Pride and Prejudice Summary

Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

Pride and Prejudice Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, begins with a famous line often quoted in other works of literature and pop culture alike: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” The line is important because it summarizes the driving force that motivates many of the characters, Elizabeth Bennett, the novel’s focal characters, is the second-oldest of five sisters. She is known for her wit, her love of walking, and her enjoyment of books. She is a gentleman’s daughter, which means that she is expected, especially by her mother, to land a husband with both income and social connections.

The book begins with the arrival of a new neighbor in the area: Mr. Bingley, a young, wealthy bachelor of high social standing. Mrs. Bennett is convinced that her daughters must be the first young ladies to meet him, and that if this does happen, he will marry one of them. She begs Mr. Bennett to go and visit him so that he can introduce them all. Mr. Bennett initially refuses, but ends up meeting Bingley anyway, before a local ball. He is therefore able to introduce his wife and daughters to Bingley—and to Bingley’s wealthier friend and guest, Mr. Darcy. Bingley and Jane Bennett, Elizabeth’s older sister, immediately become fond of one another. In an attempt to get his serious friend to enjoy the ball, Bingley suggests that Darcy ask Elizabeth to dance. Darcy coldly refuses and is overheard by Elizabeth, who decides that he is the proudest, most insufferable man she has ever met, and swears never to dance with him.

The Bennett family sides with Elizabeth in her dislike of Mr. Darcy, but revel in their admiration of Mr. Bingley. When the militia comes to camp nearby, Elizabeth befriends Mr. Wickham, a soldier who has a history with Mr. Darcy. Wickham tells Elizabeth that his father was Darcy’s father’s steward at the Darcy mansion, Pemberley. The two boys grew up together as friends, but after Darcy’s father died, according to Wickham, Darcy denied him the living promised to him by his late father—that of a local minister. Wickham’s story cements Elizabeth’s dislike of Darcy. During this time, Darcy and Elizabeth meet by chance several times, and Darcy begins to like her, though he dislikes her family and considers them an embarrassment.

Meanwhile, the Bennetts receive a visit from their cousin, Mr. Collins. There is tension in the household because the Bennetts know that Mr. Collins is set to inherit their home after Mr. Bennett dies. Mrs. Bennett is convinced that when this happens, Mr. Collins will turn them all out of their home. She decides that Mr. Collins should marry Elizabeth, and convinces him that she, of all the Bennett sisters, would be the best match for him. Elizabeth cannot stand Mr. Collins, and considers him to be ridiculous. She denies his suit, earning her mother’s anger but retaining her father’s respect. Mr. Collins ends up marrying Elizabeth’s friend Charlotte. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Bingley’s affections toward Jane go cold and he returns to London, and Elizabeth is certain it’s Darcy’s fault.

She receives an invitation to visit Charlotte and Mr. Collins near Rosings Park, the home of Lady Catherine, Mr. Collins’ patroness. Lady Catherine also happens to be Darcy’s aunt, so when Elizabeth visits her friend and cousin, she ends up seeing Darcy. He asks her to marry him, but not before telling her it’s against his better judgment, as her family connections are so lacking. Elizabeth vehemently refuses on the grounds that he is ungentlemanly to say such a thing, that he ruined Wickham’s life, and that he denied her sister Jane her happiness. Darcy leaves and returns to Rosings, where he writes her a letter. In his letter he describes what really happened with Wickham.

Following his father’s death, Darcy had offered Wickham his living as a minister. However, Wickham asked instead for the money it was worth, and Darcy obliged. Wickham quickly spent that money, and convinced Darcy’s younger sister, Georgiana, to elope with him, betraying Darcy’s trust. Darcy also explains that yes, he convinced Bingley not to marry Jane, though he also says that he considers Elizabeth and Jane to be the best of their family.

Elizabeth returns home unsure of what or who to believe, so she keeps this information to herself. She is then invited by her aunt and uncle to travel north with them, and ends up touring Pemberley, where she meets Darcy and Georgiana. Before Elizabeth and Darcy have a chance to clear the air, Elizabeth receives letters from Jane that detail how Wickham and their impetuous sister Lydia have run off together and are nowhere to be found. Facing familial ruin, Elizabeth is upset. Darcy tries to comfort her, and then leaves. She returns home.

Lydia and Wickham are found, and they marry, saving the Bennetts’ reputation. Elizabeth learns from Lydia that it was Darcy who found them, paid Wickham’s debts, and insisted they marry. She realizes that Darcy is a good person, and that she had made an inaccurate assessment of his character. She also realizes that she’s in love with him. Lady Catherine pays Elizabeth a visit to scold her and make Elizabeth promise not to marry Darcy, on account of the fact that he was already promised to her own daughter. Elizabeth refuses to make any such promise and asks Lady Catherine to leave.

Bingley and Darcy return to the neighborhood so that Bingley can ask Jane to marry him. Darcy had confessed to Bingley that he was wrong to stop him before. Bingley and Jane get engaged, and Darcy and Elizabeth follow suit after Elizabeth has assured Jane and her father that she does indeed love Darcy, and that he isn’t the villain she thought him to be. The book ends with a double wedding.