is dealing with something more complex, the relationship between the self and society (107). In his introduction to A Collection of Critical Essays (1963), Ian Watt recognizes that “in general, the criticism of Jane Austen in the last two decades is incomparably the richest and most illuminating that has appeared.” Watt also noted that “recent criticism has perhaps failed to give the nature of Jane Austen’s social and moral assumptions an equally exacting analysis” (13). Subsequent studies attempted to remedy this want of emphasis. For instance, linguistic perspectives were used in Norman Page’s The Language of Jane Austen (1972), which has chapters on “Style in Jane Austen’s Novels,” her use of syntax, and the way in which she uses letters in her novels. Jane Austen’s vocabulary, sentence structure, and “Modes of Address are the subject of K. C. Phillipps’s Jane Austen’s English (1970), with its most useful index to the words actually used in her novels (225–229). Both these studies place Jane Austen’s use of language within a specific historical framework and make clear the historical antecedents at work in her application of words and phrases. To take one example from many, Barbara Hardy’s Reading of Jane Austen (1975) is a subtle exploration by a superb close critical reader of Jane Austen’s “flexible medium, a capacity to glide easily from sympathy to detachment, from one mind to many minds, from solitary scenes to social gatherings” (14).

There are studies that placed Jane Austen within a historical and literary context. Frank W. Bradbrook’s Jane Austen and Her Predecessors (1966) demonstrates how thoroughly her novels are permeated by contemporary literary allusions. Alistair M. Duckworth’s The Improvement of the Estate: A Study of Jane Austen’s Novels (1971) places her subject within an 18th-century “providential” novel and a more contemporary tradition. Duckworth uses the word “estate” as a central metaphor in Jane Austen’s novels, in which there is an inherent conservatism. The union of Darcy and Elizabeth, for instance, represents “the vitalized reconstitution of a social totality, the dynamic compromise between past and present, the simultaneous reception of what is valuable in an inheritance and the liberation of the originality, energy and spontaneity in the living moment” (Grey, 314). A similar perspective is conveyed in Marilyn Butler’s influential Jane Austen and the War of Ideas (1975), which treats its subject’s political, educational, and literary frameworks, concluding that Pride and Prejudice is essentially a “conservative novel” (214). However, such studies give way in the 1970s and after to works increasingly influenced by theoretical considerations. Thus, for instance, Steven Cohan and Linda M. Shires’s Telling Stories: A Theoretical Analysis of Narrative Fiction (1988) focuses on structuralist and poststructuralist methodology. It instances Pride and Prejudice as an example of a narratological perspective to fiction. In recent years, feminist perspectives have focused prominently on Jane Austen. Patricia Meyer Spacks’s The Female Imagination (1975) argues that Elizabeth Bennet’s development in the novel is a “paradigm of adolescent potential fulfilled.” Spacks writes that Elizabeth in the course of the novel learns to appreciate “the positive advantages of maturity over childishness, even in a society whose rigidities offer protection to the continued immaturity . . . characteristic of most of its members” (155). Nina Auerbach, in her Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction (1978), writes that Jane Austen’s perspective of women is a negative one. In the world of Pride and Prejudice “the malevolent power of the mother is ennobled by being transferred to the hero, and the female community of Longbourn, an oppressive blank in a dense society, is dispersed with relief in the solidity of marriage” (55).

Feminist Novels and Novelists

Feminist ideas circulating in the 18th century, the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, Fanny Burney, and Maria Edgeworth, form the context of discourse in a study such as Alison Sulloway’s Jane Austen and the Province of Womanhood (1989). For Sulloway, the marriages at the end of Pride and Prejudice, the union of Darcy and Elizabeth, Jane and Bingley, exemplify that “Christian hope” and “infectious joy” . . . “triumph over [Jane Austen’s] rational social cynicism,” which recognizes, as D. W. Harding and others have acknowledged, “the bizarre compensatory equations built into every marriage” (217). Claudia L. Johnson, on the other hand, in Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel (1988), views Pride and Prejudice as exhibiting a “conservative yearning for a strong, attentive, loving, and paradoxically perhaps, at times even submissive authority” (73).

Pride and Prejudice has been the recipient of eclectic perspectives, from those emphasizing power structures, Marxist analyses, class issues, and cultural concerns, among other approaches. To instance five other readings from many, Joseph Wiesenfarth’s chapter “Pride and Prejudice: Manners as Self- Definition” in his Gothic Manners and the Classic English Novel (1988) refines earlier observations on the novel found in his The Errand of Form: An Assay of Jane Austen’s Art (1967) and “Austen and Apollo” in Jane Austen Today (1975). Drawing on ideas in the writings of Mikhail Bahktin, Wiesenfarth judiciously observes that “Jane Austen make a case in Pride and Prejudice for a prudent marriage and against a mercenary marriage” (25). He concluded his analysis, “Jane Austen classically articulates Pride and Prejudice as a novel of manners by casting it in the form of a case that dramatizes the development of the cardinal virtues in two individuals of complementary character whose freedom to love each other satisfies society’s concern for . . . coherence and continuity” (40). Oliver MacDonagh, in his Jane Austen: Real and Imagined Worlds (1991), views Charlotte’s marriage as a “career” move based on mercenary, pragmatic calculation. Juliet McMaster’s “Talking about Talk in Pride and Prejudice,” in Jane Austen’s Business: Her World and Her Profession (1996), focuses on speech and the use of language in the novel. She agrees with Tony Tanner’s summary of Pride and Prejudice as “a novel in which the most important events are the fact that a man changes his manners and a young woman changes her mind” (Introduction, Pride and Prejudice [1995]. 7). She adds that “these changes were not accidental: each [Darcy and Elizabeth] effects the change in the other, and through their powers in language” (93).

Two other readings of the novel, both published in the year 2004, suffice to demonstrate the protean quality of recent approaches that this deeply admired novel generates. The distinguished German critic of 19th- and 20th-century fiction in En glish, Paul Goetsch, finds earlier antecedents for the various kinds of “laughter” found in Pride and Prejudice . Goetsch follows an analysis of laughter in the novel with the comment “that women and men like [it] for different reasons.” The former may prefer “Jane Austen’s sensitivity to the position of women in society and the moments of autonomy and freedom from social restraints the Elizabeths and Lydias of her world enjoy.” On the other hand, men may prefer Jane Austen “because the fascinating, defiant female protagonist can be tamed after all.” Goetsch concludes, “It is of course equally possible that both women and men like to read the novel for the same or some of the same reasons” (“Laughter in Pride and Prejudice, ” in Redefining the Modern , 40, 41). Emily Auerbach’s chapter “The Liveliness of Your Mind: Pride and Prejudice ,” in her Searching for Jane Austen , presents a many-faceted perspective on the novel and its author. She concludes that “the humor between Elizabeth and Darcy will enrich, not polarize, their union. . . . Like Elizabeth and Darcy blending liveliness and judgment, Austen’s own fiction offers sparkling amusement and serious instruction, barbed wit and gentle wisdom” (165).

Analysis of Jane Austen’s Novels

BIBLIOGRAPHY Primary Texts: Jane Austen’s Letters. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Pride and Prejudice. Edited by R. W. Chapman. The Novels of Jane Austen, II. 3d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998 reprint [Page references are to this edition.] ———. Edited by Donald Gray. A Norton Critical Edition. 3d ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. ———. Edited by James Kinsley, with an introduction and Notes by Fiona Stafford. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. ———. Edited by Pat Rogers. The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. ———. Introduction by Tony Tanner. Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin Books, 1975.

Secondary Works Ashton, Rosemary, ed. Versatile Victorian Selected Writings of George Henry Lewes. Bristol, U.K.: Bristol Classical Press, 1942 Auerbach, Emily. Searching for Jane Austen. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. Auerbach, Nina. Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978. Babb, Howard. Jane Austen’s Novels: The Fabric of Dialogue. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1962. Butler, Marilyn. Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1975. Copeland, Edward, and Juliet McMaster, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Gilson, David. A Bibliography of Jane Austen: New Introduction and Corrections by the Author. Winchester Hamsphire, U.K.: St. Paul’s Bibliographies; New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, 1997. Goetsch, Paul. “Laughter in Pride and Prejudice.” In Redefining the Modern: Essays on Literature and Society in Honour of Joseph Wiesenfarth, edited by William Baker and Ira B. Nadel, 29–43. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 2004. Grey, David J., A. Walton Litz, and Brian Southam, eds. The Jane Austen Companion. New York: Macmillan, 1986. Harding, D. W. Regulated Hatred and Other Essays on Jane Austen, edited by Monica Lawlor. London and Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Athlone Press, 1998. Hardy, Barbara. A Reading of Jane Austen. London: Peter Owen, 1975. Johnson, Claudia L. Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1988. Kaminsky, Alice R. Literary Criticism of George Henry Lewes. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964. Langland, Elizabeth. “Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen and Her Readers.” In Lambdin, Laura Cooner, and Robert Thomas Lambdin, 41–56. A Companion to Jane Austen Studies. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000. Lascelles, Mary. Jane Austen and Her Art. London: Oxford University Press, 1939. McMaster, Juliet. “Talking About Talking in Pride and Prejudice.” In Jane Austen’s Business; Her World and Her Profession, 81–94. London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996. Mudrick, Marvin. Jane Austen: Irony as Defense and Discovery. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1952. Page, Norman. The Language of Jane Austen: Oxford, U.K.: Basil Blackwell, 1972. Phillipps, K. C. Jane Austen’s English. London: Andre Deutsch, 1970. Pinion, F. B. A Jane Austen Companion. London: Macmillan, 1973. Poplawski, Paul. A Jane Austen Encyclopaedia. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1998. Selwyn, David. Jane Austen and Leisure. London: Humbledon Press, 1999. Southam, B. C., ed. Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Mansfield Park”: A Case Book. London: Macmillan, 1976. ———. Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage. 2 vols. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978–1979. Spacks, Patricia Meyer. The Female Imagination: A Literary and Psychological Investigation of Women’s Writing. New York: Knopf, 1975. Sulloway, Alison G. Jane Austen and the Province of Womanhood. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989. Watt, Ian P., ed. Jane Austen: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1963. Wiesenfarth, Joseph. “Austen and Apollo.” In Jane Austen Today, edited by Joel Weinsheimer, 46–63. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1975. ———. The Errand of Form: An Assay of Jane Austen’s Art. New York: Fordham University Press, 1967. ———. Gothic Manners and the Classic English Novel. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988. Woolf, Virginia. The Common Reader. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1925.

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Pride and Prejudice

Jane austen, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Pride and Prejudice: Introduction

Pride and prejudice: plot summary, pride and prejudice: detailed summary & analysis, pride and prejudice: themes, pride and prejudice: quotes, pride and prejudice: characters, pride and prejudice: symbols, pride and prejudice: literary devices, pride and prejudice: quizzes, pride and prejudice: theme wheel, brief biography of jane austen.

Pride and Prejudice PDF

Historical Context of Pride and Prejudice

Other books related to pride and prejudice.

  • Full Title: Pride and Prejudice
  • When Written: 1797-1812
  • Where Written: Bath, Somerset, England
  • When Published: 1813
  • Literary Period: Classicism/Romanticism
  • Genre: Novel of manners
  • Setting: Hertfordshire, London, and Pemberley, all in England at some time during the Napoleonic Wars (1797–1815)
  • Climax: The search for Lydia and Wickham
  • Antagonist: There is no single antagonist. The sins of pride and prejudice function as the main antagonizing force
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient

Extra Credit for Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Silver Screen? Pride and Prejudice was first adapted for movies in a 1940 production starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. It was again filmed in 1995, as a mini-series for A&E Television, featuring Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet and Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. The most recent production stars Keira Knightley as Elizabeth and was filmed in 2005.

First Impressions: Austen's initial title for her manuscript was "First Impressions." Though the book was eventually published as Pride and Prejudice , the initial title hints at the story's concern for social appearances and the necessity of finding people's true qualities beneath the surface.

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Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Pride and Prejudice , published in 1813, is Jane Austen’s best-known and probably most widely studied novel. But what does the novel mean? What is it really all about? And where did that title, Pride and Prejudice , come from?

Before we attempt to answer some of these questions, it might be worth recapping the plot of Austen’s novel. So, before our analysis of Pride and Prejudice , here’s a brief plot summary.

Pride and Prejudice : plot summary

A wealthy man named Mr Bingley moves to the area, and Mrs Bennet – mother of five daughters – tells her husband to call on the eligible young bachelor. A match between Bingley and the eldest Bennet daughter, Jane, is soon in the works – but a match between another rich bachelor, Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, and the second-eldest Bennet daughter, Elizabeth, looks less likely.

This is because Mr Darcy’s pride – his haughty attitude towards Elizabeth Bennet and her family – sour her view towards him, while Elizabeth’s prejudice towards Mr Darcy is also a stumbling-block. After he acts in an arrogant and disdainful way towards her at a ball, she learns from a young soldier, Mr George Wickham, that Darcy apparently mistreated him.

Wickham is the son of a man who used to be Darcy’s steward or servant, and Darcy acted unkindly towards the young George. Darcy’s and Bingley’s sisters conspire to drive a wedge between Mr Bingley and Jane Bennet because they believe Bingley can find a wife from a better social station than the Bennets.

Meanwhile, Darcy also has an arrogant aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who acts as patroness to a clergyman named Mr Collins, who in turn flatters her with disgusting servility. (Mr Collins is also Mr Bennet’s nephew: since Mr and Mrs Bennet have no sons, Mr Bennet’s estate is due to pass to Mr Collins when Mr Bennet dies.)

Mr Collins is encouraged to ask one of the Bennet sisters for her hand in marriage, and he decides upon Elizabeth. She, however, turns him down, and he marries Charlotte Lucas instead.

The happy couple get together, and Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, but it’s clear he still views her and her family with some contempt because he is of a higher social status than they are. She responds by citing George Wickham’s accusations against him; she also thinks he played a part in breaking up the match between her sister, Jane, and Bingley.

However, in a later letter to her, Darcy reveals that Wickham cannot be trusted: he is a womaniser and a liar. Elizabeth visits Darcy’s home, Pemberley, while visiting the north of England with her aunt and uncle. Darcy welcomes them and introduces them to his sister.

Darcy’s words about Wickham are proved true, as the soldier elopes with Lydia, the youngest of the five Bennet sisters. Darcy tracks the two lovebirds down and persuades them to marry so Lydia is made an honest woman of. Bingley and Jane finally get engaged, and Darcy and Elizabeth overcome their ‘pride and prejudice’ and become a couple.

Pride and Prejudice : analysis

In his vast study of plot structures, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories , Christopher Booker suggests that Pride and Prejudice is more straightforwardly in the ‘comedy’ genre than it may first appear to be. He points out that much of the novel turns on misunderstandings, characters misreading others’ intentions or others’ personalities, and people generally getting things wrong: the Bennets think Mr Wickham is the wronged one and Darcy the villain, but it turns out that they have this the wrong way around.

So what used to be more explicit in, say, stage comedies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – indeed, going right back to Shakespeare – is made more subtle and internalised in Austen’s novel, and rather than having her characters literally confuse one person with another (because of some absurd coincidence, wearing similar clothing, and so on), her characters find they have misread a person’s motive or misjudged their honesty, as with Mr Wickham.

This is why the title of the novel is so important: Darcy and Elizabeth’s union at the end of the novel strikes us as true because they have had to overcome their own personal flaws, which prevent a union between them, but having done so they have an honest and realistic appraisal of each other’s personality. They have, if you like, ‘seen’ each other.

We might contrast this with the various illusions and misapprehensions in the novel, or the other motivations driving people together (Mr Collins trying to woo Elizabeth simply because she’s the next Bennet sister in the list).

Is  Pride and Prejudice  a late Augustan work or a novel belonging to Romanticism? Romanticism was largely a reaction against Augustan values: order, rationalism, and the intellect were tempered if not wholly replaced by the Romantic values of freedom, emotion, and individualism.

But whether we should regard  Pride and Prejudice  as Augustan or Romantic is a question that divides critics. Terry Eagleton, in The English Novel: An Introduction , points out that Austen was not somebody who trusted wholly in the supremacy of reason, not least because her beliefs – what Eagleton calls her Tory Christian pessimism, which made her alert to the flawed nature of all human beings – would not allow her to be so. Austen is aware that human beings are imperfect and, at times, irrational.

And in this connection, it is worth pondering what Andrew H. Wright observes in Jane Austen’s Novels, a Study in Structure : that the reason Elizabeth Bennet, rather than Jane, is the real heroine of  Pride and Prejudice  is that Jane is not flawed enough. She is too perfect: something that would make her the ideal heroine for most novels, but the very reason she cannot be the protagonist of a Jane Austen novel.

Austen is too interested in the intricate and complex mixture of good and bad, as Wright points out: Austen likes the explore the flaws and foibles of her characters. Elizabeth, in being taken in by Wickham and his lies and in misjudging (or at least partly misjudging) Darcy, is flawed because both her pride  and  prejudice need tempering with a more nuanced understanding of the man she will marry.

The opening line of Pride and Prejudice is arguably the most famous opening line of any novel: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.’ But what is less widely known is that the tone of this opening line is clearly ironic.

Far from being Austen the detached, impartial narrator, this is actually Austen ventriloquising her characters’ thoughts – specifically, those of Mrs Bennet, whose views in the novel are often derided by Austen’s narrator – using a narrative technique which Austen did so much to pioneer.

This technique is known as free indirect speech , and it is what makes Austen’s prose so full of wit and surprise, so we always have to keep an ear out for her narrators’ arch commentary on the characters and situations being described. (The clue in this opening line is in the phrase ‘universally acknowledged’, since how many things in life really are truly universally acknowledged?)

Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions , but that eventual title, Pride and Prejudice , was a cliché even when Austen used it for her novel. The phrase is found in two important works of the 1770s, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire .

But the most important precursor to Austen’s novel by a long way is Fanny Burney’s 1782 novel Cecilia , in which that phrase, ‘pride and prejudice’, appears three times in rapid succession, with the words ‘pride’ and ‘prejudice’ capitalised: ‘The whole of this unfortunate business, said Dr Lyster, has been the result of PRIDE and PREJUDICE. […] if to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you owe your miseries, so wonderfully is good and evil balanced, that to PRIDE and PREJUDICE you will also owe their termination.’

Austen learned a great deal from Burney, and refined the comedy of manners which Burney had helped to pioneer several decades earlier.

Pride and Prejudice is, in the last analysis, one of the great comedies in the English language, because in its construction it takes the hallmarks of romantic comedy and refines them, making subtle and abstract what was literal and physical in earlier stage comedies.

It is also a novel about how true love needs to be founded on empirical fact: we need to know the person we’re marrying, to see them with our own eyes, rather than rely on others’ opinion or let ourselves be blinded by romantic notions and delusions.

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1 thought on “A Summary and Analysis of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice”

It’s a brilliant romantic novel, but, yes, it’s a comedy as well. Mr Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourgh and even Mrs Bennet verge on the pantomimish sometimes, and Miss Bingley is so bitchy that she’d have fitted very well into Dallas or Dynasty :-) .

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Themes and Analysis

Pride and prejudice, by jane austen.

A literary work, such as 'Pride and Prejudice', can be interpreted in multiple ways depending on the mood, prior knowledge, level of understanding, and perspective of the reader.

Mizpah Albert

Article written by Mizpah Albert

M.A. in English Literature and a Ph.D. in English Language Teaching.

The analysis here is an example, covering major elements of theme, setting, style, tone, and figurative language. 

Pride and Prejudice Analysis

Pride and Prejudice Themes

Themes are commonly the central ideas of any piece of literature. They are developed in various ways and characters. Written from the perspective of Elizabeth, the novel explores a number of themes , such as love, marriage, pride, prejudice, class, reputation, and many others.

As the title of the novel suggests, both pride and prejudice play a vital role in the novel. Pride is pronounced through the character of Darcy and prejudice is highlighted through Elizabeth. Darcy acts snobbishly during his first meeting with Elizabeth that eventually makes her hate him. His pride blinds him to the good qualities of Elizabeth, and her prejudice blinds her to see through his outward nature. It takes time for them to realize and evolve out of their pride and prejudice. Besides, Elizabeth, Darcy too out of his pride is exposed to prejudice over the people below his social class and economical status.

Other characters who exhibit pride in the novel are Catherine De Bough and Miss Catherine Bingley.

Love and Marriage

In Pride and Prejudice , Love and Marriage go hand in hand. Especially, it specifies the love and marriage between Darcy and Elizabeth , who strongly believes in marrying for love than anything. As the opening line of the novel suggests, It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife marriage was the major concern of Austen time. That is what would have inspired her to focus on love and marriage in Pride and Prejudice and in her other novels too.

True love, the leads to the happy union of the characters despite all adversity is portrayed through the couples, Darcy and Elizabeth, and Jane and Charles Bingley.  At the same time, the novel also exposes the marriages that happened solely for the purpose of independence, reputation, and financial security, as in the case of Charlotte Lucas and Lydia Bennet. 

Class plays unmistakably a significant role in the novel. The novel draws a clear line between the rich and poor. The theme is employed to foster Austen’s distaste over the society in general.

She makes it clear that people like Lady Catherine, due to their pride in social class act rudely, even in their regular conversation, and forever guilty of mistreating other people. The characters like Mr. Collins and Caroline are defined completely by the dictations of the class system. In contrast to them, Jane Austen produces more positive examples in Bingley and the Gardiners. Through Darcy’s character, she has enumerated class as a force that drives people to have virtue and decency, comparing the situation to the careless behavior of Mrs. Bennet and her daughters.

Darcy is presented as an epitome of an ideal high-class gentleman. Though, he seems to be arrogant and selfish in the beginning, over a period of time, his prejudiced opinion on the lower class changes, when he is exposed to the ideal qualities of Elizabeth. Austen strongly conveys her ideology that class does not determine one’s character, at the same time through love one can overcome all obstacles, including class.

Some of the other themes, one finds in Pride and Prejudice include integrity, family, reputation, etc.

Analysis of Key Moments in Pride and Prejudice

  • Bingley arrives at Netherfield along with his sisters and Darcy.
  • Darcy insults Elizabeth at the Meryton Ball while Bingley is attracted to Jane
  • For the first time in the party arranged by Sir William Lucas, Darcy makes a positive observation on Elizabeth’s fine eyes, after Elizabeth turns down his request for a dance.
  • When Jane is sick, Elizabeth arrives at Netherfield to take care of her sister. Positively, Darcy gets to see more of her, which he finds as a danger.
  • Collins arrives at Longbourn to choose a wife for him amongst the Bennet sisters. But, he ends up marrying Charlotte Lucas.
  • Meanwhile, Elizabeth gets acquainted with Wickham, who tells her the story of him being treated arrogantly.
  • Bingley leaves Netherfield uninformed. Desolated Jane goes with the Gardiners to London with the hope of meeting Bingley only to be disappointed.  
  • Elizabeth comes to know of Darcy’s involvement in the separation between Jane and Bingley. She vents out her anger and accuses him of spoiling the life of Wickham and her dear sister’s happiness.
  • Despondent, Darcy explains the reasons for his actions in a letter to Elizabeth, which softens her feelings towards Darcy but he leaves Rosings to know her reversal of feelings.
  • During her visit to the Gardiners, Elizabeth meets Darcy in his Pemberley estate, but her happiness short-lived when she receives a message about Lydia’s elopement with Wickham.
  • Elizabeth comes to know of Darcy’s painstaking effort in saving Lydia’s reputation in marriage with Wickham.
  • Soon, Bingley proposes to Jane and engaged.
  • Infuriated by Elizabeth, Lady Catherine warns Darcy, who regaining hopes proposes to Elizabeth again, who accepts happily.

Style, Tone, and Figurative Language

Pride and Prejudice, on the whole, employed with irony and wit. Austen through the speeches of various characters employed irony that draws a clear line between what is being said and what the readers interpret about the reality of the situation. For example, when Mr. Collins confidently tells Elizabeth that “I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long,” the reader knows about Elizabeth’s feelings that are direct opposite what he expects.

The tone of Pride and Prejudice , despite it being romance is ironic towards various characters and events in the novel. The ironical is employed to demonstrate the foolishness of characters, the attitude of pretensions social class, and the criticism on gender roles.

Austen exaggerated situations and phrases, also used comparisons to satirize some of the ridiculous courting rituals of her time. Jane Austen’s use of irony, which is common in her novel is highlighted in the novel. She has employed all forms of irony namely: verbal, thematic, situational, and dramatic.

Use of Symbols

One of the prominent symbols in Pride and Prejudice is dancing. An Austen detail on a couple’s compatibility through dancing that symbolizes the level of their relationship. When Elizabeth and Darcy dance together the first time, their steps are stilted and formal, similar to the indifference and formality they had in their relationship at that point. Likewise, when Elizabeth and  Mr. Collins danced, he missteps, grovels, and embarrasses in front of her friends and family, similar to the awkward situation of him proposing to be rejected by Elizabeth. At the same time, Jane and Bingley 4times on a single night, reveals how happy and comfortable they were together.

‘Outdoors’ in the novel has come to symbolize openness and understanding. Many knots in the story are loosened in the outdoor settings in the story. Darcy proposes both the times when they were in the outdoor settings. In contrast, Indoor meetings have often caused to multiply their misunderstanding. Evidently, they were forced into awkward situations during their meeting at Netherfield, in Kent, and at Pemberley.

‘Pemberley’ stands to symbolize the nature of Darcy in the novel. In the beginning, when Pemberley’s pride is mentioned we see Darcy as a man of arrogance and Pride. Later, when Elizabeth visits Pemberley, she sees that as neither “formal, nor falsely adorned” . Following that description, we see the improved Darcy, who is more sociable and friendly. The lack of pretension, refined taste, and gracious welcome, Elizabeth and the Gardiners experienced at Pemberley, is a symbol of refinement in the man. One could see the positive change comes over Elizabeth that makes her fall in love with Darcy as she sees his true character revealed through his home.

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Mizpah Albert

About Mizpah Albert

Mizpah Albert is an experienced educator and literature analyst. Building on years of teaching experience in India, she has contributed to the literary world with published analysis articles and evocative poems.


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A Literary Analysis of ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is widely considered one of the greatest novels in English literature. First published in 1813, it has withstood the test of time and remains popular after over two centuries. The story explores the complexities of love and social class through its witty narrative and characters. Even after many re-readings, the novel never fails to entertain and resonate with modern readers. This article will provide a thorough analysis of Pride and Prejudice’s key elements, including its timeless themes, plot, characters, language, and style.

Setting and Context:

Pride and Prejudice is set in early 19th-century rural England , primarily in the village of Longbourn, located in Hertfordshire County. It depicts class divisions in Regency-era society through the contrast between the landed gentry, like Mr. Darcy, and the middle class, like the Bennet family. As the second daughter of an estate owner, Elizabeth Bennet belongs to the genteel but not the wealthy middle class. Success in marrying well was crucial for women’s social standing and financial security at this time.

Austen offers a sharp-eyed view of her contemporary society, its rigid social codes, and the pressures around marriage. Through humor and subtle criticism, she illuminates issues still relevant today, like class prejudices, social climbing, gender roles, and inequality within families. Her witty dialogue and realistic characters perfectly captured the nuances of ideas circulating in late Georgian England during the start of the industrial revolution. This social context is essential for understanding Pride and Prejudice’s plot and themes.

One of the novel’s overarching themes is pride and its detrimental effects when taken to an extreme. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet both struggle with pride that clouds their judgment of each other. Only by overcoming pride through humility, compassion, and self-reflection can true love blossom. Other major themes explored in Pride and Prejudice include social class divisions, the financial dependence of women, appearance versus substance, and the complexities of family dynamics.

Austen also pokes fun at social pretensions and emphasizes moral character over wealth or status. Throughout the story, characters learn the value of open-mindedness, discretion, sincerity, and forbearance in forming the opinions of others. Ultimately, Pride and Prejudice reminds readers that pride can distort perceptions when prejudices based on superficial qualities take hold. Beyond entertainment, these timeless themes give the novel layers of philosophical depth.

Plot Summary

The novel centers around Mrs. Bennet’s five daughters, in particular the witty and headstrong Elizabeth, and two eligible bachelors who arrive in their neighborhood: Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy. From the start, readers see Elizabeth’s pride in her quick judgments and prejudices against the reserved Mr. Darcy after he insults her at the Meryton ball.

Meanwhile, the amiable Mr. Bingley falls for Elizabeth’s elder sister Jane. Various social functions like balls and dinner parties bring the characters together while also exposing misunderstandings, jealousy, and meddling from relatives. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are continually at odds, though they feel a spark of attraction beneath their outward indifference and dislike.

Events come to a dramatic climax at the Netherfield Ball when Darcy professes his love for Elizabeth and she refuses him, still believing him indifferent and proud. Later, after she learns more context about Darcy’s good character and learns to see past her prejudice, Elizabeth realizes she was mistaken in her harsh view of him and that he was genuinely attached to her all along. Through insightful conversations and heartfelt gifts, Darcy and Elizabeth reconcile and profess their mutual love in the touching finale. Mr. Bingley and Jane also reunite, having endured interference from Bingley’s disapproving relatives. The two couples marry, and Elizabeth achieves both love and financial security, usually denied to most women of her social standing.

Character Development

The complex and memorable characters in Pride and Prejudice are among the greatest achievements in English literature. Chief among these is Elizabeth Bennet, an independent-minded and spirited heroine. Her pride is contrasted with an open and judgmental nature, but through experiences and self-reflection, she develops humility and understanding. Witnessing her character transformation from prejudice to enlightenment is hugely satisfying.

Likewise, brooding Mr. Darcy undergoes an evolution, learning to express his feelings openly without reserve or shame. His personal growth involves overcoming excessive pride, which was once a barrier to his happiness. The supporting characters are also brilliantly depicted, from the gentle-natured Jane and amiable Mr. Bingley to the vain and obnoxious relations like Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, and Miss Bingley. Each character feels fully developed and psychologically realistic.

Language and Style

Austen’s light, precise prose perfectly conveys the nuances and humor in her stories and characters. Through wonderful prose and turns of phrase, she presents subtle social satire that still provokes laughter. Austen’s witty dialogue allows for cutting insights to emerge naturally from passionate discussions between Elizabeth and others.

Underneath the surface entertainment, however, Austen’s writing has layers of sophistication. She masterfully navigates complex ideas through economic storytelling that sustains interest without monologues. Modern readers can still find fresh humor in Austen’s perceptive critiques of society that feel enduringly relevant even after centuries. Her clean, graceful language remains highly readable and a model of clear, evocative storytelling .

Pride and Prejudice is a true work of literary genius that has undoubtedly earned its place among the great English novels. Austen created unforgettable characters and forged fresh perspectives on social class, gender, and the complex nature of human relationships that continue to resonate. Readers fall in love with Elizabeth Bennet’s resolute spirit, and witnessing Darcy’s redemption never fails to deeply satisfy.

On the surface, a novel of manners, marriage plots, and romance, Pride and Prejudice subtly examines philosophical ideas through down-to-earth realism and humor. Its spirit of clear-eyed honesty, compassion, and moral courage has kept these stories timely and inspirational over generations. Jane Austen breathed life into an English literary tradition that blended country landscapes with the intricacies of the human heart. Pride and Prejudice endures because it still moves, entertains, and illuminates like no other.


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Pride and Prejudice Summary and Literary Analysis

Home » Literature Explained – Literary Synopses and Book Summaries » Pride and Prejudice » Pride and Prejudice Summary and Literary Analysis

Pride and Prejudice is one of the most famous works of English literature, written and published during the Regency Period of British literature.

The story centers around the Bennet family, the parents of which are wanting to find husbands for their daughters. They have heard a rich suitor has moved nearby and hope he will marry one of their daughters. The main character is the second-oldest daughter, Elizabeth, and the story centers around her relationship with the disagreeable yet wealthy Mr. Darcy.

The novel features Elizabeth as an unusually dynamic female lead for the Victorian time period. She searches to find meaning in herself amidst proud and false people, learning about the superficiality of manners, economic class inequalities, and how to experience love as something outside of the social expectations placed upon her to marry a man with more wealth than her family’s.

Literary Elements of Pride and Prejudice

pride and prejudice book notes

Type of Work: Fiction/novel

Genres : Romance

Published Date: 1813

Setting: Somewhere between the late 1700s-early 1800s in Brighton, London, and Hertfordshire (England)

Main Characters: Elizabeth Bennet, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jane Bennet, Charles Bingley, Mr. & Mrs. Bennet

Protagonist/Antagonist: Protagonist – Elizabeth Bennet; Antagonist – Mrs. Bennett wants Elizabeth to marry someone she does not love, and Lady de Bourgh tries to stop her from marrying Mr. Darcy after they become engaged.

Major Thematic Elements: Overcoming obstacles in love, reputation as a restriction, class and social/economic status, family, breaking gender barriers, pride and integrity

Motifs: Travel, courtship

Exposition: Elizabeth navigates the other characters’ wishes for her versus her own wishes for herself

Plot: chronological and linear

Major Symbols: Darcy’s home, Pemberley is symbol representing the man who owns it. The novel is largely dependent on dialogue and therefore this is the only major symbol in the novel. Elizabeth doesn’t truly begin to understand Darcy until she visits Pemberley.

Climax: Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth

Literary Significance of Pride and Prejudice

pride and prejudice cliff notes

Since the plot occurs chronologically, readers experience the events of the story alongside the characters which allows them to feel close to and bonded with the characters. Furthermore, the subversive presentation of concepts like gender, wealth and status, and frivolous societal expectations gave the novel its timeless appeal that continues to impress new readers to this day.

The novel is widely studied in English classes because it speaks to issues that many people still face while being neatly presented as a romance. The book appeals to regular people with regular problems, which tends to reach wide audiences.

Beyond this, Austen used the romance genre to also make digs at and create commentary around societal issues. This, in turn, prompts others to question the structures that they find themselves inherently a part of. Is it worth following blindly, or can we achieve greater happiness and success if we are willing to subvert societal expectations?

Pride and Prejudice Book Summary

pride and prejudice chapter summary

As social engagements in the community continue, Mr. Darcy finds himself charmed by Elizabeth’s quick wit and intelligence. Jane and Bingley continue to admire one another, and Jane visits his home, Netherfield. However, she catches an illness in the bad weather on the way there and is forced to stay for some time to recover. Elizabeth walks the entire distance in determination to see her sister and care for her. Elizabeth arrives covered in mud which annoys Mr. Bingley’s sister. Elizabeth managers to annoy her further once Miss Bingley realizes that Mr. Darcy likes Elizabeth instead of her.

Once Jane is well enough to travel, she and Elizabeth return home to find their distant cousin, Mr. Collins, visiting. It is revealed that since the Bennets had no male children, Mr. Collins will be the inheritor of the family’s estate. Elizabeth finds Mr. Collins to be rather obnoxious but he is taken with her. Mrs. Bennet pushes Elizabeth to enter a courtship with Mr. Collins so that the security of their home and property will be secure. He proposes to Elizabeth, but she declines.

There are military men in town and the Bennet sisters become friendly with them. Elizabeth meets a young man named Wickham who tells her that Darcy cheated him out of his inheritance. The Bingleys and Darcy leave for London with Elizabeth’s perception of Darcy having just been soured by the information she learned.

News comes out that Elizabeth’s best friend has married Mr. Collins and Jane finds that it is difficult to get ahold of Mr. Bingley. The marriage prospects for any of the daughters begin to appear bleak. In the Spring, Elizabeth visits her friend at hers and Mr. Collins’s home and meets Darcy’s aunt, Lady de Bourgh. While Elizabeth is there, Darcy pays a visit. They talk and he makes an unexpected proposal. Elizabeth tells him that his is arrogant and refuses. Later, he writes her a letter in which he explains what transpired between himself and Wickham. He also admits to encouraging Bingley to distance himself from Jane, but only because he did not realize the relationship had serious marriage potential.

Elizabeth reconsiders her anger and annoyance towards Darcy and returns home. Elizabeth agrees to go on a trip with some family friends and winds up at Darcy’s estate, Pemberley. The visits, after getting assurance that Darcy is away. She admires the beautiful estate and is taken by the scenery of it all. Without warning, Darcy arrives home and acts pleasantly towards Elizabeth, making no mention of the past proposal.

Elizabeth gets notice that her younger sister, Lydia, has run away with Wickham. They are nowhere to be found which makes Elizabeth fear that they are living together out of wedlock and will bring disgrace to her family. She quickly returns home to find out that Lydia and Wickham were found and that he has agreed to marry Lydia in exchange for an annual payment. Elizabeth discovers that Darcy paid off Wickham to save her and her family’s reputations.

Bingley returns to Netherfield and begins courting Jane once more. Darcy visits him and pays a visit to the Bennets but still does not mention anything about his proposal or any intentions to court Elizabeth. Bingley proposes to Jane which delights the entire family. Lady de Bourgh shows up and tells Elizabeth that she has heard that Darcy intends to marry Elizabeth. She does not agree and sees the Bennets as a family too far beneath her own. Lady de Bourgh demands that Elizabeth refuse his proposal, but Elizabeth will not agree to do such a thing. She refuses to promise anything that will go against her own chances at happiness. Shortly thereafter, Darcy does propose to Elizabeth and she accepts.

Pride and Prejudice

By jane austen, pride and prejudice study guide.

Pride and Prejudice is Jane Austen 's first novel, published in 1813. Some scholars also consider it one of her most mature novels.

Austen began writing Pride and Prejudice under the title First Impressions in 1796, at the age of twenty-one. She probably wrote the first draft as an epistolary novel, meaning the plot unfolded through an exchange of letters. In 1797, Austen's father offered his daughter's manuscript to a publishing company, but they refused to even consider it.

Shortly after completing First Impressions , Austen began writing Sense and Sensibility , which was not published until 1811. She also wrote some shorter stories during this time, which she later expanded into full novels. Between 1810 and 1812, Austen rewrote Pride and Prejudice for publication. While the original ideas in the novel came from a 21-year-old girl, the final version reflects the literary and thematic maturity of a thirty-five year old woman who had spent years painstakingly drafting and revising, as Austen did with all of her novels. Pride and Prejudice is the most popular of Austen's novels.

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Pride and Prejudice Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Pride and Prejudice is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

In which ways is Elizabeth different from the rest of the Bennet family? What does the contrast reveal about her character?

Elizabeth is one of the only characters in Pride and Prejudice who changes significantly over the course of the story. Her distinctive quality is her extreme perceptiveness, which she uses to assess others at the beginning of the novel and...

What are reasons that Elizabeth thinks darcy may still be interested?

Did you need more detail?

Pride and Prejudice How might Mr. Bennet's earlier actions have prevented this scandal? Is Mr. Bennet responsible for his youngest daughter's behavior?

Mr. Bennet has always been compacent when it came to the well being of his daughters. Mr. Bennet's main interest was that his daughters married into money. Wickham was obviously a pompous jerk but he was also a wealthy well connected jerk. Mr....

Study Guide for Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice study guide contains a biography of Jane Austen, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Pride and Prejudice
  • Pride and Prejudice Summary
  • Pride and Prejudice Video
  • Character List

Essays for Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

  • Theme of Pride
  • Epistolary Study of Austen
  • Money as Social Currency in the Society Described in Pride and Prejudice
  • Discretion and Design in Pride and Prejudice
  • Eloquence: The Window To the Soul and the Number One Requirement for a Successful Courtship

Lesson Plan for Pride and Prejudice

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Pride and Prejudice
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • Pride and Prejudice Bibliography

E-Text of Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice e-text contains the full text of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

  • Chapters 1-6
  • Chapters 7-14
  • Chapters 15-23
  • Chapters 24-33
  • Chapters 34-42

Wikipedia Entries for Pride and Prejudice

  • Introduction
  • Plot summary
  • Major themes

literary analysis of pride and prejudice essay

Owl Eyes

  • Annotated Full Text
  • Literary Period: Realism
  • Publication Date: 1813
  • Flesch-Kincaid Level: 9
  • Approx. Reading Time: 10 hours and 8 minutes

Pride and Prejudice

While at first this book may appear to be a typical love story and novel of manners exploring the conventions and values of the British upper class, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is striking in its quick-witted satire and complex characters. Most of the tension in the novel comes from interactions between the rich and cultured Mr. Darcy and the second-eldest Bennet daughter Elizabeth, an extraordinarily witty and self-possessed female protagonist for her time. Austen’s characters navigate the social, personal, and emotional spheres using both reason and sentiment to craft their decisions. In this way, the novel engages major philosophical debates that occurred at the turn of the century, such as the importance of upbringing and environment in shaping one’s character and the relationship between knowledge and self-knowing. Austen’s satirical, narrative voice throughout the novel, which points out flaws in the social system, was considered controversial because she was a female author, a profession relatively closed to women when she published in 1813. Using free, indirect speech to detail each character’s thoughts and reactions, Austen reaches into the minds of her characters to captivate her readers. For this reason, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular and most beloved books in the English canon.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter III
  • Chapter VII
  • Chapter VIII
  • Chapter XII
  • Chapter XIII
  • Chapter XIV
  • Chapter XVI
  • Chapter XVII
  • Chapter XVIII
  • Chapter XIX
  • Chapter XXI
  • Chapter XXII
  • Chapter XXIII
  • Chapter XXIV
  • Chapter XXV
  • Chapter XXVI
  • Chapter XXVII
  • Chapter XXVIII
  • Chapter XXIX
  • Chapter XXX
  • Chapter XXXI
  • Chapter XXXII
  • Chapter XXXIII
  • Chapter XXXIV
  • Chapter XXXV
  • Chapter XXXVI
  • Chapter XXXVII
  • Chapter XXXVIII
  • Chapter XXXIX
  • Chapter XLI
  • Chapter XLII
  • Chapter XLIII
  • Chapter XLIV
  • Chapter XLV
  • Chapter XLVI
  • Chapter XLVII
  • Chapter XLVIII
  • Chapter XLVIX
  • Chapter LII
  • Chapter LIII
  • Chapter LIV
  • Chapter LVI
  • Chapter LVII
  • Chapter LVIII
  • Chapter LIX
  • Chapter LXI
  • Alliteration
  • Character Analysis
  • Foreshadowing
  • Historical Context
  • Literary Devices
  • Quote Analysis

Study Guide

  • Jane Austen Biography

Teaching Resources

  • Pride and Prejudice Teaching Guide
  • Pride and Prejudice Themes Lesson Plan

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Characters' First Impressions in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Elizabeth's First Impression of Darcy

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The Satirization of Society's Flaws in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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1813, Jane Austen

Romantic Novel; Satire, Historical Fiction

Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, Jane Bennet, Mary Bennet, Catherine "Kitty" Bennet, Lydia Bennet, Charles Bingley, Caroline Bingley, George Wickham, Mr. William Collins, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, Georgiana Darcy, Charlotte Lucas, Colonel Witzwilliam

According to numerous sources, the book is not based on a true story and has been entirely composed by Jane Austen.

Justice, prejudice, misconceptions, love, romance, misjudgement, reputation, class relations, overcoming obstacles, true love.

As one of the most beautiful literary works and the happy ever after tales, it is one of the best romance novels that will be relevant through every decade. The book is teaching us an important lesson about making snap judgments of not judging the book by its cover. Although this book is often read by college students, it is also an important read for educators as well since college professors should not judge their learners too soon.

It revolves around the Bennet sisters called Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Their mother wants to see them married in a good, successful way because they won't inherit their family house since only a son can do so. So once Me. Bingle comes down, their mother does her best to help Mr. Bigley fall in love.

Jane Austen has also been rejected for not being rich enough in the past. Mr. Darcy is often made as an equivalent to a Rockefeller. The Gretna Green mentioned in the book by Lydia is the modern-day Las Vegas, which has nearly ruined the Bennet family. Jane Austen has also been very close to her sister, which has influenced her to describe the closeness of Elizabeth to Jane. The publisher has rejected "The Pride and Prejudice" even without taking a closer look or reading it at all. The title originally came from a novel called "Cecilia" by Fanny Burney. Jane Austen always worried that her novel was too frivolous and modern for her times.

“A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” “There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

The love and marriage through the class relations is the central theme of this romantic story. It focuses on how a person can judge and break down the romantic relations. Jane Austen constantly uses good satire, detalization of her characters, and narration that helps to analyze the vocational nature of being married in the English society. One can also explore an attitude to matrimony.

This novel is an example of pride and prejudice, social relations, class challenges, and the freedom of women to do exactly what they want. It is also used as the analysis of judging something by its cover with the different examples. This romance story can be explored through the lens of any modern situation where the pride and misconception of the first impressions are coming first before a clear judgment is being made.

1. McKeon, R. (1979). " Pride and Prejudice": Thought, Character, Argument, and Plot. Critical Inquiry, 5(3), 511-527. ( 2. Lacour, C. B. (1992). Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Hegel's" Truth in Art": Concept, Reference, and History. ELH, 59(3), 597-623. ( 3. Austen, J. (1993). Pride and Prejudice (1813). New York. ( 4. Morrison, R. (2009). Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice: A Routledge Study Guide and Sourcebook. Routledge. ( 5. Fischer-Starcke, B. (2009). Keywords and frequent phrases of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: A corpus-stylistic analysis. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 14(4), 492-523. ( 6. Lau, B. (2017). Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. A Companion to Romanticism, 237-244. ( 7. Appel, P. A. (2012). A Funhouse Mirror of Law: The Entailment in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Ga. J. Int'l & Comp. L., 41, 609. ( 8. Wootton, S. (2007). The Byronic in Jane Austen's" Persuasion" and" Pride and Prejudice". Modern Language Review, 102(1), 26-39. (

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literary analysis of pride and prejudice essay

Pride and Prejudice Literary Analysis

How it works

Jane Austen portrays Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice with many different characteristic traits. He is a lot more than an awkward little man. Mr. Collins is confident, well-connected, arrogant, prideful, and he has a false sense of humility. He has a lot of layers and is not just a two-dimensional character, but a complex character who cannot be summed up into one word.

Mr. Collins is first mentioned in the novel when he sends a letter to Mr. Bennet in Chapter thirteen.

The letter was formal and it gave him the illusion of being a humble man. “If you should have no objection to receive me into your house, I propose myself the satisfaction of waiting on you and your family…”(Austen 43). He seems to be writing modestly and in the name of peace, but in actuality he is looking for his own personal gain from the Bennet family, and is not wanting to settle an old feud like he suggests. Mr. Collins is not just formal in his writing, but also in his manner of speaking. You can tell that most things he says he has already pre-prepared. For example, when he proposes to Elizabeth it was almost like he was reading off a list or prepared some sort of outline beforehand of the reasons they should get married. On page 67 he even admits to planning his speeches or remarks ahead of time by saying he “sometimes amuses himself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions…”

Mr. Collins is very self aware of his status as a minister and heir to Longbourne. Behind his false humility he has great self-importance. He believes himself better than many people because of his connections to Lady Catherine de Bourgh and often belittles others to show their inferiority. For example, Mr. Collins says to Elizabeth “I would advise you merely to put on whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest…Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you for being simply dressed”(158). Again, we see Mr. Collins pretending to be this humble and kind man, but really his arrogance and pride keep him from ever actually being the man he pretends to be and instead he belittles others because of his self-importance. However, he does lack self-awareness in that he is unaware of how everyone sees his personality as rather annoying, and his mannerisms awkward and ridiculous.

Not only is Mr. Collins aware of his status, but he bases his entire value system around it. His status made him prideful and so he acted like he was humble and saintly while others were inferior to his connections and how he had been educated. He thinks he has the power to tell others what to do. For example, after he had heard of Lydia running away with Wickham he wrote a strongly worded letter to the Bennets telling them that they should disown and never speak to her again because of what she had done. Mr. Collins had no right to interfere with their personal affairs, but did anyway because of his superiority complex.

Even in Jane Austen’s more minor characters she showed the depth of a human person. Mr. Collins cannot just be summed up with one word. He has depth. The readers first see him as a formal and humble man, but as the novel progresses he is seen as a conceited man living behind the facade of a humble man. He is aware of his status and lords it over people, but does it in a sneaky way. He is unaware of his awkwardness and annoying manners because he finds himself very proper. Mr. Collins is like a lot of people today, but in an exaggerated way. Many people tend to pretend like they are better than what they are and try to put on an act. However, people are not always what they seem and sooner or later the mask they hide behind is taken off. Mr. Collins was more than just one thing. He developed more as the readers got to know his character and discover his many positive and negative qualities


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94 Pride and Prejudice Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best pride and prejudice topic ideas & essay examples, 📌 most interesting pride and prejudice topics to write about, 👍 good research topics about pride and prejudice, ❓ pride and prejudice essay questions.

  • Essay on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen This essay contains the analysis of the novel, including the summary, description of the main characters and themes, personal opinion about the narrative, and conclusion that summarizes the main points of the essay.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Mrs. Bennet Bennet cares for her daughters and husband, despite the ways she chooses to show her thoughtfulness that is often improper or inconsiderate, which makes her a good wife and mother.
  • Character Analysis in Pride and Prejudice From the Feminist Perspective Darcy is a character who is able to evolve over the span of the story, and eventually, he recognizes his mistakes.Mr.
  • Importance of Letters in “Pride and Prejudice” The reader observes aspects of love, hatred, and humor in characters such as Elizabeth when she reacts to her sister’s letters.
  • Gardens in Pride and Prejudice In the novel, the author compares this garden to Darcy’s perception of himself. He boasts about how he knows the number and the location of each and every tree in the garden.
  • Stereotypes of Women in “Pride and Prejudice” In this novel of manners, the author describes the character development of the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, and depicts the society of late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century England with its values and flaws. One of the […]
  • “Pride and Prejudice”: Analysis of a Passage The story, the characters, the setting, and even the speech of the characters make strong references to the environments of the beginning of the 19th century in England.
  • Money, Status, and Marriage in Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” Women were under the care of the men of their families, and the search for a husband was the main path to higher status and wealth.
  • The Concepts of Identity in Ibi Zoboi’s Remix “Pride and Prejudice” The surrounding atmosphere and cultural specificities influence the characters’ personalities throughout the story and change their attitude towards the particular minorities and races.
  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: Characters Analysis Pride and Prejudice is, first of all, a profoundly realistic representation of characters and tempers, albeit not of the English society as a whole, but of its privileged groups since the end of the 18th […]
  • Letters in “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen The paper will include the explanation of the letters’ primary function and the analysis of letters. Gardiner to Lizzy is significant in a way that it changes the latter’s perception of Darcy.
  • Style as Character Insight: The Use of Irony and Free Indirect Discourse in Jane Austen’s Major Works This event appears to be a seminal one in the life of the author, as the social theme of marriage plays out very much in several of Jane Austen’s novels, including Emma, and Sense and […]
  • Robinson Crusoe’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Daniel Defoe and Jane Austen In the novel, Robinson Crusoe, Defoe describes it as a history of facts that seeks to portray the social institutions and structures of the medieval British society.
  • Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility Macpherson asserts, In any erotic rivalry, the bond that links the two rivals is as intense and potent as the bond that links either of the rivals to the beloved.the bonds of “rivalry” and “love,” […]
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith Zombies described in the book are called the unmentionables and, to the greatest extent, correspond to the classic image introduced by George A.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Critical Analysis A number of styles are hard to ignore in the second part of the screen play, which focuses solely on the characters and the plot.
  • Why to Read “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen In addition to undermining the historical gender stereotypes, the novel portrays the importance of women’s social status in the Victorian era and their dependence on their husbands’ or parents’ financial situation.
  • The Novel “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice can rightfully be considered one of the best works in the history of literature. But what is most striking in the book, Pride and Prejudice, is the expression of deep topics through […]
  • J. Austen’s “Sense & Sensibility”, “Pride and Prejudice”, and “Emma” Dwelling in the world of words and literature, one closed to the ‘fairer sex’ of her time, she earned for herself not just the fame of a good author but one widely read even to […]
  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen: Research Paper on the Book It is in the third chapter of the novel that Austen builds the characters of Bingley and Darcy through their manners: “Mr.
  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Austen: Chapter 43 The reason for writing the piece was to explore the place of marriage in society and what is meant to women during the 18th century. In such a quote, the reader realizes that Elizabeth wanted […]
  • Jane Austen’s Novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ The current study explores the link between romance with the natural, the supernatural, and emotion versus reality to understand romanticism characteristics in the novel.
  • Marriage in “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen In spite of the predominance of this vision of the marriage and the woman’s role in society, Jane Austen in her Pride and Prejudice proposes several possible variants of realizing the scenario of meeting the […]
  • The Adaptation of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”: A Film Analysis of the Netherfield Ball Scene
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  • The Allowance of the Dignity and Pride in the Novel “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
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  • The Changes Experienced by Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  • The Changing Relationship Between the Central Character in “Pride and Prejudice”
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  • A Comparison of “The Odd Women” by George Gissing and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
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  • The Similarities Between the Novel and Film Version of “Pride and Prejudice”
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  • Does the 1995 BBC Adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” Enhance Your Understanding of the Novel?
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98. Mary Augusta Ward (1851-1920)

Mrs Humphrey Ward (1851 - 1920) born Mary Augusta Arnold.

Mary Augusta Ward was a prominent British novelist and social activist whose pen name was Mrs. Humphry Ward. Her novel Robert Elsmere opened up a lot of public discussion about Christianity in Victorian society and all of its nuances. Ward was known for her deep reflection and engagement with contemporary social issues and even earned a nod of approval from Leo Toltsoy, who praised Ward for being the greatest English novelist of her time. Despite her success as a writer, Ward also advocated for education reform and founded the Passmore Edwards Settlement, a center that was founded to enrich the lives of working-class adults on evenings and weekends and to offer after-school recreation and instruction to poor children while their parents were still at work. Ward was also well-known for her stance against the Women's Suffrage Movement because she was concerned that emancipation would dilute the moral influence of women. This led her to establish the Anti-Suffrage League in 1908. The Australia-born novelist became a best-selling author and also achieved success with other books like D avid Grieve , Sir George Tressady and Helbeck of Bannisdale . Her works are available at The Kelmscott Book Shop .

Famous Quote: “Truth has never been, can never be, contained in any one creed or system.” — Mary Augusta Ward .

97. Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)

Children's book author/illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel poses with models of some of the characters ... [+] he has created.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, was a La Jolla, California-born children’s author, humorist, political cartoonist and illustrator whose work has become the hallmark of children’s books. For years, his comical and highly imaginative books have created an opportunity for children to maintain their child-like wonder, while ushering an opportunity for them to experience real-life situations. Books like Oh,The Places You’ll Go!, The Cat in the Hat , Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christma s! have become staples of children’s literature, establishing a permanence and formula that is impossible to duplicate. Dr. Seuss’s playful language and memorable characters have had a lasting impact on young readers and innovative use of alliteration, rhyme and rhythm has not only entertained children but also helped them develop early literacy skills. Dr. Seuss’s books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”― Dr. Seuss .

96. Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957)

Laura Ingalls Wilder autographing a book.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, born in Pepin, Wisconsin, was an American author best known for her Little House series of children’s books. These semi-autobiographical novels loosely mirrored her childhood growing up in a pioneer family, and offered a lucid portrayal of life on the American frontier in the late 19th century. At 15 years old, Wilder began to teach, and that ushered her into writing and editing years later. She started out writing for McCall’s Magazine and Country Gentleman and she later served as the poultry editor for the St. Louis Star before becoming a home editor for the Missouri Ruralist . In her fictional writing, Wilder’s simple, yet detailed and engaging storytelling has compelled readers for years, providing an intimate look at the simplicity, hardships and joys of pioneer life. Her timeless stories of adventure, family, and perseverance continue to inspire fans of her work and remind them of the values of courage, honesty and simplicity. Wilder also wrote essays, short stories, letters and poetry. Her works are available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” — Laura Ingalls Wilder .

95. John Bunyan (1628-1688)

Portrait of English preacher and writer John Bunyan.

John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most important works in religious English literature. The Bedfordshire, England-born author, who would go on to become one of the most well-known religious writers of all time had his own fair share of suffering, much of which informed his outlook on faith and religion. Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress was written while he was imprisoned for preaching without a license. For centuries, the famous Puritan-themed book has inspired readers with its acute spiritual insight and vivid storytelling. In fact, Bunyan’s accessible and striking storytelling has ensured the book’s place as a classic, offering moral and spiritual guidance across generations. At one point The Pilgrim’s Progress was considered the second most influential religious book after the Bible . Apart from The Pilgrim’s Progress , Bunyan also wrote his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding while he was imprisoned for 12 years. The account detailed his personal journey of faith, struggles with doubt, and a spiritual triumph which provided some insight into his personal life. Bunyan’s works are available at Moody Publishers .

Famous Quote: “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ”― John Bunyan .

94. Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) (1832-1898)

British mathematician, author and photographer Charles Lutwidge Dogson (1832 - 1898), who wrote ... [+] several books under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll.

Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland , was also a mathematician and logician, whose obsession with logic influenced his career. Carroll’s interest in logic and wordplay had a major impact in his formulaic approach to writing, making his works rich in both imaginative and intellectual content. Born in Chesire, England, the skilled mathematician had an innate skill when it came to weaving complicated mind puzzles and otherworldly narrative elements together to create fascinating stories, and this is primarily what makes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a captivating and often mind-bending read. Apart from writing novels, Carroll was also a poet and photographer, whose other notable works include Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark . Carroll’s timeless appeal can be attributed to his ability to reconcile the interplay between reality and fantasy, coupled with logic and nonsense. His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.”― Lewis Carroll .

93. Saint Mark the Evangelist (A.D. 12-A.D. 68)

Saint Mark the Evangelist, circa 1624-1625.

The Evangelist Mark was the author of The Gospel of Mark, the second book of the New Testament. His account is often considered to be the earliest and pithiest account of Jesus life and teachings. Mark, who was born in Cyrene of the Roman Empire, never met Jesus, but his concise and poignant storytelling about Christ has had a lasting impact on Christian theology for centuries. Written with a sense of immediacy and urgency, the Gospel of Mark captures the core of Jesus’ ministry, highlighting his miracles, parables, and the weighty sense of mission that defined his journey on earth. Mark’s writing style, while simple and unadorned, is poignant and relatable, making it accessible to a broad audience. The gospel’s influence has extended beyond religious circles and influenced Western literature, art and broader socio-cultural perceptions and interpretations of who Jesus was. His work is available at Bible Gateway .

Famous Quote : “Do not become a disciple of one who praises himself, in case you learn pride instead of humility.” — Saint Mark the Evangelist .

92. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851)

Portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, born in London, England, is best known for her seminal book Frankenstein, which shattered literary boundaries and blurred the lines between gothic storytelling and science fiction. Shelley completed her first draft of Frankenstein in 1816 at only 18 years old, but it was published anonymously two years later, when she was 20. The novel is considered one of the earliest examples of science fiction because it explores creation, ambition and the ethical limits of scientific inquiry. Shelley’s imaginative vision and profound questions about the ethical roles that humans play in the world are ones that have continued to be explored by new and up-and-coming writers and thinkers. Her ability to integrate Gothic horror with philosophical questioning also made her an unforgettable figure. Her other notable work is The Modern Prometheus and her books are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” — Mary Shelley .

91. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish clergyman, satirist and poet.

Dublin-born Jonathan Swift is widely regarded as one of the greatest satirists in the English language. His works, which include the critically acclaimed Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal , were the highlights of his sharp wit, keen intellect and understanding of human nature and psychology. Swift’s writing conveyed a brilliant ability to combine biting satire with insightful social commentary to create meaningful stories that would remain classic historical relics long after his death in 1745. Swift was also involved in the political and social issues of his time. As a cleric, he held several leadership positions in the Church of Ireland, including his position as Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. His political pamphlets and essays, such as The Drapier’s Letters , played a crucial role in the Irish resistance to English economic policies. Swift’s works were not limited to prose; he was also an accomplished poet and essayist whose poems like A Description of a City Shower , proved his ability to merge satire with vivid imagery. Swift also wrote essays, and some of his work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” ― Jonathan Swift .

90. Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)

Still portrait of Hans Christian Andersen.

Born in Odense, Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen rose from a poor background to become one of the most recognized authors of all time, whose fairy tales have enchanted children and adults alike for generations. Although he struggled early in his career, his work eventually gained recognition for its imaginative and whimsical storytelling. Andersen created memorable stories by using simplicity and charm to teach moral lessons and his fairy tales often explored themes of resilience, kindness and the triumph of good. Some of his most iconic creations include The Little Mermaid , The Ugly Duckling , The Emperor’s New Clothes and Thumbelina . Some say that glimpses of Andersen’s childhood could be found in most of his written work, and for centuries, his immortal stories have been translated into numerous languages and adapted into various forms, including ballets, plays and films. Readers of all ages, have found his work magnetic, stretching his legacy as a master storyteller from one generation of readers, old and young, to the next. Andersen’s works can be purchased from Penguin Random House.

Famous quote: “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.”― Hans Christian Andersen .

89. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Portrait of American poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, born in Boston, Massachusetts, was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist and poet who was one of the most influential American thinkers of the 19th century. Emerson who was fondly called by his middle name, Waldo, was a visionary essayist, lecturer, philosopher, poet and ardent abolitionist whose intellectual leadership inspired the Transcendentalist movement and advocated for the inherent goodness of people and nature. This advocacy was so powerful that it flowed into his written work and made him stand out as a great writer, public speaker and advocate. Besides writing, Emerson used his skills as a public speaker to condemn slavery and advocate for civil right and liberty. Some of his best written works include Self-Reliance , The Over-Soul , Circles and Nature . Some of his works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson .

88. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Writer Henry David Thoreau poses for a portrait in circa 1860.

Henry David Thoreau, born in Concord, Massachusetts, was an American naturalist, essayist, poet and philosopher whose works have continued to be studied in schools and institutions of higher education for their emphasis on American and environmental thought. Like his close friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau also became a central figure in the Transcendentalist movement, and his writings began to reflect his respect for nature, his advocacy for simple living, and his commitment to social reform and civil liberty. Thoreau's commitment to his principles was demonstrated when he was jailed for refusing to pay a poll tax, which he believed supported slavery and the Mexican-American War. This act of civil disobedience inspired his famous essay Civil Disobedience . In Civil Disobedience , originally titled Resistance to Civil Government , Thoreau argues for the importance of individual conscience and the moral necessity to resist unjust laws and government actions. His essay has influenced many notable figures and movements advocating for social justice and nonviolent resistance. Thoreau’s best works include Walden, a series of 18 essays, Civil Disobedience and Walking. Some of his work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”— Henry David Thoreau .

87. Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)

Portrait of Louisa May Alcott.

Because Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott, was a Transcendentalist, she grew up in the company of well-known transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Thoreau, all of whom also happened to be excellent writers. In fact, Thoreau inspired quite a bit of Alcott’s work, and was one of the driving forces behind her desire to write. Although Alcott was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, she lived most of her life in Massachusetts, and that location would inspire her work. Among some of her notable books are Little Women, which was a self-directed book about her experiences growing up with her sisters and their childhood memories. Other notable books from Alcott include Good Wives and Little Men. An avid writer , Alcott also thrived in the short story form, and her success as an author afforded her the opportunity to also become a Transcendentalist and advocate for women’s rights. Her works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” — Louisa May Alcott .

86. J.D. Salinger (1919-2010)

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger was born in New York City, so he knew a thing or two about good storytelling. His critically-acclaimed novel The Catcher in the Rye is considered the magnum opus of his career, and is a detailed and sincere account that explores the angst and alienation that can often come with adolescence. Before becoming a famous wrier, Salinger briefly attended New York University and Columbia University, and he served in World War II, where he participated in the D-Day invasion and witnessed the liberation of concentration camps. These experiences influenced his writing, adding depth to his portrayal of human emotions and relationships and during his time serving, Salinger wrote more than 20 short stories, which helped him to segue into full-time writing. His short stories published in magazines like The New Yorker and introduced readers to his tone. Throughout his years as an author , Salinger’s signature colloquial tone and careful analysis of the characters in his stories always guided his plots. His written work is available at Hachette Book Group .

Famous quote: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” ― J.D. Salinger .

85. Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

British writer and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his garden.

British writer and physician Arthur Conan Doyle, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, became known for his iconic creation of the detective Sherlock Holmes, a mystery book character who has become synonymous with stealth. Doyle was educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he studied medicine; he offered his medical services during the South African War and detailed his experience in his non-fiction book, The Great Boer War . Doyle’s writing, characterized by a keen attention to detail and deliberate plotting, made a lasting impact on detective-themed storytelling and secured Sherlock Holmes as a blueprint for the detective-mystery genre. Even though he created the highly logical and skeptical detective Sherlock Holmes, Doyle was a firm believer in spiritualism and became one of the leaders of the spiritualist movement following the First World War. His book The History of Spiritualism further examined the topic through a variety of essays. Apart from his detective stories, Doyle also wrote historical novels , science fiction, plays and fantasy. His works are available at Harrington Books Co .

Famous quote: “You see, but you do not observe.” — Arthur Conan Doyle .

84. Sylvia Plath ( 1932-1963)

Sylvia Plath seated in front of a bookshelf.

Sylvia Plath was an American poet and novelist known for her confessional style of writing. That confessional writing style became more widely recognized during the 1950s and 1960s, with Plath being one of its leading figures alongside poets like Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton​. Born in Boston, Plath’s work was unique for its intensity and focus on mental illness. Very often, Plath’s state of mind was expressed through her writings, and some of her best-known works include the poetry collection Ariel, Daddy, Lady Lazarus and The Bell Jar, which mirrored her own struggles with depression . Plath’s The Collected Poems , which included previously unpublished works, was posthumously published in 1981, and she received a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for the collection in 1982, making her the fourth person to receive the recognition posthumously at the time. Her works are available at HarperColins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”― Sylvia Plath .

83. Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

Closeup candid portrait of writer Roald Dahl waving a cigarette while talking at home.

Roald Dahl’s zany and often times dark children’s books , like Matilda , Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach , have been fan favorites for decades. This is partly thanks to the Wales-born writer’s penchant for the otherworldly and adventurous. Dahl, who often had views that were deemed controversial, tapped into a wide range of emotions and subjects in his works. Almost every visual adaptation of a Dahl-inspired storyline has the same element of strangeness, with larger-than-life protagonists who have a lopsided, loopy way about them. Dahl’s past as a fighter pilot in World War II and his role as a spy for the British government also partly inspired his adventurous approach to writing stories. Although he was well-known for children’s books, Dahl wasn’t just about entertaining children. His grisly-themed short stories for adults also explored the darker sides of human nature, and highlighted his versatility as a writer. Even after his death, fans remember his work for the way he reconciled the fantastical with the sinister, which has made him a notable name in history. In 2021, Forbes ranked Dahl as one of the top-earning dead celebrities, and with over 300 million copies of his works sold worldwide, Dahl’s work continues to impact literature. They are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”― Roald Dahl .

82. Zadie Smith (1975- )

Zadie Smith at the Cliveden Literary Festival in Windsor, England.

London-born Zadie Smith is a critically acclaimed British novelist, essayist, professor and avid reader known for her vibrant, multi-layered story structures and careful explorations of race, identity and multiculturalism. Her debut novel White Teeth caught the attention of many critics who appreciated her take on multiculturalism and identity in modern Britain and beyond. Smith’s character development in her debut book was so excellent that it prompted critics to call her a modern-day Charles Dickens. Over the course of her career, Smith’s unique insight into sensitive issues like race, identity and religion have made her a well-respected figure of the 21st century. Her intelligent analysis of the diverse, multicultural experience of life in London and beyond it has helped to frame her as a leading voice in contemporary fiction. In spite of this, Smith has developed a rather pragmatic approach to writing, arguing that the art form should not be a division of head and heart, but the useful integration of both. Other notable works from Smith include On Beauty, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays and Feel Free. Her work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.”― Zadie Smith .

81. Aesop (620 B.C.-564 B.C.)

A bust of slave and story-teller Aesop (620 - 560 BC), who lived in ancient Greece and is known for ... [+] the genre of fables ascribed to him, circa 550 B.C.

Fables have been a crucial part of human storytelling for millennia, and that is partly because one of the most revered fabulists, Aesop, who is responsible for some of the most popular fables in history. The fabled ancient Greek fabulist and storyteller is known for his collection of fables, known as Aesop’s Fables , which include stories like The Tortoise and the Hare and The Boy Who Cried Wolf, which symbolize evergreen moral lessons through simple and memorable stories that have been passed on from one generation to the next. Aesop’s stories have become a cornerstone in children’s literature because of their pithy and wise observations of human nature, often featuring animals as characters with human traits and vices. These timeless stories have been translated into numerous languages and adapted into various cultural contexts, influencing folklore and storytelling traditions worldwide. While much about Aesop’s life is a mystery, his stories have had a lasting effect on Western culture and education. Aesop’s work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “A doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy. Let a man be one thing or the other, and we then know how to meet him.”― Aesop .

80. Ralph Waldo Ellison (1914-1994)

Novelist Ralph Ellison poses for a portrait in Harlem, New York City.

Born in Oklahoma City, Ralph Waldo Ellison, named after Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote in a way that was notable for its rich, symbolic and honest accounts of race and individuality in America. At the start of his career, Ellison moved to New York City in 1936 and lived in Harlem, hoping to be able to study sculpture. It was there that he would meet Langston Hughes, Harlem’s “unofficial diplomat” during the Depression era, and a well-respected author at the time. While in Harlem, Ellison also met influential people like Romare Bearden and Richard Wright, all of whom would become impactful in his life as an author. After serving in World War II, Ellison produced Invisible Man , which won the 1953 National Book Award for Fiction. The book was particularly celebrated for its complex storyline and thematic content​. Although he became well-known for his novel, his compiled essays and his work as a sculptor, musician, photographer and college professor earned him accolades and recognition as well. Ellison’s compiled essays included collections like Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory . Other works by Ellison include Flying Home and Other Stories and Juneteenth, which were posthumously published . Ellison’s work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.”― Ralph Ellison .

79. Isabel Allende (1942- )

Isabel Allende photographed in her home on February 12, 1990 in San Rafael, California.

Isabel Allende is a Lima, Peru-born author who is famous for books that mostly contain strong elements of magical realism. Her storytelling style tends to incorporate the personal with the historical, bringing Latin American culture and history to life. Some of Allende’s most famous books include City of the Beasts , The House of the Spirits and Eva Luna . Allende spent much of her childhood in Chile and various other countries because of her stepfather’s diplomatic career. Allende continues to write and has earned the respect of critics for her apt imagination and restless ambition to keep creating stories that refine wat magic realism represents. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the National Literature Prize of Chile, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, among others. Her books can be found at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy.” — Isabel Allende .

78. Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

Jorge Luis Borges at the Sorbonne university in Paris, France In 1978.

Jorge Luis Borges was an imaginative poet, essayist and short story writer who skillfully crafted a career by creating complex and imaginative plots that are defined by labyrinths, mirrors and infinite libraries. The Argentina-born author has become a 20th century icon for his effective storytelling and unprecedented ability to concoct the boundaries of reality and fiction to create stories that intrigue and fascinate. As a writer, Borges has created an extensive body of work that has left its imprint on literature, primarily short stories and essays that have been drawn from the inspiration of Buenos Aires. Some of his best known works are The Library of Babel and Fictions . His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” — Jorge Luis Borges .

77. John Milton ( 1608-1674)

Engraved portrait of British poet and politician John Milton (1608 - 1674), mid 17th century.

English historian, poet and pamphleteer John Milton is considered one of the most important figures in British literature. Milton’s reputation as a great is partly because his work spanned various genres, including prose and poetry, which has offered every type of reader a plethora of options to choose from. Milton’ s Paradise Lost , published in 1667, is widely regarded as his magnum opus, consisting of ten books that were later expanded to twelve in the 1674 edition. Even though he was blind in both eyes when he created Paradise Lost , his ability to compose such complex and detailed work is a testament to his intellectual acumen. Milton was often unafraid to share his thoughts on tyrannical leadership and the state of religion, and that is primarily what made him an unforgettable writer. Other notable works from Milton include Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” — John Milton .

76. Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison photographed in New York City in 1979.

Born in Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison was a Nobel Prize-winning author whose work took readers on a deep exploration of the Black experience. Her critically acclaimed novels, such as the Pulitzer-prize winning Beloved , evocative Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye , are honored for their poetic prose and immense emotional and cultural impact. Morrison wasn’t just a writer; she was a thought leader whose ideas remain relevant to today. Like James Baldwin, her criticism of unjust society has remained a cornerstone for conversations around race and class. In addition to novels, she wrote essays, children’s books, articles and plays that showcased her genius as a writer. Her works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “The function of freedom is to free someone else.” — Toni Morrison .

75. Henry James (1843-1916)

American novelist Henry James in his study.

Henry James, born in New York City, was an American-British author known for his contributions to the 20th-century novel as well as literary realism and modernism. His writing focused on his beliefs concerning the innocence and exuberance of the New World in contrast to the jadedness of the Old. His notable works include Daisy Miller , The Portrait of a Lady , The Turn of the Screw and The Wings of the Dove . James’s writing often explored the complicated nature of the human mind and social reform and revolutions, as well as social consciousness. During his time, James was regarded as a brilliant short story writer whose work frequently appeared in magazines. James also wrote poems and memoirs. His work is available at the Library of America .

Famous quote: “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.” — Henry James .

74. D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)

Still image of D.H. Lawrence.

David Herbert Lawrence, born in Eastwood, England, was a novelist, poet and essayist known for his controversial and unconventional storytelling, which inevitably made him one of the most influential writers in the early 20th century. His novels emphasized multiple themes, including vivid realism, sexuality and complex family dynamics. During his time, Lawrence had an uncanny ability to vividly describe human emotions and states of mind, which were both compelling and relatable to readers. Some of his best-known books include Sons and Lovers and Women in Love. The English author also wrote short stories, plays, travel books and letters. Some of his work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it.” — D.H. Lawrence .

73. Wole Soyinka (1934- )

Wole Soyinka circa 1986.

Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright, political activist, poet and essayist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, becoming the first African laureate to do so. Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria, Soyinka grew up in an environment that was rich with the Nigerian Yoruba culture , which significantly influenced his work. He studied in Nigeria and the UK, where he attended the University of Leeds. Throughout his career, Soyinka has been a vocal critic of Nigerian dictatorships, which led to his imprisonment during the Nigerian Civil War and subsequent exile. Soyinka’s writing style is noted for its lyrical quality, which often weaves traditional African theater with Western literary forms. Some of his most influential works include Myth, Literature, and the African World; Death and the King’s Horseman ; the novel The Man Died: Prison Notes and the memoir Ake: The Years of Childhood . His works can be found at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Books and all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress truth.”― Wole Soyinka .

72. Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

Chinua Achebe.

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, born in Ogidi, Nigeria, is considered an African icon and an ambassador for the Igbo tribe. To this day, Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is a cornerstone of modern African study and has been globally celebrated in scholarly circles for its vivid depiction of the clash between traditional African culture and colonial influences. Achebe’s work has been regarded as a central piece to modern African Literature and his lucid writing style, known for its syllogistic conjoinment of oratory, folk stories and Igbo proverbs has depicted the core of African societies. Achebe’s writing style has also been marked by its poetic, yet stark analogy of Nigerian culture and society but more specifically, the Nigerian Igbo culture. Achebe’s works extend beyond novels to essays, poetry and short stories. His books can be found at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own.” — Chinua Achebe .

71. Agatha Christie (1890-1976)

English detective novelist, Agatha Christie typing at her home, Greenway House, Devon, England ... [+] January 1946.

English writer Agatha Christie was known for her prolific creation of detective novels and the iconic characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, who drove many of her stories. Born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in 1890 in Torquay, England, Christie's journey from a privileged upbringing to becoming one of the best-selling authors of all time began while she was working as a nurse during World War I. Her debut novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles , was published in 1920 and would become a stepping stone for an iconic repertoire. ​Most of Christie’s books have a similar formula that includes meticulous plotting, clever plot twists and engaging mysteries that are difficult to determine for readers until the very end of the story. With over two billion books sold worldwide, Christie’s influence on mystery is undeniable, and her works have been translated into numerous languages and adapted into various films, television series and stage plays. Some of Christie’s most influential works include Murder on the Orient Express , T he Murder of Roger Ackroyd , and And Then There Were None , which are celebrated for their complex plots and surprising resolutions. Christie’s books are available for purchase at HarperCollins Publishers

Famous quote: “A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. ― Agatha Christie .

70. Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

Franz Kafka circa 1915.

Franz Kafka, born in Prague, was a German-speaking Bohemian writer who was known for his surreal and existential approach to telling stories. Kafka’s notable books include The Metamorphosis , Letter to His Father and The Castle . His stories were often filled with themes of alienation and absurdity and he often depicted his characters as alienated people facing systemic oppression and isolation. He was one of the most prominent writers to showcase the impact of societal shunning through the lens of the shunned. Although Kafka was a talented writer who spent long nights immersed in his craft, his struggles with constant self-doubt caused him to destroy 90% of his work and much of what survived remains lost or unpublished. Other Kafka words include Contemplation and A Country Doctor. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” — Franz Kafka .

69. J.K. Rowling (1965- )

J.K. Rowling attends the European premiere of "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them" at Odeon ... [+] Leicester Square on November 15, 2016 in London.

J.K. Rowling, born Joanne Rowling in Gloucestershire, England, is a British author best known for creating the globally beloved Harry Potter series. Her journey from a struggling single mother to one of the world’s most successful and influential writers is a remarkable one that has heightened the appeal of her success story. According to Rowling, she jotted down the initial idea for Harry Potter on a napkin while her train from Manchester to London was delayed for hours in 1990. According to the famous writer, she had a visceral reaction to the concept of the main character who would go on to define her career and this napkin became the starting point for her immensely popular series. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (retitled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the U.S.) was published in 1997 after being rejected by numerous publishers. The book quickly became a success and has since expanded into a seven-volume series and sold over 600 million copies worldwide, inspiring a global billion-dollar media franchise. Many of Rowling fans consider Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be the unofficial eighth book in the series. Although Rowling is well known for The Harry Potter series, other books in her repertoire are Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Tales of Beedle the Bard among others . Her books are available at Bloomsbury Publishing .

Famous Quote: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” ― J.K. Rowling .

68. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

American poet Emily Dickinson.

Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, Emily Dickinson is one of America’s most important lyric poets. Dickinson was known for her unconventional approach to painting a literary picture, and even her use of punctuation marks, which was reflected in an approach to the art form which critics often defined as concise and enigmatic, has established her as a unique and quintessential American poet. Dickinson’s poetry themes often explored death, immortality and nature. Her reclusive life was always ever-so-evident in her work, which is replete with short lines, slant rhyme and enigmatic language. Some of her famous works include I’m Nobody! Who are you?, Wild Nights – Wild Nights! and Because I could not stop for Death. Even though Dickinson wrote nearly 1,800 poems during her lifetime, fewer than a dozen of her poems appeared in print while she was alive. Apart from writing, Dickinson was also an accomplished gardener who frequently drew inspiration for her poems from the natural world she carefully tended to. Her collected works are available at the Harvard Library .

Famous quote: “Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me—The Carriage held but just Ourselves –And Immortality.” — Emily Dickinson .

67. Mark Twain ( Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835-1910)

Colorized portrait of American author and humorist Mark Twain, circa 1900.

American writer, humorist, educator and journalist Mark Twain has become a decades-long household name for his apt depiction of the spirit of adventure. Twain, who was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, is often called the “father of American literature.” Known for his quick wit and sharp social commentary, Twain’s impressive output includes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . Both of these books have served as a blueprint for high-spirited, adventure-loving children around the world. His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice” — Mark Twain .

66. William Faulkner (1897-1962)

William Faulkner, circa 1935, on display at his Rowan Oak estate in Oxford, Mississippi.

Nobel Prize-winning American writer William Faulkner was well-known for his technical approach to writing and his ability to deep-dive into the human psyche with his stylistic prose. His famous novels, such as The Sound and the Fury , As I Lay Dying and Light in August, have become cornerstones of Southern Gothic literature. One distinct feature of Faulkner’s writing was his alternating exploration of thematic structure and stylistic creativity. Faulkner also wrote screenplays and short stories, and is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world... would do this, it would change the earth.”― William Faulkner .

65. T.S. Eliot (1888–1965)

T. S. Eliot inspecting manuscripts.

T.S. Eliot, born in St. Louis, was a leading playwright, poet and essayist of the 20th century. The English-American who became the leader of the modernist movement in poetry had an extensive body of work that included The Waste Land, his iconic play Murder in the Cathedral and his magnum opus Four Quartets, which are all renowned for their unorthodox, yet brilliant approach to storytelling. Eliot’s influence was palpable, so much so that in 1948, he earned a Nobel Prize for Literature. Beyond poetry, Eliot also wrote drama and was a literary critic. His work is available at Faber & Faber .

Famous quote: “Do I dare disturb the universe? In a minute, there is time for decisions and revisions, which a minute will reverse.”― T.S. Eliot .

64. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)

F. Scott Fitzgerald writing at a desk.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, born in St. Paul, was an American novelist, short story writer and Hollywood scriptwriter who became known for his vivid depiction of the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald is not just a famous writer, but one that is crucial to the breadth and depth of American literature and the concept of the American Dream itself. His masterpiece, The Great Gatsby , is a profound critique of the American Dream and one of the most important novels about the American ideal. Fitzgerald’s writing was often characterized by lyrical prose and tragic characters, which have made his work timeless. Other notable Fitzgerald books include Tender Is the Night and This Side of Paradise . His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald.

63. Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

French novelist Marcel Proust (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)

Marcel Proust, born in Auteuil, near Paris, France and he is best known for his crowing glory In Search of Lost Time ( À la Recherche du Temps Perdu ). The seven-volume series were published throughout his lifetime and even after his death, and they explored themes of memory, time and art with precise depth and elegance. Proust’s psychological insight has made his work a blueprint for modern writing. More specifically, his ability to capture the nuances of memory and the fleeting nature of time has made In Search of Lost Time a classic. The seven-part novel examines the story of Proust’s life, told as a quest to find truth and meaning. In the book, Proust wrote what was reported to be the longest sentence ever published, and holds the record for doing so at a whopping 847 words.​ Proust’s work introduced the concept of involuntary memory, which is often referred to as the “Proust Effect.” This concept describes how sensory experiences, like taste or smell, can prompt suppressed memories from the past. Other notable works by Proust include Swann’s Way ( Du Côté de Chez Swann ). Proust also wrote short stories, including Les Plaisirs et les Jours, and most of his works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”— Marcel Proust .

62. Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)

The French novelist Gustav Flaubert circa 1851.

Gustave Flaubert, renowned for his bourgeois-themed novel Madame Bovary , was a prominent author in the literary realism movement. It wasn’t just the themes of his work that distinguished him, but his obsessive attention to detail and pursuit of stylistic perfection which has set the high bar for other novelists, especially up-and-coming French writers. Flaubert’s candid portrayals of his characters made him a leading figure in the realist school of French literature and earned him the respect of his peers. Flaubert viewed writing as his life’s purpose, which is why he was able to create vivid characters and portray everyday life so poignantly. Although he was born in Rouen, France, Flaubert was an avid traveler who took the time to see the world outside of his comfort zone. His travel to countries like Egypt and Greece and the Middle East influenced his works, adding depth and authenticity to his descriptions, particularly in novels like Salammbô ​. Other well-known Flaubert pieces are Sentimental Education and Three Tales. His work is available at Simon& Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”― Gustav Flaubert .

61. Thomas Mann (1875-1955)

Portrait of German author Thomas Mann as he sits at his desk.

Thomas Mann was a German essayist and novelist best known for his novels Buddenbrooks , Der Tod in Venedig and Der Zauberberg, which contributed to earning him a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929. Mann’s first major novel, Buddenbrooks , was inspired by his personal experiences and his family’s background as merchants in Lübeck, Germany, where he was born. Buddenbrooks played a major role in earning him the Nobel Prize in Literature, but it was his other acclaimed work, The Magic Mountain, that would make him a household name. In The Magic Mountain, Mann highlighted complex themes of time, illness and death set against the backdrop of a Swiss sanatorium, which made the book a cultural touchstone and increased Mann’s critical acclaim. Notably, in his writings, Mann also critiqued the German government in many of his writings and was an outspoken critic of the Nazi regime. This led him to move to Switzerland in 1936 after he was exiled by Germany in 1933. He would later emigrate to the United States, where he lived until after World War II. His books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.” ― Thomas Mann .

60. J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Image of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien in a library.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who is famously known as J. R. R. Tolkien, was a South-African-English author, poet, professor and philologist whose high-fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy became pivotal literary landmarks in his career. Tolkien’s richly constructed world of Middle-earth, complete with its own languages, histories and cultures, has had a lasting impact on the fantasy genre and pop culture. Tolkien’s imagination, as depicted through his use of mythology, detailed maps and complex characters, has set the bar high for world-building in literature. As a writer and creator, Tolkien’s expertise in language was especially evident in his invention of Elvish languages like Quenya and Sindarin, which reflected his academic background as a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. His scholarly works, including his translations and studies of ancient texts such as "Beowulf," influenced his creative process and informed the depth of most of his fictional universe. Modern day filmmakers have used Tolkien’s work as a blueprint for bringing the lore of Middle-earth to the big screen. His creativity has inspired an array of adaptations, including animated films, live-action movies and numerous video games. Tolkein’s books are available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous quote: “Not all those who wander are lost.”― J.R.R. Tolkien .

59. Robert Frost (1874-1963)

American icon, poet Robert Frost.

Robert Frost, with his depiction of rural New England life, is one of America’s most celebrated poets. Frost’s simple and understated signature writing is what earned him four Pulitzer Prizes during the life of his career. Although the famous poet has been closely linked to New England, he was actually born in San Francisco, and only moved to Massachusetts at 11 after his father’s death. This move would later influence his career and reputation as a writer. Some of Frost’s prominent works include Mountain Interval , New Hampshire and A Witness Tree, all of which won Pulitzer Prizes. In addition to his literary accomplishments, Frost also had an impactful academic career that gave him the opportunity to teach at several colleges. He taught at Amherst College and also at Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, where he spent many summers teaching and mentoring young writers. Frost’s legacy extended beyond his poetry; he was invited to read a poem titled The Gift Outright at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Frost’s work are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”― Robert Frost .

58. Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)

Author Alexandre Dumas.

Alexandre Dumas is a key author of 19th century historical adventure novels, and is well known for stories like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers . Dumas was born in Villers-Cotterêts, France, and was of mixed race. This racial ambiguity would become a sticking point in his career and something that he would address in his 1843 novel Georges . Dumas’ family background also inspired his interest in historical-based writing. His father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, was an army general in Napoleon’s army and one of the highest-ranking officers. It can be easy to conclude that Dumas’ interest in using historical contexts as setting for his stories were inspired by his own background. Besides novels, Dumas also wrote memoirs and plays. Some of his most notable plays include Napoléon Bonaparte and the classic story of Antony. Dumas’ works are available at Barnes and Noble .

Famous quote: “Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”― Alexandre Dumas .

57. Nikolai Gogol (1809-1852)

Illustration of Nikolai Vassilievich Gogol.

Nikolai Gogol was a Ukrainian-born novelist, humorist and dramatist whose works were pivotal in the progression and reception of European literature. His satirical works, as depicted in stories like Dead Souls , masterfully critiqued the social and political issues of 19th-century Russia. Gogol employed his sharp wit and incisive observations on society to analyze issues of the corruption, greed and moral decay that were prevalent in 19th century Russian society. Other works like The Nose and The Overcoat depicted him as a versatile writer capable of employing creative techniques to make difficult topics more digestible for readers, and this solidified his credibility and earned him a reputation as an innovative writer. Gogol’s sharp intellect, coupled with his command of prose made him a well-respected writer whose influence continues to be relevant in Russian literature. His books can be found at Barnes & Noble .

Famous quote: “Always think of what is useful and not what is beautiful. Beauty will come of its own accord.”― Nikolai Gogol .

56. Haruki Murakami (1949- )

Haruki Murakami arrives at the "Princesa de Asturias" Awards at Teatro Campoamor on October 20, 2023 ... [+] in Asturias, Spain.

Haruki Murakami’s writing style is characterized by reflective and introspection. The contemporary Japanese author has gained a global following for the unique combination of surrealism and melancholy that he brings to his books. Born in Kyoto, his body of work includes novels, essays and short stories, and his books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Some of his famous pieces include Norwegian Wood, 1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore, which earned him the World Fantasy Award in 2006. Murakami’s work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “We’re both looking at the same moon, in the same world. We’re connected to reality by the same line. All I have to do is quietly draw it towards me.” — Haruki Murakami .

55. Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

Writer Kurt Vonnegut at home on April 12, 1972 in New York City.

Kurt Vonnegut was an author and short-story writer who was renowned for his wry, satirical novels, including The Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse-Five , a war-themed novel that was interspersed with cultural references that enriched its satirical edge. During his lifetime, Vonnegut shared that his work was influenced by George Orwell, Mark Twain and James Joyce, among others, and it is easy to see why. Apart from his unique and often bleakly humorous style, Vonnegut’s works frequently feature recurring themes such as the folly of war, the randomness of the universe, and the illusion of free will, especially in issues like death and life. The Indianapolis-born writer was also known for using the phrase ““And so it goes...” to illustrate the unavoidable finality of death. In his novel Cat’s Cradle , Vonnegut challenged the dangers of scientific advancement without moral oversight, while Player Piano — a book that seemed ahead of its time — discusses the economic hardship that can happen when human jobs becoming replaced by automated systems. A little known fact about Vonnegut’s humanitarian and scientific skepticism was the fact that he was a prisoner of war during World War II, and this influenced some of the angst in his writing, especially in Slaughterhouse-Five . Vonnegut’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “And so it goes...”― Kurt Vonnegut .

54. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Portrait Robert Louis Stevenson, 19th century English poet and novelist.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s writings were not just memorable, they had a life-like manner to them. Perhaps this was because of his superior writing skills, but notable classics like Treasure Island, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , which explored the duality of human nature, and Kidnapped , a historical adventure story set in Scotland, have made the Scotland-born essayist and poet a relevant figure even today. His evergreen insight into psychology is still resonant and impactful, offering timeless reflections on the human mind and the complex nature of morality and identity. A little known fact about Stevenson is his struggle with chronic health issues throughout his life, which influenced his writing style and themes. Regardless of his frail health, Stevenson traveled extensively, drawing inspiration from his journeys to places like the South Pacific, which influenced works such as In the South Seas . Although Stevenson’s father wanted him to pursue a career path in engineering, his decision to put pen to paper instead have earned him a distinguished place in literary history. Stevenson’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.”― Robert Louis Stevenson .

53. George Orwell (1903-1950)

Still image of Eric Arthur Blair also known as George Orwell.

George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair in India, was an English novelist, journalist and essayist best known for his wildly successful novels 1984 and Animal Farm . Orwell’s writing was known for its conciseness, clarity and political insight. He was also famous for his critique of totalitarianism and used his writing to advocate for democratic socialism. His commitment to social justice was not just evident in his fictional writing; it also came alive in his essays, journalism and memoirs. Orwell’s experiences in the Spanish Civil War, documented in his autobiographical account, Homage to Catalonia , and his insight into the lives of the poor in Down and Out in Paris and London , were a part of his advocacy as a storyteller who was committed to exposing social injustice. In essays like Shooting an Elephant and Politics and the English Language, Orwell proved that he could tackle complex political and social issues in a straightforward way that was also not trite. His ability to interweave personal experience with broader social commentary has left a lasting impression, not just on literature, but on global political thought. His works can be found at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” — George Orwell .

52. David Foster Wallace (1962-2008)

Close-up shot of Author David Foster Wallace.

Before becoming a renowned writer, David Foster Wallace was a competitive junior tennis player whose love for the sport often found its way into his writing, providing rich metaphors and insights into human behavior and competition​. The New York-born author completed his undergraduate degree at Amherst College, where he majored in English and philosophy. He was working towards his masters degree when his acclaimed debut novel, The Broom of the System was published . Other notable works from Wallace include Infinite Jest and short storie s like A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster, and Other Essays. Wallace’s writing is known for its signature use of by its use of extensive footnotes and endnotes, which provide additional commentary and tangential information, providing depth and context to his readers. This distinctive style has captivated readers and set his work apart from that of other contemporary writers. Wallace struggled with mental health throughout his career and this influenced a lot of his writing. At the time of his death in 2008, Wallace was working on a novel titled The Pale King . This unfinished manuscript was posthumously published in 2011 and received critical acclaim.. Wallace’s works are available at Hachette Book Group .

Famous quote: “The so-called “psychotically depressed” person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote “hopelessness” or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”― David Foster Wallace .

51. Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

Edith Wharton

American novelist and poet Edith Wharton was born in New York City into a well-established family. Her childhood was characterized by the finest luxuries that money could afford. Years later, this upbringing would inspire her writing because she later became well-known for her incisive portrayals of the American upper class. Her notable works, including The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome examined themes of social change, class and the often noisy bothers of social expectations. Wharton was also a prominent voice in World War I and was living as an expatriate in France when the war broke out. As opposed to leaving the country and returning to comfort in America, Wharton to chose to stay and write extensively about the events that unraveled during that period, and she has become one of the most prominent storytellers of that era because of her grit and dedication during that time. Wharton’s elegant writing style and observant social commentary have her a notable author, and her ability to capture the nuances of social interactions and the tensions between individual desires has made her work timeless. Wharton’s works are available through Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Silence may be as variously shaded as speech.” — Edith Wharton .

50 . James Baldwin (1924-1987)

American Writer James Baldwin in Paris.

James Baldwin, born in Harlem, New York City, was a significant voice in American literature and a powerful advocate for civil rights. Known for his honest opinions on themes of race, sexuality and identity, Baldwin’s writing style often combined his personal experiences with poignant social critique in a way that was both provocative and intelligent. His most influential works include Go Tell It on the Mountain , Giovanni’s Room and The Fire Next Time . Although he was primarily a novelist and essayist, Baldwin’s written work is comprised of many genres, including novels, short stories, essays, songs, children’s literature, poetry and drama. His works can be found at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin .

49. Voltaire (1694-1778)

Engraved portrait of Voltaire by Nicholas de Largilliere.

Voltaire, born François-Marie Arouet in Paris, was an Enlightenment writer and philosopher. His razor-sharp intellect and advocacy of civil liberties set him apart in his time. His writing career began early, and his unique interest in satire brought him both recognition and controversy. His satirical novella Candide , a scathing critique of optimism and organized religion, remains relevant today for its incisive commentary on human suffering and the foolishness of naive idealism. His other well-known work, Lettres Philosophiques, is an essay-style series that provides a unique insight into Voltaire's experiences in Britain. In addition to books, Voltaire also wrote poems, plays and polemics, each with its own unique perspective. This diversity in his work is a testament to his wide-ranging intellect and interests. His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.” — Voltaire.

48. Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

A portrait of poet, author, playwright and Harlem Renaissance leader Langston Hughes, New York, New ... [+] York, February 1959.

Langston Hughes was an important American poet, novelist, social activist, playwright and columnist from Joplin, Missouri, whose work spanned various genres, including poetry, short stories, novels and plays. Hughes was also influential during the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement of the 1920s and 1930s that celebrated African American cultural expressions and became a period that was renowned for its flourishing artistic, literary and intellectual achievements. This celebration of African American culture enriched the literary and artistic landscape of the time. Apart from leading the Harlem Renaissance movement, Hughes was also one of the creators of the literary genre known as jazz poetry, a rich form of literature that captures the core of jazz music and is illustrated by its jazz-like rhythm and focus on jazz music or musicians as its main elements. Born in 1902, Hughes’ writing frequently focused on the lives of Black Americans, their struggles, and their joys, marked by a sense of social justice and a celebration of Blackness. Some of his most notable works include The Weary Blues, Harlem , The Ways of White Folks and The Big Sea . His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”― Langston Hughes .

47. John Steinbeck (1902-1968)

John Steinbeck holds a press conference after being awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The working-class life is one that can seem so mundane and ordinary, yet John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, created a niche in literature for his honest and empathetic portrayal of working-class life. The Nobel Prize-winning American author knew that the average reader was a working-class member of society and he created characters to cater to that niche. His notable works include The Grapes of Wrath , The Pearl and East of Eden . A majority of Steinbeck’s writing is marked by its social consciousness and humanism. Steinback also wrote poems, plays and short stories. His work. is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “ I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession.” — John Steinbeck .

46. Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)

Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov in Montreux, Switzerland, circa 1965.

Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov is best known for his novel Lolita , a controversial yet masterfully written story about warped obsession and how depraved the human mind can become. Nabokov’s writing was always characterized by its poetic flow, intricate language, literary allusions and narrative structure. Nabokov dabbled in a lot of different types of writing, including poetry, science writing, translations and autobiographies. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece”― Vladimir Nabokov .

45. Albert Camus (1913-1960)

French writer Albert Camus poses for a portrait in Paris following the announcement of his being ... [+] awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

French-Algerian novelist and Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus was a true literary powerhouse, whose skill for the written word also earned him the titles of journalist, playwright, novelist and essayist. As a leader of the existentialism movement, Camus became best known for his novels The Stranger , The Plague and his philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus . His writings frequently addressed themes of justice, rebellion and otherness. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” ― Albert Camus .

44. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Friedrich Nietzsche was a Röcke, Germany-born philosopher whose provocative ideas and radical critiques of morality, religion and contemporary culture left an impact on intellectual history. Nietzsche was best known for his declaration that “God is dead” and his exploration of the concept of the Übermensch, with Nietzsche arguing that the Übermensch would transcend conventional Christian morality. His work addressed the human psyche, challenging traditional notions of truth, and frequently critiquing both traditional and modern values. His notable works, including Thus Spoke Zarathustra , The Birth of Tragedy , Beyond Good and Evil and The Genealogy of Morals , which offer a three-dimensional approach into the questions that lay the foundations for Western thought. Nietzsche’s work has influenced generations of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, poets, novelists, and playwrights. Apart from his philosophical influence, Nietzsche’s life was also marked by intense personal struggles like debilitating migraines and deteriorating eyesight, which forced him to retire from his professorship at a relatively young age. Interestingly, Nietzsche was also a composer, having created several musical pieces that reflected his complex and introspective worldview. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”― Friedrich Nietzsche .

43. Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)

German-born novelist Hermann Hesse, circa 1945.

Nobel Prize winner Hermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist and painter whose writing emphasized the importance of identity and non-conformity. The Calw, Germany-born writer is famous for books like Siddhartha , Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game. Hesse’s written pieces often went beyond the surface of exploring trite self-discovery and explored more complex issues like spirituality and self-actualization. As a true intellectual himself, many of Hessse’s characters also mimicked his sharp mind. Besides books, Hesse also wrote essays, short-stories and poems. His work is available at Macmillan Publishers .

Famous quote: “I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” — Hermann Hesse .

42. Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014)

Colombian writer and Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez poses for a portrait on September 11, ... [+] 1990 in Paris.

Gabriel García Márquez, a Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate, is one of the most prominent authors of the 20th century and one of the greatest Latin American writers in history. Born in Aracataca, his magical realism-themed novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, which earned him a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982, and Love in the Time of Cholera, are just two pieces in her reportoire that have given him worldwide critical acclaim. He was primarily known for his short story expertise and his books can be found at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous quote: “What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” — Gabriel García Márquez .

41. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

British author Thomas Hardy.

Stinsford, England-born Thomas Hardy was an novelist and poet who crafted a niche in his depictions of rural life and the struggles of ordinary, working-class people. His major works, including Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd , were pieces that centered themselves on themes of fate, suffering and the limitations of social class and structure. Hardy’s writing was always rich and textured, and his ability to capture the beauty and harshness of rural England made his work all the more appreciated. Hardy’s works are available through Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “A strong woman who recklessly throws away her strength is worse than a weak woman who has never had any strength to throw away.”― Thomas Hardy.

40. Margaret Atwood (1939- )

Margaret Atwood in Paris, 2014.

Margaret Atwood, a prolific Canadian poet and writer, is celebrated for her speculative fiction and mostly dystopian storylines. Her best-known work is top dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale , which has become a symbol of feminist resistance and has also been adapted for TV for its powerful storytelling. With over 50 books written, Atwood’s writing, which also includes essays and poetry, is marked by its incisive social commentary and imaginative scope. Atwood’s work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “ Storytelling is a very old human skill that gives us an evolutionary advantage. If you can tell young people how you kill an emu, acted out in song or dance, or that Uncle George was eaten by a croc over there, don't go there to swim, then those young people don't have to find out by trial and error.” - Margaret Atwood .

39. James Joyce (1882-1941)

James Joyce

Short story aficionado James Joyce is a prolific name in modernist literature and a name that resonates with many. His groundbreaking works, including Ulysses , A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Dubliners , are acclaimed for their experimental techniques and close examination of the human psyche. The Dublin-born author refined his skill not only as a master storyteller but also as a credible designer of fictional characters that are deeply relatable. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.” — James Joyce .

38. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Edgar Allan Poe in a 19th century print.

Mystery and macabre guru Edgar Allan Poe was an American short-story writer, literary critic, poet and editor whose Gothic-themed writing caught the world’s attention. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Poe is best known for his macabre-inclined stories like The Tell-Tale Heart , The Raven and The Fall of the House of Usher. In his personal life, Poe lived a troubled life that was rife with controversy and alleged alcoholism, which sometimes seemed to inspire his written work and its concise literary precision. Poe’s work can be found at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”― Edgar Allan Poe .

37. Herbert George Wells (1866-1946)

Herbert George Wells

Born in Bromley, England, Herbert George Wells is often regarded as the father of science fiction. His classic novels , such as The War of the Worlds , The Time Machine and The Invisible Man have inspired countless adaptations and continue to influence the literary landscape for emerging writers. Although Wells’ background as a child did not expose him to a lot of opportunities, his curiosity for learning helped to lay the foundation for his scholarly pursuits and, eventually, his writing career. He is often regarded as the leading literary spokesman for liberal optimism and much of his writing often analyzes themes of social justice and scientific ethics. His work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “ If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” — H.G. Wells .

36. Walt Whitman ( 1819-1892)

Walt Whitman in Camden, New Jersey, circa 1891.

Walt Whitman, born in West Hills, New York, is considered one of America’s most influential poets. At the age of 12, he had finished his formal education and taught himself how to read by visiting museums in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and frequently visiting the library. Whitman’s poetry was also a mold-breaker. It defied norms and conventional poetic writing forms, later earning him recognition as a trailblazer. This approach to writing was evident in the critically-acclaimed collection, Leaves of Grass , which celebrated democracy and nature with its free-verse style and caught the attention of readers, especially European readers. The collection went through nine editions throughout Whitman’s lifetime, each edition expanding and refining his vision of the American experience and becoming one of his most acclaimed projects. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Resist much, obey little.” — Walt Whitman .

35. Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

American poet and author Maya Angelou gestures while speaking during an interview at her home.

Actress, activist, memoirist and poet Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, was an American poet and civil rights activist whose literary acumen left a major imprint, not just on literature but on society. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which explore her childhood, early adult experiences, and rise to prominence. Angelou’s writing abandoned the trite for the raw, uncomfortable and challenging, often offering an unflinching honesty that made her writing both evocative and poignant. Her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , published in 1969, brought her international acclaim and recognition as a powerful advocate for Black women. Her poetry collections, such as And Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman, also earned her critical acclaim. Her works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “ You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I'll rise.” — Maya Angelou .

34. Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)

Illustrated image of English novelist Charlotte Brontë, seated with a small book in hand.

Charlotte Brontë was born in Thornton, England, to an Anglican clergyman father and a stay-at-home mother. She is best known for her novel Jane Eyre , a groundbreaking work in the development of the novel form and in the portrayal of the inner life of a woman, much of which mimicked her childhood and adulthood. Initially published under the name Currer Bell, Jane Eyre was a massive success and is regarded as a seminal English classic. Brontë’s writing had an intense emotional gravity to it and an acute attention to detail in its characters. Her work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.” — Charlotte Brontë .

33. George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) (1819-1880)

English novelist Mary Anne Evans, who wrote under the nom de plume of George Eliot (1819 - 1880), ... [+] pictured at the age of 30, circa 1849.

George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, was an English author who was well-respected for detailed and psychologically nuanced novels. Through her writing, she invented and later developed the method of psychological analysis, a form that was not used at the time. Born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, Evans grew up in a rural environment that influenced her later works. Her keen observations of village life, combined with her deep intellectual pursuits, allowed her to create some of the most enduring and insightful works of the 19th century. Some of her most significant works include The Mill on the Floss , Adam Bede and Silas Marner . Her work is available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.” — George Eliot .

32. Joseph Conrad ( 1857-1924)

Black and white portrait of Joseph Conrad.

Joseph Conrad, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, was a Polish-British short story writer and novelist who achieved a lot of recognition for notable bodies of work like Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, which focus on themes of colonialism, morality and angst. Conrad was born in Berdychiv, which was previously part of the Russian Empire at the time, and is now in Ukraine. His rich command of prose and ability to tell memorable stories in a way that felt personal to every reader who picked up his work were also a signature traits of his work. Conrad frequently examined themes of moral complexity and loneliness against the backdrop of the sea, and this was inspired by his days as a sailor. As a writer, Conrad had complex skill and striking insight into the human mind and its approach to the concept of good and evil. Conrad’s books are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Those who read me know my conviction that the world, the temporal world, rests on a few very simple ideas; so simple that they must be as old as the hills. It rests, notably, among others, on the idea of Fidelity.”― Joseph Conrad .

31. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)

Irish-born academic, writer and Christian apologist Clive Staples Lewis.

C.S Lewis, born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast, Ireland, was a well-respected British writer, scholar, and theologian whose paradigm-shifting works have impacted both literature and global Christian thought. He is best known for his beloved children's series, The Chronicles of Narnia , a series of seven fantasy novels that have enchanted readers for generations, as well as his significant contributions to Christian apologetics and his scholarly works on medieval and Renaissance literature. Despite his broad intellectual pursuits, Lewis always remained humble, and this quality endeared him to readers and colleagues. Lewis’ works are available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” — C.S. Lewis .

30. Joseph Heller (1923-1999)

American author Joseph Heller sits at a desk in his home, East Hampton, Long Island, New York, 1984. ... [+]

Joseph Heller, born in Brooklyn, was another master of satire and dark comedy. His satirical novel Catch-22 became one of the most important books in the 20th century and even in pop-culture. Thanks to his sharp sense of humor, biting satire and apt narration, Heller positioned himself as one of America’s greats after Catch-22 . Other notable works by Heller include Something Happened and Good as Gold. He also wrote plays, screenplays and autobiographical works. His play We Bombed in New Haven critiques the Vietnam War, and his autobiography Now and Then: From Coney Island to Here is a memoir about his life and career. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.”― Joseph Heller .

29. Stephen King (1947- )

Stephen King

Stephen King, famously known as the king of horror, was born in Portland, Maine, and is one of the most successful authors of contemporary times. King’s contributions to the horror genre as well as his extensive body of work, which spans novels, short stories, essays and screenplays, have made him a household name and an icon in popular culture. With over 60 novels and 200 short stories to his name, King’s ability to mix the gory supernatural with the everyday has thrilled and scared readers for decades. Some of his notable works include Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining among others. King has written non-fiction, screenplays, and even columns and his work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”― Stephen King .

28. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977- )

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian writer on the sidelines of a museum opening.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, born in Enugu, Nigeria, is a critically acclaimed Nigerian writer known for her novels, poems, short stories and essays that explore themes of identity, race, migration, gender and the Nigerian postcolonial experience. In 1997, after initially studying medicine in Nsukka, Adichie decided to emigrate to the United States to pursue further education, which led to a change in her career trajectory. She completed her undergraduate studies in communication and political science at Eastern Connecticut State University, graduating with a B.A. in 2001 before later earning a master’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University. Adichie would later study African history at Yale University, and this would inform a lot of her written work. Adichie’s powerful storytelling and intelligent storytelling have made her a global voice in literature. Some of Adichie’s best work includes her debut novel, Purple Hibiscus, as well as Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah, which received numerous accolades, including the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 2014. Her TED Talk, We Should All Be Feminists , has also been widely influential, leading to a book of the same name that has inspired discussions on feminism worldwide. Adichie’s works continue to resonate deeply with readers around the globe, addressing contemporary issues with nuance and depth. Her works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie .

27. Alice Walker (1944- )

American author and poet Alice Walker.

Alice Walker is an American novelist, poet, and activist known for her powerful exploration of race, gender and social issues. Born in 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia, Walker grew up as the youngest of eight children in a family of sharecroppers, and a BB gun accident at the age eight left her blind in one eye. After the accident, her mother gave her a typewriter, allowing her to write instead of doing chores. Her upbringing in the racially segregated South has influenced her work, and her writing vividly depicts Black life, offering readers insights into the experiences and struggles that define the Black community. In 1983, The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award; it was adapted into a film in 1985. Walker has also been honored with the Lillian Smith Award and the Mahmoud Darwish Literary Prize for Fiction. Other notable works by Walker include Meridian, The Third Life of Grange Copeland and Possessing the Secret of Joy . Her work is available at HarperCollins Publishers .

Famous Quote: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.”― Alice Walker .

26. Salman Rushdie (1947-)

Salman Rushdie receives the 2023 Peace Prize of the German book trade association at Paulskirche ... [+] church on October 22, 2023 in Frankfurt, Germany. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)

Indian-born British-American professor and writer Salman Rushdie began his writing career as an ad copywriter, but later decided to start writing books. His first novel, Grimus, was published in 1975 and went relatively unnoticed, but his second novel, Midnight’s Children, in 1981, catapulted him to literary stardom. The novel won the Booker Prize and was later awarded the Booker of Bookers for the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first 25 years. But Rushdie’s literary rise would later be clouded with a lot of controversy. In his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, he triggered outrage among some Muslims for his portrayal of the prophet Muhammad. The book’s release led to widespread protests, bans in several countries, and, most notably, a fatwa calling for his assassination issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989. The fatwa forced Rushdie into hiding under police protection for many years, significantly impacting his personal and professional life. Rushdie, nevertheless, continued to be a target. During a 2022 speaking engagement in Chautauqua, New York, Rushdie was brutally stabbed while on stage, effectively blinding him in his right eye and causing him permanent nerve damage. The attack inspired his memoir, Knife . Rushdie is still alive and continues to write. Most of Rushdie’s writing style is steeped in magical allegory and fantasy, and his work is available at Penguin .

Famous Quote: What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”― Salman Rushdie .

25. Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964)

Photo of American writer Flannery O'Connor.

An extraordinary ability to coordinate the grotesque and the profound to create unsettling and insightful stories defines Flannery O'Connor’s legacy. The Southern Gothic fiction guru was born in Savannah, Georgia, to a devout Catholic family, and this background would later significantly impact her writing. Many of O’Connor’s novels are centered around questions of morality and redemption through a religious lens. Some of O’Connor’s most notable works include A Good Man Is Hard to Find , Wise Blood, and Everything That Rises Must Converge . The Southern writer wrote novels and is renowned for her short stories, considered some of the best in American literature. At some point in her life, O’Connor also considered a career as a cartoonist but did not fully pursue that career track. Despite her short life, O’Connor’s works continue to resonate with readers for portraying the complex nature of faith and humanity. Her stories remain important for those seeking to understand the darker yet redeemable aspects of humans.

Famous quote: “I don't deserve any credit for turning the other cheek, as my tongue is always in it.” ― Flannery O’Connor .

24. Herman Melville (1819-1891)

Painting of Herman Melville by Joseph Eaton.

Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer and poet known for his deep and dark storylines that explored themes of fate and free will. The New York City-born writer grew up in a family that faced financial difficulties after his father’s death, prompting him to work various jobs. Melville attended the Albany Academy but left to work as a clerk, a teacher and eventually a sailor on whaling ships. These experiences particularly influenced his literary work, including being a sailor, which provided him with maritime experiences that would inspire much of his writing. His complex approach to the art of plotting, his symbolic depth, and his exploration of existential undertones characterize Melville’s writing style. His ancestors were among the Scottish and Dutch settlers of New York who played significant roles in the American Revolution and the competitive commercial and political arenas of the emerging nation. His grandfather, Major Thomas Melville, participated in the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and later became an importer in New York. Some of Herman Melville’s most influential works include Moby-Dick , Bartleby, the Scrivener and Billy Budd, Sailor , which was published posthumously in 1924. Melville’s books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”― Herman Melville .

23. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci by Lattanzio Querena.

Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian polymath whose primary interests included painting, sculpture, music, mathematics and literature. While he is primarily known as an artist and scientist, his literary contributions, including his notebooks filled with observations, sketches and musings, have also had a significant impact on the evolution of art and science for centuries. Leonardo ’s notebooks, such as the Codex Atlanticus and the Codex Leicester , reveal his incisive insights into anatomy, engineering and hydraulics. His meticulous records and innovative ideas have inspired generations of scientists and artists. Some of Vinci’s written works are available in places like the Louvre, the Biblioteca Nacional de España, and Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, to name a few, but Vinci is primarily known for creating The Last Supper and his magnum opus, Mona Lisa. Leonardo’s holistic approach to artistic design and expression embodied the Renaissance humanist ideal and influenced public thought through its enduring relevance in both the arts and sciences, making him a classic icon.

Famous quote: “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ― Leonardo da Vinci .

22. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Photo of Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde sitting down.

Irish poet Oscar Wilde was a playwright, lecturer and novelist whose writing can be defined as witty and flamboyant. The Dublin-born writer became renowned for notable works like The Picture of Dorian Gray , The Importance of Being Earnest and An Ideal Husban d. Wilde’s enduring popularity can be credited to his precise exploration of aestheticism and ability to harmonize humor with social critiques, which allowed him to expose Victorian society’s specific hypocrisies and superficialities. Wilde was also a well-respected person in the Aesthetic Movement, which advocated art for art’s sake and emphasized beauty and sensory experiences over moral or narrative content. Despite facing personal and legal challenges, including a highly publicized trial and imprisonment for his homosexuality, Wilde’s legacy is defined by his literary brilliance and his aphoristic wit. His essays, such as The Critic as Artist and The Soul of Man under Socialism , also showed his intellectual depth and advocacy for individuality and artistic freedom, much of which was inspired by his extensive education at Trinity College, Dublin, Magdalen College and Oxford. His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― Oscar Wilde .

21. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe circa 1800.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director and critic who is famous for his work on Faust, a Tragedy, a dramatic two-part play that is considered one of the finest works of German literature. Goethe’s contributions to literature, philosophy and science have made him a focal figure in European intellectual history, and the Frankfurt-born luminary is considered one of the greatest German literary figures of the modern era. Beyond Faust , Goethe’s also gained acclaim for works such as The Sorrows of Young Werther , which is credited with launching the Sturm und Drang literary movement, and Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship , which became a center piece in the development of the Bildungsroman genre. Goethe’s poetry, including collections like West-östlicher Divan , showcases his wide-ranging palette and his engagement with diverse cultures and philosophies. His scientific work, particularly in the fields of botany and optics, demonstrated his holistic approach to understanding nature, culminating in influential texts like Metamorphosis of Plants and his theories on color, which he detailed in Theory of Colours . As a statesman, Goethe played an active role in the cultural and political life of Weimar, contributing to the Weimar Classicism movement alongside his friend Friedrich Schiller. His intellectual curiosity and interdisciplinary approach made him a polymath, deeply influencing the Romantic movement and shaping modern thought in both the humanities and sciences. Goethe’s legacy endures not only in his literary masterpieces but also in his profound impact on the intellectual and cultural developments of his time. Goethe’s works can be found at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe .

20. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Colorized photograph of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, late 1800s.

Born in Portland, Maine, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet, professor and translator who is considered the most popular American poet in the 19th century. Longfellow’s early life and education gave him a solid foundation for his career and the intellectual acuity to compose the lyrical poetry that he did. After graduating from the Portland Academy, Longfellow studied at Bowdoin College, where he later became a professor upon his return from Europe, where he became proficient in Romance and Germanic languages. Longfellow was always skilled in translation. During his time in Europe, he honed his skills by immersing himself in various languages and literature that influenced his work. Some of his most famous works are The Song of Hiawatha, Evangeline , Tales of a Wayside Inn and Paul Revere’s Ride. Many of Longfellow’s poems were quite introspective, offering readers insight into human nature and all of its intricacies. As an educator, Longfellow was also a professor at Harvard College, where he influenced generations of students with his passion for literature and languages. Although Longfellow was primarily a poet, his impact on American literature extends beyond his poetry. He was instrumental in popularizing European literature in the United States through his translations of works like Dante’s Divine Comedy and he also wrote novels. His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow .

19. Jules Verne (1828-1905)

Colorized photo of Jules Verne (1828-1905), French writer. (Photo by Boyer/Roger Viollet via Getty ... [+] Images)

France-born author Jules Verne is often regarded as one of the fathers of science fiction because of his sharp imagination and thorough research, which brought to life classics like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea , Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in 80 Days . His stories often focus on adventure, exploration and the possibilities of science, which reflected the technological advancements of his era. Verne did not always aspire to be a writer, and his father initially wanted him to become a lawyer, but when those plans failed, he worked at the Paris stock exchange before becoming a writer. Verne’s thorough descriptions of submarines, space travel and airships were visionary and inspired a generation of many scientists and inventors who also had an interest in writing. Apart from writing novels, Verne was also a playwright and poet, and despite early rejections and financial struggles, Verne’s determination made him one of the best-selling authors of all time, with his works translated into many languages and adapted into films, TV shows and theater. Verne’s books are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.”― Jules Verne .

18. William Blake (1757-1827)

William Blake

William Blake was a London-born author who is considered one of the best English writers and painters of all time. Some of his well-respected works include Poetical Sketches, S ongs of Innocence, Songs of Experience and Visions of the Daughters of Albion. Apart from his work as an author, Blake was an engraver, artist, poet and visionary whose art was informed by his spiritual worldviews, and although he was not a was a religious seeker, he believed in the movement. During his lifetime, Blake’s work was often underestimated because his views and poetic style seemed to be ahead of his time, and also because he was regarded as being somewhat mentally unwell, because of behavior that would be thought of as only slightly eccentric today. Regardless, Blake would later become appreciated for his creativity and the philosophical tangents that guided his work. Blake’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”― William Blake .

17. John Donne (1572-1631)

John Donne circa 1610.

John Donne was not just fascinating as a poet. His life was a colorful adventure that often seeped into his poems, which are considered landmark feats of language. Donne was born into a Roman Catholic family in London at a time when practicing Catholicism was illegal in England and despite of his impressive education at Oxford and Cambridge, he could not get a degree because, as a Catholic, he refused to take the Oath of allegiance to queen Elizabeth. Donne endured significant poverty for a major part of his lifetime and this led him to pour all of his energy and resources into writing about theology, canon law, anti-Catholic polemics and love poems. Donne’s poetic style, which had a lot of depth and intellectual rigor, was ahead of its time and not widely recognized during his life. In fact, his works Songs and Sonnets, Holy Sonnets and Anniversaries were all published after his death. His works are available at Canon Press .

Famous quote: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”― John Donne .

16. Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra circa 1590.

Miguel de Cervantes was a Spanish novelist, playwright and poet best known for his classic Don Quixote , often considered the first modern novel in history. Many critics consider Cervantes to be a contemporary of Shakespeare and this title holds even more meaning since the literary giants died within a day of each other in April of 1616. Born in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, Cervantes’ life had all of the elements of a good movie: adventure, action, hardship and eventual success. He served as a soldier and was severely wounded at the Battle of Lepanto, losing the use of his left hand. In 1575, he was captured by Barbary pirates and spent five years as a slave in Algiers before being ransomed and returning to Spain where he would spend 25 years before finally striking gold with Don Quixote. His final novel Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda , was published posthumously in 1616. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.”― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra .

15. Elena Ferrante (1943-)

Some of the books of Elena Ferrante at Piu Libri Piu Liberi Publishing Fair on December 6, 2017 in ... [+] Rome.

Elena Ferrante is the pseudonym of the Italian author known for L’amica Geniale , Delia’s Elevator and the Neapolitan Novels, a four-part series of fiction that has made her a leading, yet mysterious voice in modern-day fictional writing. Despite the worldwide acclaim of her work, Ferrante’s true identity is still a mystery and this has added to the intrigue and speculation surrounding her. The mysterious New York Times bestselling author has communicated through her publisher stating that anonymity is important for her writing process, allowing her to focus solely on her work without public scrutiny. Apart from novels, Ferrante has published several essays and interviews where she discusses her approach to writing and her views on literature and society, providing rare insights into her creative mind. Her writing has showcased her psychological insight, complex characters and exploration of friendship, identity and the struggles of women in a patriarchal society. Despite the speculation and attempts to uncover her identity, Ferrante has successfully maintained her privacy, letting her work speak for itself. In 2016, Time m agazine named Ferrante one of the 100 most influential people. Her books are available at Europa Editions .

Famous quote: “Words: with them you can do and undo as you please.”― Elena Ferrante .

14. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Dante Alighieri circa early 14th Century.

Dante Alighieri was an Italian poet, politician and author who is regarded as one of the greatest poets of all time and his magnum opus, The Divine Comedy, was the primary piece that gained him a lot of popularity . A little-known fact about Dante is that he was heavily involved in the politics of Florence, which led to his exile. This exile influenced a lot of his writing, particularly in The Divine Comedy , in which he depicts his political enemies suffering in hell. Dante also wrote in the vernacular Italian rather than Latin, which helped standardize the Italian language and shape the cultural and literary landscape of Italy. Dante also authored several other important works such as De Monarchia , a treatise on secular and religious power, and Vita Nuova , which explores his idealized love for Beatrice Portinari and his poetic development. Alighieri’s writings also cover a wide range of topics, from ethics and politics to metaphysics. His writing also reflected a deep engagement with the philosophical and theological debates of his time, blending his political views with his spiritual and intellectual interests.​ His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”― Dante Alighieri .

13. Plato (428-7 B.C.E - 348-7 B.C.E.)

Head of Plato circa B.C. 428 - B.C. 248.

Plato was a student of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle, one of the most influential philosophers in Western history and a leader of Claslassical Antiquity. Aside from his contributions to philosophy, Plato founded the Academy in Athens, one of the earliest institutions of higher learning in the Western world, writing extensively on a variety of subjects, including politics, ethics and metaphysics. Most of his works often featured Socratic dialogues, a method of questioning designed to inspire critical thinking. His dialogues, such as The Republic , Phaedo and Symposium did not only examine political theory but also discussed the nature of reality, knowledge and the ideal state. Plato is often credited for the development of the Theory of Forms, a concept that proposes non-material abstract forms, or ideas, as the most accurate reality. This theory has had a lasting impact on subsequent philosophical thought. Also, his work Timaeus is one of the earliest detailed accounts of the natural world which combined philosophy and proto-science. Plato was heavily involved in politics extended beyond his theoretical writings because he intended to implement his philosophical ideas in the political realm, particularly in Syracuse, although these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and led to his temporary imprisonment. His works are available at Hackett Publishing .

Famous quote: “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”― Plato .

12. Sophocles (496 BCE- 406)

Sophocles was a Colonus-born playwright who was one of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. Sophocles is best known for Ajax, Oedipus Rex and Antigone. He served as a general in the Athenian military and was active in public service, which influenced his writings on justice and themes of duty in his plays. Sophocles was immenseley talented, which led him to win reportedly winning 24 out of 30 dramatic competitions he entered. Sophocles was also a pioneer in stagecraft, introducing innovations such as the use of a third actor , scene painting, and stage machinery to create more elaborate and visually striking productions. His emphasis on character development and psychological depth marked a significant advancement in the art of storytelling and Greek theater. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”― Sophocles .

11. François Rabelais (Approximately 1483–94- 1553)

Poet Francois Rabelais. Canvas from a anonymous French painter. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

François Rabelais was a French Renaissance writer and an avid traveler who is famed for his series of masterpieces called Gargantua and Pantagruel , which were published between 1532 and 1564. What many people don't know is that Rabelais was also a physician and a monk before he turned to writing. His works were often satirical and critical of the Church and society, which led to them being condemned by the Sorbonne, France’s prestigious institute for culture and academics. Rabelais’s background in medicine significantly influenced his writing, infusing his work with detailed anatomical and medical knowledge, often used to humorous effect. Rabelais was also known for his advocacy for education, echoing the intellectual spirit of the Renaissance. He promoted the idea that humans should be educated broadly in arts and sciences to develop fully. His works are available at Delphi Classics .

Famous quote: “there are more fools than wise men in all societies, and the larger party always gains the upper hand”― François Rabelais .

10. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400)

Geoffrey Chaucer circa 1342-1400.

Geoffrey Chaucer is often hailed as the father of English literature, but a lesser-known fact is that Chaucer was also a diplomat and a civil servant, and this had a major impact on his life as a literary icon. Chaucer was born in London, but he traveled extensively across Europe, and like many writers, his travels influenced his literary works. His exposure to travel also inspired him to become fluent in several languages, including French, Italian and Latin, which added depth to his writing. Some of Chaucer’s notable works include The Canterbury Tales , which is considered one of the greatest poetic works in English. Chaucer’s career in public service was also impactful. As a civil servant, he held various positions, including courtier, diplomat and Member of Parliament, and many of his leadership roles gave him insight into the lives of ordinary people, much of which he vividly portrayed in his characters. His diplomatic missions took him to Italy, where he encountered the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, profoundly influencing his own literary style and themes. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained”― Geoffrey Chaucer .

9. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Virginia Woolf, circa 1902.

This list would be incomplete without Virginia Woolf. Woolf was born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London, and devoted an enormous part of her career to becoming a major figure in the modernist literary movement. Her stream-of-consciousness writing style as exemplified in iconic bodies of work like Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse prove that Woolf was in a league of her own. The themes in her writing often included identity, time and the complexity of the human nature. Apart from novels, Woolf also explored essays, literary history, biographical writing and women’s issues. Woolf tragically died by suicide in 1941. Before her death, she founded her own publishing company, Hogarth Press, in 1917, but her work is available at Penguin Random House .

Famous quote: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” — Virginia Woolf .

8. Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)

Fyodor Dostoevsky, circa 1865.

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, born in Moscow, had an approach to writing that stood out for its psychological penetration and exploration of darker themes. The short story expert had a list of impressive and critically acclaimed works, including Crime and Punishment , The Brothers Karamazov, The Possessed and The Idiot, all of which explored the human soul and moral dilemmas. Dostoevsky suffered from epilepsy throughout his life, which he uses as a source of inspiration for his writing by frequently depicting characters with epilepsy, and exploring the associated mental and emotional struggles that came with the condition. Outside of fiction, Dostoevsky often wrote extensiovely in letters and diaries about the anxiety that his epileptic seizures caused. After suffering successive seizures that resulted in three pulmonary hemorrhages, Dostoevsky passed away in 1881. During his lifetime as a writer, his writing style employed the use of gothic elements, chaotic storytelling and freeform storytelling. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect, he ceases to love.” — Fyodor Dostoevsky .

7. Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Illustration of British novelist Charles Dickens sitting in his study in Gads Hill near Rochester, ... [+] Kent, England, circa 1860.

After his interest in theater waned, Charles Dickens pivoted careers and chose to become a writer. It would be a decision that would earn him recognition as one of the greatest novelists of the Victorian era. Known for his vivid characters and memorable depictions of social class, injustice and hierarchy, the Portsmouth, England-born journalist’s ability to create a broad array of characters is nothing like any other writer on this list. Some classics that Dickens wrote include A Tale of Two Cities , Great Expectations and the world-renowned Oliver Twist . His works often highlighted the plight of the poor and critiqued the class system. Dickens also wrote plays and engaged in journalism and travel writing. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” — Charles Dickens .

6. Jane Austen (1775-1817)

Illustrated portrait of Jane Austen.

Jane Austen, born in Steventon, England, is famous not just for her iconic books Pride and Prejudice , Emma and Sense and Sensibility ; she was also one of the trailblazers of the British novel. Her approach to the development of modern characters and her ability to make ordinary people extraordinary are what made her writing so popular and widely read. Austen’s contributions were not just to British writing alone but to the entire global landscape of emerging writers, past and present. Her writing offered doses of wit and acute commentary on societal issues like class and social status. Austen’s writing has been regarded as fundamentally grounded in burlesque, parody and free indirect speech. Her work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” — Jane Austen.

5. Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway , born in Oak Park, Illinois, was a prolific figure in American literature and a brilliant writer, hunter, sailor, former spy and explorer. He became known for his larger-than-life persona and distinctive writing style, which was marked by economical prose. Hemingway’s literary career was as adventurous as his personal life, and his works have always been a topic of discussion in literary circles and popular culture. Hemingway’s personal life, which influenced his writing, was as dramatic as his fiction. As an avid adventurer, he traveled extensively, engaging in big-game hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain and deep-sea fishing in the Caribbean. Some of his most notable works include For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea , which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953. Although he is best known for his fiction and non-fiction novels and short stories, he also wrote in other genres. His works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” — Ernest Hemingway .

4. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Writer Leo Tolstoy sitting at desk in his study.

Leo Tolstoy’s strength as a writer came alive through his exploration of philosophical themes and analysis. Born in Yasnaya Polyana, Russia, Tolstoy is best known for his iconic novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina . Most of his writing showcases his mastery of realistic fiction and ability to create out-of-the-box plots. As a well-respected figure in Russian literature, Tolstoy’s literary influence extends beyond his novels to his essays on religion, non-violence and education. His work is available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous quote: “Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.” — Leo Tolstoy .

3. Virgil (70 BCE- 19 BCE)

Detail of a mosaic of Virgil.

Virgil, born Publius Vergilius Maro, is known as one of the most well-respected poets of ancient Rome. Despite his humble beginnings, Virgil received an excellent education in Cremona, Milan, and finally Rome, where he studied rhetoric, medicine and astronomy before focusing on philosophy and poetry. Virgil is renowned as one of ancient Rome's greatest poets and his most notable works include The Eclogues , The Georgics and The Aeneid , which stands out as a monumental epic that weaves together the journey of the Trojan hero Aeneas with themes of fate, duty and heroism, ultimately glorifying Rome and Emperor Augustus. Despite his illustrious career, Virgil struggled with health issues and led a reclusive life. His philosophical leanings towards Epicureanism subtly influenced his literary themes. Virgil died before he could complete The Aeneid to his satisfaction and requested that the work be destroyed on his deathbed, a wish that Augustus famously overruled. Virgil's influence endured through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, which made his legacy even stronger as an oundational figure in Western literature​. Virgil’s works are available at Simon & Schuster .

Famous Quote: “ Audaces fortuna iuvat (latin)- Fortune favors the bold.”― Virgil .

2. Homer (Around 8th century BC)

A colorized engraving of Homer with eyes superimposed.

Homer, the quintessential ancient Greek poet, is credited with composing The Iliad and The Odyssey , two legendary poems that are foundational works of ancient Greek literature and the Western literary tradition. The Iliad focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles during the last year of the Trojan War, emphasizing themes of heroism, glory and the wrath of Achilles. The Odyssey follows the challenging ten-year journey of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, as he strives to return home after the fall of Troy. A major part of Homer’s mystique lies in the fact that very little is known about the Greek author’s life and most of his background is shrouded in mystique and mystery, it is generally believed he lived around the 8th or 9th century B.C. Multiple cities, including Smyrna, Chios and Ios, claim to be Homer’s birthplace, but that has been speculative. Homer is also one of the most influential authors in the widest sense, because of the two epics that he created that provided the basis of Greek education and culture throughout the Classical age. Homer’s works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “Out of sight,out of mind”― Homer .

1. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Colorized illustration (after a John Cochran print) of English playwright William Shakespeare.

There are a select few names that remain ever-present in history and never fade into the background. Names like Jesus Christ, The Beatles and Michael Jackson have a permanent presence on the world’s collective memory, and William Shakespeare falls into that timeless category as well. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, is often regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His works include 38 plays, 154 sonnets and several narrative poems, all of which have had a permanent impact on literature and theater globally. Shakespeare’s repertoire does not only conform to a specific era, but has an such as enduring appeal that is relevant in works like Hamlet , Romeo and Juliet , Othello , King Lear and Macbeth continue to be performed and studied in institutions worldwide. Although Shakespeare’s early works were mainly comedies and histories, he is best known for his tragedies, which were written between 1601 and 1608 and explored complex themes of betrayal, love, ambition and the supernatural. His last plays, often categorized as romances or tragicomedies, include The Tempest , The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline . A lesser-known fact about Shakespeare is that he was also a businessman and a shareholder in the Globe Theatre. His works are available at Penguin Random House .

Famous Quote: “We know what we are, but not what we may be.”― William Shakespeare .

Bottom Line

This list highlights 101 wordsmoths across history, eras and time, from William Shakespeare and Jane Austen to George Orwell and García Márquez. It celebrates their undeniable and untainted contributions to human thought, covering various genres and reminding readers not just of their ageless legacies, but their quintessential impact.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who are top famous romance novelists.

Jane Austen is one of the most well-respected romance novelists , celebrated for her keen social commentary and timeless love stories. Austen's works are renowned for their insight into  romantic relationships and the societal norms of 19th-century England.

Danielle Steel is a best-selling author in the romance genre, with over 190 books to her name. Steel's ability to market stories that are relatable and compelling has made her a modern-day fan-favorite in the genre.

Who Are Notable Female Authors?

Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize-winning author known for her impactful writings which explore race and impact. Her novels, such as Beloved and The Bluest Eye , explore the African American experience with depth and serious reflection.

Virginia Woolf is a key figure in modernist literature, known for her innovative narrative techniques and exploration of the inner lives of her characters. Her seminal works, including Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse , have influenced generations of writers and readers. 

Who Are Notable Black Authors?

Maya Angelou was a poet, memoirist and civil rights activist who autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings provided a seminal text into the exploration of identity, racism and resilience. Angelou's lyrical prose and powerful storytelling have left an incredible mark on literature and continue to inspire readers all over the world.

James Baldwin  was an influential writer and social critic whose writings honestly addressed the complex themes of race, sexuality and identity. His novels, which include Go Tell It on the Mountain and Giovanni's Room are celebrated for their eloquence and emotional depth. 

Who Are The Best 20th Century Novelists?

F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for his novel The Great Gatsby , an important 20th century story about the American Dream gone awry. Fitzgerald's fictional, yet candid review of wealth, love and social change in the Jazz Age has made him a defining voice of 20th-century American literature.

George Orwell , author of 1984 and Animal Farm , is known for his acute critiques of totalitarianism and his honest criticism of social justice issues. Orwell's works are noted for their clarity, wit and relevance, making him one of the most important writers of the 20th century.

Who Are The Best 19th Century Novelists?

Charles Dickens is one of the most recognized writers of the 19th century who was known for his vivid characters and social commentary. Stories like A Tale of Two Cities , Great Expectations and Oliver Twist highlight Dickens' ability to combine compelling narratives with critiques of Victorian society.

Leo Tolstoy , the Russian novelist, is celebrated for his epic works War and Peace and Anna Karenina . Tolstoy's exploration of human experience, history, and morality in his novels has made him a cornerstone of world literature.

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