Pride and Prejudice, published in 28 January 1813, is one of the first romantic comedies in the modern novel's history. Written by Jane Austen, it follows the story of the Bennet Family, which is comprised of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their five daughters: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia. Elizabeth emerges as the book's heroine.
One of the main, though subtle, dilemmas of Pride and Prejudice refers to the way women are perceived in 19th century English society. The Bennet family, for example, feels the absence of a son and a brother rather keenly. It is a loss that cannot seem to be replaced even with five daughters. This absence of a son is a major issue because the family's estate can only be inherited through the male line, which means that upon the death of their father, the house and the surrounding land would go to a distant relative, and the girls would become homeless and nearly destitute.
This is the crux of the problem that drives Pride and Prejudice forward, for now the task of marrying off all five daughters, and securing the family's financial comfort and stability becomes of primary importance. The oldest and the most beautiful daughter is quickly thrown in the path of Mr. Bingley, a rich young man renting a large estate in the neighborhood.
Fortunately, Mr. Bingley and Jane seem to have gotten off to a good start. Mr. Bingley is regarded as an affable young man, a perfect beau for the lovely and rather shy Jane, and Mrs. Bennet attempts to push the relationship into a speedy and happy conclusion. Unfortunately, the other members of Mr. Bingley's party - specifically his sister and his best friend, the contemptuous Mr. Darcy, don't seem to agree. Mr. Bingley is eventually persuaded to leave for London.
Meanwhile, the legal heir to the Bennet estate, the pompous clergyman Mr. Collins has made his appearance. In an effort to make amends for his role in depriving the Bennets of their estate, he offers to marry one of his cousins, and settles on Elizabeth. His proposal however, is rebuffed and he quickly begins an engagement with Elizabeth's close friend, Charlotte Lucas.
Elizabeth also meets Mr. Wickham, a dashing young officer in the regiment. Mr. Wickham quickly turns Elizabeth against Mr. Darcy, after confiding in her a tale of wrongdoing done to him by the man many years ago. Soon after, Elizabeth is invited to the new home of Charlotte, now Mrs. Collins. It is intimated that Mr. Darcy's aunt is Mr. Collins benefactor.
Fate then throws both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth together, resulting in an unfortunate state of affairs. Mr. Darcy springs a surprising, and rather patronizing proposal on poor Elizabeth, deriding her for the inferiority of her birth and the improper behavior of her family while professing his love at the same time. Insulted, Elizabeth refuses his offer of marriage. In the argument that follows, Mr. Darcy also reveals that he is the cause of Mr. Bingley's departure to London and consequently the unhappiness of Jane, Elizabeth's beloved sister.
Back home, Elizabeth learns that her youngest sister, boy crazy Lydia, has run away with Mr. Wickham. She also discovers the truth about the supposed "wrong" that Mr. Darcy committed against Mr. Wickham and realizes that Mr. Darcy was completely in the right. Elizabeth soon has a change of heart, and finds herself falling in love with Mr. Darcy, who in his turn, has sought to remedy the situation with Elizabeth by finding Lydia and Mr. Wickham. He pays for the couple's wedding, satisfies Mr. Wickham's debts, and also buys Mr. Wickham a commission so he can support Lydia in an acceptable manner.
In the end, Pride and Prejudice closes with Jane marrying Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth marrying Mr. Darcy, and Mrs. Bennet as satisfied as she can be.
Pride and Prejudice has been made into feature films, television mini-series, and plays.